Kiribati shows how it can be done! / by Francisco Blaha

In June last year, Kiribati gained EU market access to the EU after being authorised to exports their fish and fishery product to the EU. As I explained at the time (here) its a complicated and expensive process, basically Kiribati (a Least Developed Country) had to prove they had standards for seafood safety and a system of sanitary and traceability controls equivalent to those of an EU member country (i.e. France). 


At the time, there was a lot of cynicism from many corners (particularly in the European industry) that this was a plot for DWFN that have flagged their vessels here to access the EU market under no tariffs, and that the authority would be pushed over by the international interest.

The Kiribati Seafood Verification Authority (the competent authority) listed as approved 5 Purse Seiners and one processing establishment, and in this way gave these operators access to the EU market. Yet this access is not a one-off event, is a privilege based on constant verification of compliance, and the compliance is based on periodic  inspection of processing conditions, records and product testing.

For factories is easy, inspectors go and do the job and is done. For Purse Seiner vessels is more complicated, because they are highly mobile, operate from different ports and generally don't care much about sanitary regulations. Hence either you inspect them when they come to port or your inspectors fly to the port of arrival and inspect them there if things are ok the listing continues, if they are issues you give them corrective actions and agree to a timeframe for rectification, and if nothing gets done… you delist them and they lose market access, end of story.

Kiribati, right from scratch followed the rules, and after they found their own flagged (yet mostly Korean owned) vessels playing games to avoid inspection and not following up the corrective actions, they delisted all their vessels for lack of compliance. 

This is a full-on action that one can only applaud, no other country that I’m aware of has delisted the totality of their EU appoved fleet for lack of sanitary compliance. 

And if Kiribati does it, then what is the excuse for the Taiwanese, Chinese, Philipines and Korean fleets, whose vessels almost never go back to their home ports, and in 25 years hanging around Pacific ports, I have yet to see a non-pacific flag state sanitary inspector doing an inspection in one of their vessels. And believe me those vessels are bad, they will never pass an inspection and no records are kept at all, yet they are sanitary listed, accessing the EU market and still, somehow, the EU inspection on those countries don't pick up that these vessels have not been inspected for years.

In any case, Kiribati has taken a really bold action, and they should be congratulated for it!