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Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in Southeast Asia
October 15, 2019, 03:09 PM
(seafood.vasep.com.vn) According to Mathew Camilleri, Senior Fishery Officer at the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “IUU fishing, within the context of the IPOA-IUU, includes:

- Fishing and fishing-related activities conducted in contravention of national, regional and international laws. (Illegal)

- Non-reporting, misreporting or under-reporting of information on fishing operations and their catches. (Unreported)

- Fishing by “Stateless” vessels. (Unregulated)

- Fishing in convention areas of RFMOs by non-party vessels. (Unregulated)

- Fishing activities which are not regulated by States and cannot be easily monitored and accounted for. (Unregulated)

- Fishing in areas or for fish stocks for which there are no conservation or management measures. (Unregulated)”. (Camilleri slide 2)

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing poses a big threat to the marine ecosystem and the fisheries sustainability in many countries, especially in Southeast Asian countries. It has a heavy impact on the Southeast Asian region because fisheries and fisheries-related industries are the major sources of income for many people and countries. Every year, these countries suffer from billions of dollars loss and a number of fisheries areas are overexploited or depleted due to IUU fishing. In addition, because of the lack in effort to combat IUU fishing and improve the government’s fisheries management, several countries in this region are given a “yellow card” from the European Commission (EC) with the heaviest effect in Cambodia, whose fisheries products have already received a “red card,” a banning order from EC. This penalty prevents those countries from exporting fisheries product to the European market. What are the three benefits for Southeast Asian countries when they commit themselves to combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing? The three benefits for Southeast Asian countries when they commit themselves to combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing are international market integration, the improvement of effective fisheries state management system and environment protection, and food security.

Literature Review

This literature review will seek to review what has already been studied regarding the damages and benefits of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in Southeast Asian region. This review will be thematically arranged and research findings from different authors will be discussed together if they are related. The introduction will seek to form a basis upon which the research question can be analyzed. The research will seek to answer the question: What are the three benefits for Southeast Asian countries when they commit themselves to combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing?

In order to answer this research question, this review will analyze the situation of IUU Fishing in Southeast Asian region, and then the three benefits for Southeast Asian region to commit to combating IUU fishing: international market integration, the improvement of effective fisheries state management system and environment protection, and food security.

The Southeast Asian region is one of the world’s biggest seafood suppliers, which is why it suffers from the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing more than other regions do. Many waters area are being overexploited or depleted; billions of dollars are lost annually and “64 percent of the fisheries’ resource base is at a medium to high risk from overfishing” (DeRidder & Nindang 2018). According to Chalk (2017), there are two areas that are affected the most: “the first is the Gulf of Thailand, where the overall catch per unit effort has plummeted by 86% since 1966, making those waters among the most overfished on the planet. The second is Indonesia, which is estimated to lose nearly $4 billion a year to illegal fishing. The most frequent violators are from China, Thailand and Vietnam, and countering their activities has now been cast as a national security priority by the Joko Widodo administration.” Chalk (2017) also presents that the amount of fish lost to IUU fishing is more than 2.5 million tons annually. However, not all countries in the Southeast Asian region committed to fighting against IUU fishing. Until July 2018, only five among eleven countries in this region have joined the combat against IUU fishing: Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The reasons why Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing are very common in Southeast Asian countries are the illegal and/or harmful methods of fishing, and the weakness of fisheries management and regulations. According to DeRidder and Nindang (2018), the illegal fishing methods of destructive fishing in Southeast Asia are using poison fishing and blast fishing. “Poison fishing” is using cyanide to stun the fish, making them easier to catch but deeply affected the water around (DeRidder and Nindang 2018). DeRidder and Nindang (2018) explain that “blast fishing” is a method in which dynamite or grenades are used to immediately kill all the fish in the fishing area. Both methods are destructive and harmful to the marine ecosystem, but due to the lack of fishing management in Southeast Asia, these practices are widely used. In addition, the fishing gears are also a big contribution to destroy the marine environment. “Rockhopper” the trawl net and ghost fishing, and abandoned fishing gear, are killing all kinds of sea creatures including dolphins, whales, turtles and coral reefs (DeRidder and Nindang 2018).

According to Chalk (2017), the other reasons for the many recorded Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities in Southeast Asian regions are the weak fishing regulations of many states in the region and the lack of knowledge and technologies. The common problem of government in many countries, particularly developing countries, is the shortage of financial and technical sources for building an effective fisheries monitoring, control, and surveillance mechanism. According to DeRidder and Nindang (2018), “in order to seriously address the threats to sustainable fisheries management in Southeast Asia, it is necessary for government leaders and non-government actors to exercise the political will necessary for countries to move away from business-as-usual practice to new, sustainable patterns of fisheries management.” Moreover, Southeast Asian region is still poor and lacks of advanced environmental-friendly fishing technologies to avoid destroying the marine ecosystem. Responding to the high consumer demand for seafood, many small-scale fishermen choose to participate in IUU fishing to make up for the number of fish they catch each day. As a result, the number of fish stocks is rapidly decreasing.

In short, IUU fishing has a lot of negative effects on Southeast Asian region, both on the economy and environment. Therefore, the governments of Southeast Asian countries need to join hands to put a stop to IUU fishing.

Fish is a vital source of food for humans with excellent nutritional value, providing high quality protein and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. According to DeRider and Nindang (2018), “approximately 12 percent of the world’s population relies upon fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihood, and over half of the world’s people get a significant source of their animal protein from fish and seafood. In Southeast Asia, this proportion is significantly higher.”  In addition, fisheries and fisheries-related industries are one of the major industries in Southeast Asian region. Millions of people in Southeast Asian countries rely on fish and seafood not only for protein but also for a source of livelihood, especially those who live in the coastal provinces. “The region’s seas not only serve as a major source of food and livelihood for hundreds of millions of people, they generate several billion dollars in GDP for the region” (DeRidder and Nindang 2018). However, because of the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, this source of food and livelihood is getting depleted and threatening to collapse in the near future.

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing now is a primary concern of the world’s fisheries industry nowadays. It poses a big threat to the marine ecosystem and the fisheries sustainability in many countries, especially in Southeast Asian countries. It has heavy impacts on the Southeast Asian region because fisheries and fisheries-related industries are the major sources of income for many people and countries. Every year, these countries suffer from billions of dollars lost and a number of fisheries areas being overexploited or depleted due to IUU fishing. In addition, on the global scale, according to Petrossian (2015), “52% of the major marine fish stocks or species are fully exploited, 17% are overexploited, and 6% are depleted, and IUU fishing is one of the major contributors to this problem. The global scale of IUU fishing is estimated at about 11–26 million tons, which is about a $10–23.5 billion loss annually. Some scientists suggest, that if current rates of depletion persist, most large predatory fish stocks will have collapsed by 2048.”

In short, as fisheries are one of the main industries in Southeast Asian, this region needs to commit eliminating IUU fishing in order to secure their fishing profit and sustainable food supply for the future.

As fisheries and fisheries-related industry are one of the major industries in Southeast Asian region, this region exports billions of tons of fish and seafood every year to the world, gaining billions of dollars. Among all the countries and regions that import seafood and aquaculture from Southeast Asian region, the Europe Union (EU) is one of the biggest markets along with the U.S. and Japan. As one of the world’s largest traders of fishery products in terms of value, the EU plays a vital global role in addressing IUU fishing. In the effort of international combating IUU fishing, the EC created the carding system to require countries that export fish to the EU to prevent IUU fishing by following international standards. “The Council Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2008 is the central frame work for action combat against IUU fishing. Its primary objective is to prevent, deter and eliminate the trade of IUU-caught products into the EU. One of its key components is a multiple-step procedure for dealing with non-EU countries considered uncooperative in the fight against IUU fishing” (Popescu and Chahri 2017). Each country will provide all documents regarding their methods and regulations about the fisheries management to the EC. If a country does not meet the EC’s standards, they will receive a “yellow card” as a warning to improve their system. After a time period of six months or so probation, if the country can prove that they have a better management system, they will receive a “green card;” otherwise, a “red card,” a banning order, will be given. According to Popescu and Chahr (2017), the following graph is showing EC carding system procedures and their progress over time from November 2012 to October 2017:

 

Since 2012, there have been four countries in total of eleven countries in Southeast Asia that received the yellow card. The first country that was given the yellow card is Cambodia in November 2012 and after a year of probation, EC gave them the red card, which means Cambodia’s fisheries products are banned from the European market. The latest country that is subjected to the EC’s inspection in October 2017 is Vietnam, whose net export of fisheries to the EU market was $1.4 billion in 2017 (Reed 2017). One fourth of Southeast Asian countries subjected to EC carding system are a threat to lose millions in USD from exporting seafood. Up to now, only the Philippines is successful to re-enter into EU fisheries market.

Moreover, the EC carding system benefits both EC and non-EU countries. It proposes categories for EC to evaluate non-EU countries’ fisheries management system as well as to require those countries to prevent IUU fishing. This is an international effort in putting a stop of IUU fishing. In addition, two other big fisheries markets of Southeast Asian region, the U.S. and Japan, are also planning to apply a similar EC carding system to force this region to take action in preventing IUU fishing and preserving their marine ecosystem. This movement of developed countries is making developing ones to join hands in solving the world’s environmental issues. Therefore, combating IUU fishing helps Southeast Asian countries join the international market integration.

Based on the interviews with Vietnamese Fisheries Department officers, and a Fisheries Department officer from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations, in May 2007, the Regional Plan of Action to Promote Responsible Fishing Practice (RPOA), which has the primary purpose of combating IUU fishing, was endorsed by Ministers responsible for fisheries in Bali, Indonesia. This is the main frame work for Southeast Asian region to combat IUU fishing, along with the FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU). However, RPOA is only ratified by seven members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippine, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia. Under the agreement framework, there are four international organizations that are providing technical and advisory assistance for Southeast Asian region in preventing IUU fishing: the FAO/Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission, the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre, the WorldFish Center, and InfoFish organization. The donor countries provide a trust fund to support developing countries combating IUU fishing through those international organizations.

According to the interview with Joe Zelasney, Fishery Department officer from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations, the main purposes of RPOA are to strengthen the government’s fisheries management, to sustain the fisheries resources, and to protect the marine ecosystem. It supports member countries to understand the region's resource and management situation; implement the international and regional instruments; implement the coastal and port State measures; enforce flag State responsibilities; strengthen human and institutional capacity building; strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) systems, and control transshipment at sea. The unique trait of RPOA is a voluntary instrument. Though almost all the ministries of the Southeast Asian region agree to participate in RPOA, it is not a treaty or legally binding. Therefore, when the RPOA takes action, it is regional level action, sanctioned by individual governments, designed to improve fisheries management and governance.

In short, to strengthen the fisheries state government management, the Southeast Asian countries should commit to combating IUU fishing. In addition, based on the interview, committing to combat IUU fishing not only helps the Southeast Asian region to improve their state management, but also to strengthen their authority and ownership over this regional sea territory.

Methodology

In order to study the three benefits for Southeast Asian countries when they commit themselves to combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, some in-depth interviews were conducted with three officers including Vietnamese Fisheries Department officers, and a Fisheries Department officer from the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (see Appendix A).

In addition, books, journals, reports, and articles related to this topic from credible resources such as the Library of the University of Cincinnati, the Food and Agriculture Organization of UNs, Southeast Asian Fisheries Organizations, and Global experts are used in this research including: “Preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing: A situational approach” (Petrossian, 2015); “Combating IUU Fishing, The Role of RFMOs” (Camilleri, 2016);“Illegal Fishing in Southeast Asia: a Multibillion-Dollar Trade with Catastrophic Consequences” (Chalk, 2017);“Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing” (Popescu and Chahri, 2017); “Southeast Asia's Fisheries Near Collapse from Overfishing” (DeRidder and Nindang, 2018); and “Vietnam seafood sector faces threat of EU fish ban” (Reed, 2017).

Results and Findings

In order to study the three benefits for Southeast Asian countries when they commit themselves to combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, three in-depth interviews were conducted with three officers from Viet Nam Fisheries General Directorate, Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, and a Fisheries Department officer from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations.

All interviewees agreed that Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing was the current environmental concern of the world, especially the Southeast Asian region. They also agreed with the definition presented in Camilleri’s presentation, though they stated that it was not easy for the authorities to identify IUU fishing activities, because it is “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.” This was also the same reason that all interviewees mentioned when were asked about the actual damages of IUU fishing in dollars/euros or in tons annually on global scale and in Southeast Asian region specifically. They believed that the number presented in Reed’s article, Chalk’s article and Petrossian’s journal were helpful to give the audience of this research a visual image of how much damages IUU fishing caused to the marine system and the food security of the world in general and Southeast Asia in particular.

In the interview with the Fishery Department officer from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations, he confirmed that Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing had been the main concern of the world in the high seas area, all parts of the sea not included in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a state, to control the quantity of fish and seafood that fishermen fished each time entered the area. Over the time, the world became more concern about the illegal fishing in other international and domestic sea areas beside the high seas, hence, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing became more concerned by countries and regions.

In the context of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its overall objective of sustainable fisheries, the issue of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, the international and regional legal framework to guide FAO’s country members enforcing their effective state management functions were issued. The International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU) was promulgated in 2001. The IPOA-IUU was a voluntary instrument that applied to all States and entities and to all fishers. These measures focused on all State responsibilities, flag State responsibilities, coastal State measures, port State measures, internationally agreed market-related measures, research and regional fisheries management organizations. Special requirements of developing countries were then considered, followed by reporting requirements and the role of FAO. The Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) of United Nations provided the Southeast Asian region aids in government policies and technology in combatting IUU fishing.

In order to have better understand of the role and contributions of combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing to the national economy as well as the necessary actions that a Southeast country needed to enhance their state management functions, two interviews were conducted with the Fisheries Department officers from Vietnam, one of the eleven member of this region countries. Fishery was one of the key national economic sectors of Vietnam, ranking 5th in export sectors from Vietnam in term of value, with average turnover of 7–8 billion USD in 3 recent years, reaching average growths of 7-15 percent per year. The fisheries created regular jobs for 5 million people in Vietnam, closely relating to community of fishermen and farmers, contributing to defense and security assurance and livelihood for people. In late 2017, Vietnam received a “yellow card” from European Commission (EC) because of insufficient efforts to meet the EU Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing. European market was one of Vietnam’s biggest import markets with a profit of 400 to 500 million dollars annually. Admission of the EU yellow cards could have a significant negative impact on the exports of Vietnam seafood to the EU, which would soon affect the U.S. market and other potential markets.

The government of Viet Nam was required to revise the national legal framework and to enhance the effective implementation of international rules and management measures in order to receive a “green card” after a certain probation period. So far, the government had revised the legal framework for the addition of national flag measures, coastal state responsibilities, and port state measures that were compatible with international regulations in the legal framework; increased the sanctioning bracket for administrative violations in the fishery domain; strengthen the monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) systems methods, such as strict control of entering and exiting procedures and install monitor in each vessels, to manage the fishing vessels; strengthen the control and management process to trace the origin of aquaculture caught from each fishing vessels.

The interviewees emphasized that if Vietnam received the red card when the probation time was due, there would be a lot of consequences such as losing profits in European market, losing market share in fisheries industries, reputation damages, dropping price of fisheries products, and so on. Therefore, they agreed that political will must be interpreted into actions responding to implementation of the commitment to ending IUU fishing in Vietnam and the Southeast Asian countries.

Overall, a single country must commit to against IUU fishing to protect environment, livelihood sources, future food security and national economic profitable industry. Strengthening the fisheries state government management with concreate actions was needed to ensure the national administration system functioning effectively. Based on the interviews, effective implementation of the commitment to ending IUU fishing not only helped the Southeast Asian region to improve their state management, but also strengthened their authority and ownership over this regional sea territory. Since IUU fishing was an international issue, the international and regional organizations also needed to provide technical and financial supports to country members.

Vu Dieu Lan (Ms.)

(Researcher at University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati city, Ohio state, United States) 

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