On October 23, 2017, the EC officially issued a “yellow-card” warning for Vietnam’s seafood exports to the EU market. The EC also proposed nine recommendations that Vietnam should immediately implement in six months (from October 23, 2017 to April 23, 2018). The “yellow card” is followed by a “green card” if the problem is resolved or a “red card” if it isn’t. A “red card” can lead to a trade ban on fishery products.
With the aim of getting back the “green card”, Vietnam has made efforts to implement recommendations of the EU and has taken drastic actions to prevent, and combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Vietnam has issued a number of urgent solutions, including supplementing anti-IUU fishing regulations to legal documents, enforcing the issued regulations, and the most important outcome is the amended Law on Fisheries (approved by the National Assembly on November 21, 2017) incorporated the EC recommendations as much as possible. Regulations relevant to IUU fishing are featured in almost all chapters and articles of the law, from the chapter on general regulations to the ones on fishery resources protection, management of fishing activities, fishing boats and fishery ports, and responsibility of authorities at all levels.
Vietnam Prime Minister issued a official document on prevention No. 732 (on 28th of May 2017), reduction and stopping of infringements by Vietnamese fishing vessels and fishermen regarding illegal fishing in foreign countries’ waters; issued Directive No. 45/CT-TTG (on 13th December 2017) requires the ministers, the Government agencies and the presidents of the provincial/municipal People’s Committees to strictly obey regulations to combat IUU fishing; issued a national action plan to prevent, mitigate and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing until 2025 (Decision No. 78/QD – TTG, on 16th January 2018).
Vietnam has also improved the enforcement capacity of the state management system and to end the situation of fishing vessels engaged in illegal fishing in the waters of other countries.
Under amended Law on Fisheries, IUU fishing will be heavily fined. Fishing boat owners and captains will be given the highest fines of VND 1 billion (USD 43,900) for violations or a fine seven times higher than the value of illegal catch. Meanwhile, the organizations involved in IUU fishing will be fined VND 2 billion. Apart from this, violators’ fishing licenses will be revoked.
The goverment continued to focus on practical implementation, including actions of fishermen and ship owners, who must follow criteria such as noting diary, installing equipment for controlling fishing itinerary, sending reports to the fishing port management agency, identifying the origin of seafood to fight against IUU fishing and certificating export batches of seafood following the demand of the European Union and other markets. It is imperative that ships that are 15-24m high will have to install equipment for controlling fishing itinerary as regulated and remain open 24 hours a day for inspection.
Vietnam has published the list of violation fishing vessels on website of Directorate of Fisheries to help European and ASEAN management bodies know about the Vietnam efforts in the fight against IUU fishing.
Besides, Vietnam has promoted training for fishermen, ship owners and enterprises as well as the state agency of aquatic resource exploitation, increase their awareness about the harm of yellow cards on the reputation of Vietnamese seafood.
Vietnam had increased their participation in international forums to express the government’s view that it will never tolerate illegal fishing activities.
The Government also approved the proposal to join the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, FAO’s Agreement on Port State Measures, has cooperated with Australia to educate Vietnamese fishing communities about the risks and consequences of illegal fishing, cooperated with authorities of other countries like Brunei and Papua New Guinea to combat IUU fishing.
In May 2018, the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG-MARE) sent the Technical Delegation and the Senior Delegation of DG-MARE to Vietnam to work and inspect the implementation of IUU. Then, field visits will be conducted in some provinces and reported to the EU on “Situation of combating IUU implementation in Vietnam”.
The EU has highly appreciated the efforts of Vietnam in the recent past. The illegal fishing activities in foreign waters by Vietnamese boats has declined considerably. There was only one case of illegal fishing by Vietnamese fishermen in Pacific Island, 12 violation fishing vessels in Asean Sea and some cases happened in bordering waters that are yet to be delimited between Vietnam and other countries.
Although all efforts of Vietnam has brought some initial results but there were still a lot of matters to solve. It forced Vietnam to be more strict and rigorous about combat IUU fishing to adapt to the high standards not only of Europe but also from other major markets in the world.
For long-term measures, Vietnam needs to tighten management over fishing vessels, especially those operating offshore, review the development plan for the domestic fishing fleet in alignment with the seafood reserves, and intensify the enforcement of seafood origin and fishing diary declarations in line with regional and international regulations.