Opportunity to remove the 'yellow card' for Vietnamese seafood

The opportunity to remove the seafood "yellow card" is still there, but it is very narrow, so the whole system has to get involved. If the "yellow card" cannot be removed this year, it will take another 1-2 years to do so because Europe will elect a new government in April 2024, and will have to start over from the beginning.

Mr. Phung Duc Tien, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), affirmed this when discussing efforts to remove the "yellow card" IUU  in recent times, before the inspection team of the European Commission (EC) will go to Vietnam to check the situation and results of implementing IUU requirements from October 10 to 18.

This is the fourth time the EC has evaluated the results of implementing recommendations on combating IUU fishing, in order to come to a conclusion that the "yellow card" warning for Vietnam's exploited seafood products can be removed or maintained. .

Many efforts in fighting IUU

Mr. Duong Van Cuong, deputy director of the Department of Fisheries Inspection, said that on the afternoon of September 29, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had an online meeting with the EC working group to exchange a number of contents and report on the situation before the EC delegation came to inspect. check.

"Whether or not the yellow card will be removed or what the results will be depends a lot on the upcoming direct inspection in Vietnam" - Mr. Cuong said.

After the EC's inspection in October 2022, in the past year, the National Steering Committee as well as Government leaders chaired 4 meetings, directly visiting localities to direct the removal of problems. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development also organized many inspection and guidance trips to coastal localities.

"28 coastal localities and relevant ministries have made great efforts to combat IUU fishing. The problem is not only to remove the EC yellow card but to enforce fisheries laws in Vietnam to comply with international practices, economy and also sustainable fisheries development," Mr. Cuong affirmed.

Mr. Tran Dinh Luan, Director of the Department of Fisheries, said the biggest problem in fighting IUU so far is that there are still fishing vessels violating foreign waters. 

Although this situation has decreased a lot compared to previous years, surrounding countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand... do not want illegal fishing vessels.

"Meanwhile, the EC affirms that if there are still violating ships, they will not remove the yellow card. Whether the EC will remove the yellow card this time or not depends on the inspection process. When the EC inspects, we will discuss specifically each case. violations so that the EC can discuss with surrounding countries" - Mr. Luan said.

Also according to Mr. Luan, Vietnam has a Fisheries Law, Decree 42 and Decree 26 that specifically regulate penalties for violations in seafood exploitation. However, many localities mainly only stop at the level of reminding and forcing them to sign commitments not to repeat violations without resolutely sanctioning them, leading to many cases of repeated violations.

"The central determination is very great, the policy guidelines as well as the central handling regulations on IUU have basically been completed, the remaining problem is the implementation process at localities. However, there are places "If you do well, be determined to punish; some places are not resolute, afraid of collision" - Mr. Luan shared.

Control from fishing, processing to export

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Phung Duc Tien said that the IUU Steering Committee met and planned to prepare for the 4th inspection by the EC inspection team, focusing on important things recommended by the EC.

That is to complete and amend legal documents (Decree No. 26-2019 and Decree No. 42-2019) on sanctioning administrative violations in the field of fisheries.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has also directed each locality to manage fleets, such as locating, controlling the amount of seafood caught and tracing detailed origins from fishing ports, warehouses, processing factories until export. In particular, do not let fishing vessels violate foreign waters.

These are very specific things to show that from the third EC inspection to the fourth, Vietnam has seriously implemented the recommendations.

In addition, according to Mr. Tien, each locality must specify the cases of handling administrative violations, how many cases have been handled, how much money, and how many unresolved cases will have to be handled completely before the inspection team EC coming to Vietnam.

Regarding 7 tons of swordfish from some businesses violating IUU, the authorities handled 2 fishing ports, fined more than 16 million VND and banned export to Europe for 2 months.

Also according to Mr. Tien, the opportunity to remove the "yellow card" is still there, but the opportunity is very narrow, so we must be highly determined to resolve it. Because if the "yellow card" cannot be removed this year, Europe will elect a new government in April 2024, and it will take 1-2 years before it can be removed.

"Do not let fishing vessels violate foreign waters to confirm to the EC that we have done this very difficult task, there are no more violating vessels," Mr. Tien affirmed.

In addition, according to Mr. Tien, Vietnam has strictly implemented the handling of administrative violations, of which the case of sanctioning businesses related to 7 tons of swordfish is an example.

"These are the things we can prove to the EC about the next positive changes and with high determination, we have achieved clear results. We hope that we will remove the yellow card during the next inspection this Wednesday" - Mr. Tien said.

Many positive changes

Mr. Nguyen Quang Hung, Director of the Department of Fisheries Inspection, said that after nearly 6 years of synchronously implementing many solutions to overcome shortcomings and limitations according to the EC's recommendations to remove the "yellow card" for IUU, Up to now, Vietnam has achieved many important results.

In particular, Vietnam has built a comprehensive and complete legal framework on fisheries management and combating IUU fishing.

Vietnam has built and operated a national database on fishing vessels (registration, inspection, issuance of fishing licenses) connecting from central to local levels, database accounts are provided for functional forces and port management agencies to control the activities of fishing vessels.

To date, over 97.65% of fishing vessels operating in offshore waters have been installed with cruise monitoring equipment.

Regarding the traceability of seafood origin, the chain has been controlled from output through ports to issuance of export certificates and control of raw materials at processing factories. Raw materials imported into Vietnam are controlled according to the provisions of the Port State Measures Agreement.

Build a national database on sanctions for administrative violations in the fisheries sector from central to local levels to create aggregated data to serve law enforcement.

With a series of solutions deployed synchronously, the number of fishing vessels violating illegal seafood exploitation in foreign waters has gradually decreased over the years after being warned of "yellow cards".

From the beginning of 2023 until now, the authorities have fined 2,111 cases of violating IUU mining regulations with a fine of more than 44 billion VND.

Ba Ria - Vung Tau: no more fishing boats violating foreign water

On October 4, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ba Ria - Vung Tau province said that after a long period of efforts and synchronous coordination between local authorities and functional forces, this province has so far prevented the situation of fishing vessels violating foreign waters.

Specifically, from the beginning of the year until now, all fishing vessels in this locality have not violated, showing that the awareness of ship owners, captains and fishermen has clearly changed compared to previous years.

A leader of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ba Ria - Vung Tau province also said that previously this locality had investigated and handled 100% of cases of local fishing vessels illegally exploiting seafood in foreign waters. The cases handled are reported on the mass media.

In particular, the functional forces have opened peak patrols, inspections, controls and strictly penalized 100% of exploitation acts that violate EU recommendations. To date, more than 50 violating fishing vessels have been found to be administratively sanctioned, with a fine of nearly 600 million VND.

In addition, the Border Guard of Ba Ria - Vung Tau province also fiercely fought and handled more than 50 violating fishing boats with a total fine of more than 1 billion VND. The rate of fishermen complying with decisions to sanction administrative violations has increased many times compared to previous years.

Also according to this person, the monitoring of fishing vessels operating at sea and the traceability of exploited aquatic products has been significantly and specifically improved. Ba Ria - Vung Tau has built and operates two 24/7 monitoring centers for fishing vessel cruise monitoring data.

"Localities also established rapid response teams to promptly receive and process data on fishing vessels that lost connection to monitor their journeys and crossed sea boundaries," he added.



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