The EU issues Solomon Islands and Tuvalu "yellow cards" / by Francisco Blaha

Last february a delegation of the EU's DG MARE (like the EU ministry of fisheries) visited the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu in a "dialogue" mission, to assess how the countries comply with their vision of of how these countries implement their IUU regulation.

Just to put things in perspective, Tuvalu has less than 10000 inhabitants, does not process fish or trade fish with the EU. Has 5 fishing vessels under it flag, and the vessels don't land in the country because there is no where to land....

 Tuvalu's fishing hub

Tuvalu's fishing hub

I written intensively about the Solomons, and you all know I'm very fond of the place, so not going to abound too much on it.

Accessing the EU market comes at significant costs for the Solomons, as the EU request the highest level of compliance (rightly so, to protect their consumers) worldwide. These obligations for market access in terms of fisheries (and seafood safety) controls are quite complex for a country like the Solomon, as the need to prove they have systems in place that are equivalent to those of the EU member countries.

Implementing these systems to the required level would them around € 1.2 million. This is more than the budget that the government assigns for dengue or malaria, so allocating that kind of money for EU market access arises legitimate ethical questions. On the other side, these are the exports that  produce the income for the country that all other priorities may need. This rational, while valid, is hard to find even in established countries, more so in very young ones.

So... yes, things are not perfect... the EU singled out the lack of traceability and catch certification failures. I completely reject the 1st issue, as while fisheries may have not a traceability system in place, the authorities for health certification to the EU and the company have an excellent one, and in terms of catch certification (which is in itself a defective tool), mistakes were made on the paper work, mostly because no one ever trained them, we fixed that a in April (even the EU ambassador came to the training).

 Catch Certification Training in Noro

Catch Certification Training in Noro

The DG Mare delegation spent 3 days there, talking mostly to officials, not even went to Noro to see by themselves how things work there and now, 10 months later they drop this bomb, without even coming back to assess the advances... 

I'm the 1st one to recognise that they have problems and sometimes they are slow to fix them... but they are not negating them either...  So, is the best strategy for the EU to shame Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as with "yellow cards" as non-cooperative third countries in terms of IUU fishing?

Particularly when we all know the absolute mess that fisheries controls are in China (see here and here) and Taiwan for example, with huge fleets actively involved in IUU fishing in the Pacific

I acknowledge that the EU funds directly or indirectly a lot of my work... but surely there are better ways to achieve results than being perceived as a bully.