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|European Union, March 4, 13|
Canned tuna importers within the EU have been warned last week by their authorities and trade associations to be extra careful on imports from West Africa. Containers of tuna coming from the West African nations Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal and the Cape Verde could face rejection in EU ports, with the risk of product being destroyed and in the best case returned to the origin. This directly effects 13% of EU canned tuna imports.
West African nations being responsible for 13% of all canned tuna imports within the EU, are suspected of exporting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fish. EU authorities base this suspicion on information that has recently come to light concerning tuna fisheries off West Africa’s Atlantic waters. Tuna fisheries in the Atlantic Ocean are supervised by the Regional tuna fishing management organization ICCAT. The organization has found a series of problems in relation to tuna fisheries by long liners and also purse seiners in the region:
• reliance on forged or fraudulent documents issued by intermediaries purporting to act on behalf of public national authorities
• illegal transshipping at sea in breach of ICCAT Recommendation 06-11 prohibiting transshipments at sea by purse seiners
• unlicensed fishing in coastal states' zones
• lack of effective Monitoring Control and Surveillance capabilities resulting in questionable catch certificates and unsatisfactory responses to verification requests
• breaches of ICCAT Recommendation 03-14 requiring contracting parties or co-operating non-contracting parties (CPCs) to have a Vessel Monitoring System for all over 20 meter fishing vessels which reports to a flag state Fishery Monitoring Centre.
EU port health officers have announced in the foreseeable future to be paying particularly close attention to consignments coming from these fisheries. It is expected that a much a greater than usual quantity of goods will be suspended or placed under controlled movement orders at EU border.
The measures are foreseen to last until authorities feel confident that sufficient action has been taken by the relevant flag state to address their concerns on the illegal fishing activities. Major tuna processing state Spain has already been questioning the catch certificates that accompany West African supplies of raw material to their countries' processing plants, and has already rejected a number of consignments as a result of these concerns.
Within the Atlantic ocean most of the purse seiners that are actively fishing on tuna carry the flags of Morocco, Spain, France, Italy and Ghana.
Under the terms of the IUU Regulation the EU Port Health officials are authorized to destroy any rejected consignments, return them to the exporter, or ship them on to a non-EU market. This will possibly depend of the gravity of violation. In any such an event the commercial losses will initially be incurred by the EU importer of the tuna. In the EU active involvement with IUU fishing is also considered a criminal act, so in the worst case the EU importing company’s top management could face criminal charges, and even jail sentencing.
EU importers have now been urged, by their local authorities, to closely review their traceability, due diligence processes and risk management systems for all their tuna products sourced from whatever origin, so also outside of West Africa, to ensure that no IUU products will contaminate the EU supply chain.