EU Yellow Card to Vietnam / by Francisco Blaha

In January this year, I wrote in a blog entry (and on an SPC article): "If a country does not control its fleets, then its products should be subjected to higher tariffs until this issue is solved. Add to this a European Union ‘yellow card’ – which uses the potential of trade controls to incentivize countries to effectively combat illegal fishing – and perhaps Vietnam will take more action to address the various contributing factors originating within its jurisdiction".  So obviously I was quite pleased to read that the EU's DG MARE notified to Vietnam that it was considering it a non-cooperating country in terms of IUU fishing.

 Illustration from  SPC

Illustration from SPC

I wrote many times before about the "yellow cards", the EU IUU Regulation (EC No 1005/2008), the Catch Certification Scheme (CCS) and yellow and red cards the EU has been delivering around. 

It is important to understand that the EU IUU Reg has as its implementation tool, the Catch Certification Scheme (CCS)* , while the “yellow and red card” is a football analogy to the process that the EU DG MARE enters when it invokes Chapter IV of the regulation with “non-cooperating third countries”. The “cards” analogy has been the most "visible" element of the regulation. Its effectiveness has worked in some of the countries that have been “given a card”, since the “name and shame” and the possibility of having the products caught by its vessels barred from the EU market has been a effective way to get them into action, no doubts there.

In the case of Vietnam, the lack of control on their fleet was summed to poor landing controls and surely issues around raw materials eligibility and traceability, particularly now that Vietnam is becoming a more prominent "processing state" in the fish world as well have been cited as the reasons for the card. 

Therefore Vietnam will have to ensure that opportunities for “tariff-hopping” are minimised, this has to happen through the implementation of effective traceability, harmonised authorisations and record keeping systems between agencies tasked with monitoring imports, processing, certification of origin - CoO, issuing of health certificates, issuing of Catch and/or Re-export Certificates, and monitoring of exports.

My recent work in Thailand (read about it here) that has impressively changed its ways in the last 2 years proves that the yellow cards can catalyze change. Thailand has done an incredible amount of work and a generational shift in the control of its own fishery, the arrival of carriers with foreign-caught fish and the control of the value chain. 

Yet, as I said I hope that this yellow card catalyzes change in Vietnam for the better.

And since they (the EU) are on roll... they may aim to Latin America, since they as a whole must be the main exporter of fisheries products to the EU by volume and value. The evaluations we did in 2011 showed all sorts of issues, and there are no objective reasons to assume that they fisheries administrations and enforcement bodies are insulated of the otherwise well-known corruption culture that permeates many governments there... but not even one yellow card have been raised. (Hopefully the fact the European companies have substantial investments there, has no bearing on that lack of scrutiny)

And then towards the end of 2018 they tackle China, by far the nation that has been involved in more IUU fishing events worldwide, had vessels sunk, arrested, detained, they are notorious flag hoppers and the lot... yet not one visit has been raised.

*The EU Catch Certification Scheme (CCS) has been largely ineffective due to some due to profound flaws in its design and implementation. A group of us have been very vocal about this for years, and I was happy to see that that message has finally been taken by EU based NGOs. My criticism was always constructive and not against the legislation or the CCS, but aimed at maximising its benefits... yet almost 8 years after its implementation, the key flaws still have not been fixed.