EU warns St Kitts, St Vincent over illegal fishing

BRUSSELS, (Reuters) – The European Commission has issued warnings to four Pacific and Caribbean countries for failing to crack down on illegal fishing, exposing them to a possible trade ban.

Since 2010 the EU – the world’s biggest fish importer – has taken action against countries that do not follow international standards to prevent over-fishing, such as policing their waters for unlicensed fishing vessels and imposing penalties to deter illegal fishing.

On Friday the Commission – the EU executive – issued warnings to the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It gave them six months to step up their fight against illegal fishing or face a possible ban on their fish imports.

The Commission proposed a set of measures for each country to address their shortcomings.

“I am convinced that they will all commit to this cooperative approach since sustainable development in small island states relies on sustainable fishing,” said EU Maritime Affairs Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

Around 11-26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally each year globally, worth up to 10 billion euros ($12.5 billion) a year and corresponding to at least 15 percent of world catches, the Commission says.

In October, the Commission proposed banning fish imports from Sri Lanka in response to its failure to tackle illegal fishing, and slapped a fish import ban on Cambodia and Guinea in March.

Campaign groups such as the Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF welcomed Friday’s warnings to the four countries.

“We applaud the commissioner’s commitment to preventing illegally caught fish from entering the EU,” said Tony Long, director of Pew’s Ending Illegal Fishing Project.

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