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Vietnam’s deputy PM demands tough stance on IUU fishing

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Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang has directed relevant agencies and authorities in coastal regions to implement more rigorous measures against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

The target is to address and lift the IUU fishing ‘yellow card’ warning imposed on Vietnamese seafood by the European Committee (EC) since 2017.

Deputy PM Quang gave the order while presiding over a teleconference held in Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta region on Monday. The conference centered on essential measures to eliminate the ‘yellow card’ associated with IUU fishing.

Authorities of 28 coastal provinces and cities and leaders of several ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), took part in the virtual meeting, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

The event preceded the anticipated fifth inspection by the EC on IUU fishing, scheduled for April.

This evaluation follows four prior assessments since the issuance of the warning in October 2017.

As the head of the National Steering Committee for IUU Fishing Prevention and Control, Deputy PM Quang urged the MARD, along with all relevant agencies and authorities, to take proactive measures.

These include preventing fishing vessels from trespassing into foreign waters and ensuring the rigorous handling of IUU fishing cases.

He recommended taking serious violation cases to court for trial as a deterrent measure, citing the recent example of a hearing involving four fishers in Kien Giang.

The official urged the four provinces of Binh Dinh, Ben Tre, Kien Giang, and Ca Mau, identified as hot spots for IUU fishing violations, to promptly address offenders and enhance oversight of fishing boat operations at sea.

“All violations must be strictly punished, without any exceptions,” he stressed.

In order to expedite the removal of the ‘yellow card,’ Quang emphasized that all relevant ministries and local authorities must swiftly address the deficiencies highlighted by the EC’s IUU fishing inspectors during the fourth inspection conducted in October 2023.

He stressed the importance of implementing all recommendations provided by the inspectors.

The official also urged comprehensive preparations for the EC’s fifth inspection team, slated for April this year.

During the inspection in October last year, EC inspectors acknowledged the Vietnamese government’s commitment, directives, and guidance in combating IUU fishing.

The MARD reported that the transition from spontaneous fishing to responsible fishing in Vietnam has shown significant improvement, earning positive recognition from the inspectors.

Nevertheless, the ministry highlighted that the enforcement outcomes of these policies in certain localities have been limited due to poor compliance with laws among fishers and relatively lenient punishments for violations, as noted by EU inspectors.

Following the fourth inspection by the EC, the MARD reported that 17 fishing boats, carrying a total of 190 fishermen, have been seized by authorities in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia for trespassing into their waters.

Out of these vessels, 11 originated from three Mekong Delta provinces – Kien Giang, Ca Mau, and Tien Giang – and the central province of Quang Ngai.

The identification of the remaining boats has proven challenging as their vessel registration numbers had been erased, or fishers used fake numbers.

As of now, nearly 15,200 unregistered, unlicensed, and technically-unchecked fishing boats have been identified nationwide, with the south-central province of Binh Thuan having the highest number at 1,868 vessels, the Vietnam News Agency cited the MARD.

Since the beginning of 2023, there have been nearly 5,000 cases where vessels from various localities failed to maintain the necessary connection with vessel monitoring systems for more than 10 days, the ministry said.

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