Vietnam to investigate illegal fishing as EU ‘yellow card’ remains

By Xuan Hoa   June 22, 2019 | 04:00 pm PT
Vietnam to investigate illegal fishing as EU ‘yellow card’ remains
People gather along the shore in south central Vietnam to collect fish caught by fishermen, June 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Le Dang.
Vietnam, facing an extension of the EU yellow card barrier to seafood exports, plans to get tough on illegal fishing.

Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung on Friday demanded all related parties to prevent Vietnamese fishers from illegally fishing in waters outside its territory.

The Ministry of Public Security has been asked to investigate and take strict measures against those working as intermediaries to send fishers to foreign waters, and those registering fishing vessels with counterfeit plate numbers to intrude foreign waters. The ministry should press criminal charges when necessary to ensure deterrence, Dung said.

He asked the Ministry of National Defense to tightly manage all fishing vessels as they arrive or leave docks, and impose harsh punishments on those conducting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Supportive measures

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has been asked to speed up restructuring of the fisheries sector, with a focus on aquaculture and processing of seafood in parallel with modernizing exploitation of seafood sources.

It also has to improve the quality of the fishing ports system to ensure better management of fishing vessels, as well as of the origins and quality of seafood.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dung said, will act to protect the fishers and do its best to prevent other countries and territories from using force against Vietnamese fishers when capturing them and seizing their boats, and fight instances of illegal capture.

The Finance Ministry will have to allocate funds for equipping fishers with cruise control devices within this month.

Deputy PM Dung also wants authorities of 28 coastal cities and provinces across the nation to cooperate closely with the agriculture ministry in working with delegations from the European Commission (EC) when they come to check the fishing situation. Local authorities will have to take responsibility if they fail to fight against IUU fishing, he said.

The EC applied a "yellow card" warning on seafood from Vietnam in October 2017 after a number of Vietnamese fishing vessels were caught trespassing into other countries’ waters. The commission informed member countries about Vietnam’s failure to meet requirements on prevention of IUU fishing.

Vietnam’s fisheries exports have since been subject to intense scrutiny, with all seafood containers being inspected in a process that could take three to four weeks and cost 500 euros ($633) per container. A rejected container can cost an exporter nearly $12,000, and the risk of rejection is high.

The EC had initially said it would remove the yellow card in June 2018, and later said it would consider doing so in January this year but that has not happened to date.

Even with a long 3,260 km (2,025 miles) coastline, Vietnam has been running out of near-shore seafood sources and is considering fishing bans in certain places at certain times. Authorities had said that the fishing ban was needed to cope with a decline in fisheries caused by overexploitation.

The ban is yet to come into force, and some fishermen who have sailed to other countries have said that apart from the decline in the resources, they also face threats from Chinese vessels that are illegally anchored in Vietnam’s waters for trawling. Worse still, Chinese vessels would chase Vietnamese boats away, cutting off an important seafood source.

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