On this day, the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius and to the Republic of Seychelles takes time to recognize the efforts deployed by all those involved in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing: engaged operators, civil society, but in particular law enforcement officers, fisheries officials, inspectors, observers, governments’ officials by all nations.
This is indeed the purpose of the International Day for the Fight Against IUU fishing: keep attention high on the threats posed by IUU fishing to the sustainable use of fisheries resources and highlight on-going efforts to counter this phenomenon.
IUU fishing represents a grave threat to the world’s fish stocks, a third of which are overfished, pushing some to the brink of collapse. It undermines efforts to manage marine resources sustainably and affects oceans’ biodiversity. It is a driver for overfishing. It is thus detrimental not only for all operators of the seafood chain abiding by the rules, but for all human wellbeing and for the global economy.
This is the reason why the European Union has been working intensively with national authorities and local partners in this region and all over the world since more than a decade, to define a more ruled based and secured environment through the implementation of its so-called IUU Regulation complemented by several regional programmes and actions.
For instance, fighting IUU fishing features prominently in the ECOFISH regional sustainable fisheries programme as the EU supports the Indian Ocean Commission’s flagship Regional Fisheries Surveillance Plan (PRSP) in carrying out joint regional patrols in the South-West Indian Ocean region.
The new mandate of the EUNAVFOR ATALANTA (European Union Naval Force - Operation Atalanta) mission now includes since the beginning of the year new secondary non- executive tasks such as monitoring IUU fishing activities off the coast of Somalia.
The celebration of the fight against IUU fishing is set on 5 June every year corresponding to the day the international Agreement on Port State Measures entered into force. In the coming days, the Contracting Parties to the Agreement will meet to assess how cooperation can be deepened in light of current challenges.
All countries should fulfil their international obligations in the fight against IUU as flag, port, coastal or market States. Only by joining forces, we can get positive outcomes and prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing.
While international instruments are available, the EU has decided 10 years ago to make a step further. It created a system of cooperation with non-EU countries to fulfill its international obligations in the fight against IUU fishing. It has also set high the bar to ensure discharge of its responsibilities as market State by introducing its catch certification scheme. It did it so to play its role rigorously, without neglecting that developing nations are the ones particularly vulnerable to these threats. The EU is, in parallel, working hard to further increase transparency in its own fishing sector and improve its own accountability system.
Over the past 10 years, the European Commission has initiated formal or informal dialogues with more than a dozen of countries in the Indian Ocean region and with several others with significant fleets operating there.
A cooperation meant to guide towards and support a better fulfillment of international obligations.
In this framework, the EU has initiated a bilateral cooperation on the fight against IUU fishing with Mauritius and Seychelles and visited those countries to know more about their fisheries management system.
Some tangible results have been witnessed over the last years.
Seychelles structured its fisheries policy objective around a comprehensive fisheries plan. The EU has recently invited authorities to exchange information on the Plan and other measures in the pipeline.
Mauritius has initiated a process of revision of its legal fisheries framework and of key implementing regulations, in particular with the aim to reinforce the implementation of port State measures.
Notwithstanding the challenges brought forward by COVID-19, these dialogues continue in order to provide support in the name of what the President of the European Commission, Ms von der Leyen and the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Mr Sinkevičius, confirmed as guiding principle of the EU way of working in this delicate area: the ‘zero-tolerance approach’.
While globally we record progress in strengthening compliance, a lot of work remains to be done. The fight against IUU fishing is a moving target: it is undeniable that we are far from defeating this plague. But, on a day like this, we can all celebrate work already done together. The good news is that fishing authorities from Indian Ocean countries and beyond are stepping up internal oversight of their fleets, fishing grounds and ports.
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) with Seychelles and Mauritius, with their sectoral support component, represent a unique cooperation framework to support our partner countries in the development of their fisheries policies and capacities to fight against IUU fishing. They also provide a privileged partnership for dialogues on fisheries issues. Ongoing negotiations for SFPAs in the region reflect the same approach.
We do hope to see, from all our counterparts in the Indian Ocean, the materialization of the high-level commitments made so far and the same dedication and progress the EU has witnessed from some key countries in the area.
I am confident the journey of cooperation initiated with Mauritius and Seychelles in this field will continue successfully, both in bilateral contacts and in the context of the works of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.
 Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008.