Vietnamese fishermen risk foreign waters intrusion despite EU yellow card

By Minh Nga   April 25, 2019 | 11:02 am GMT+7
Vietnamese fishermen risk foreign waters intrusion despite EU yellow card
Fishermen hop on coracles to head for their fishing vessels off the south central coast in Vietnam in June 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Le Dang

The fisheries sector is bearing the brunt of the EU yellow card, but desperate Vietnamese fishermen keep trespassing into foreign waters.

They risk jail terms, stiff fines and destruction of their boats, but stories of Vietnamese fishing vessels operating in neighboring waters are still coming up frequently, officials said at a meeting in Hanoi Tuesday.

In all of 2018 and to date this year, authorities have dealt with 101 cases of Vietnamese intruding into waters of other countries in the region. A total of 163 ships/boats and 1,258 fishermen were detained.

In some cases, Vietnamese fishers had violated the rules more than once, Nguyen Quang Hung, deputy head of the Directorate of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said at the meeting.

The situation is now most alarming in the waters off Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia, Tuoi Tre quoted Bui Trung Dung, Deputy Commander of Vietnam Coast Guard, as saying.

In Malaysia, Vietnamese fishermen have even made counterfeit plate numbers for their vessels and been exposed by Malaysian authorities, he said.

"In 2017, Indonesia released two groups of Vietnamese fishermen in two different cases of illegal trawling, and it turned out that many of fishermen were violators in both cases," Dung said.

In October 2017, the European Commission (EC) applied a "yellow card" warning on seafood from Vietnam 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 illegal, unreported and unregulated (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 last June, and later said it would consider doing so in January this year. To date, this has not happened.

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 earlier this year that the fishing ban was needed to cope with a decline in fisheries caused by overexploitation.

The country’s seafood resource is in decline, Nguyen Viet Nghia, deputy head of the Research Institute for Maritime Fisheries under the agriculture ministry, had told local media back then.

But some fishermen who have sailed to other countries have said that apart from the decline in the resource, they also face threats from Chinese vessels that are illegally anchored in Vietnam’s waters for trawling. Worse, the Chinese vessels chase the Vietnamese boats away, cutting off an important seafood source.

 
 
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