The EU has today banned the import of tuna and swordfish products from countries whose fishing activities undermine international efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks in a sustainable manner. The countries and fish species targeted by the trade sanctions are: Bolivia, Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea, Georgia and Sierra Leone in respect of Atlantic bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus); Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone in respect of Atlantic blue-fin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) and Sierra Leone in respect of Atlantic swordfish (Xiphias gladius). Trade restrictions currently in place on imports from Belize, Honduras and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are to be lifted following action by these countries to bring their fishing practices into line with internationally agreed guidelines.
"Today's efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks are essential to make sure we still have fish in the sea tomorrow. Sustainable fishing is the responsibility of all of us. With today's decision the EU is honouring the commitments taken under internationally agreed measures to that end." EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy commented.
Welcoming the coherence between EU trade and fisheries policies, Commissioner Franz Fischler said: "such synergy allows the EU to combat illegal fishing on the high seas which are particularly vulnerable to fraud. It is another step in the EU strategy against illegal fishing activities in international fisheries".
Why has the EU banned these imports?
The EU is a member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which oversees the conservation and management of tuna and tuna-like species, including swordfish, in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas.
As part of its work, ICCAT can adopt trade sanctions against countries whose fishing activities undermine the effectiveness of its conservation and management measures. The EU, as an ICCAT member, is obliged to put these sanctions into effect in its own legislation. Today's action brings EU legislation into line with the most recent ICCAT recommendations.
When will these sanctions enter into force?
The sanctions for all countries, with the exception of Georgia, will enter into force one week after the date of their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (ie one week after 29 April 2004). For Georgia, the sanctions will apply from 1 July 2004 which is in line with ICCAT's own procedures in this case.
Will the import bans mean higher prices for the consumer?
Consumers should be unaffected by the import bans as the countries targeted by the trade sanctions are not traditional suppliers of the species concerned (Atlantic bigeye tuna, Atlantic blue-fin tuna and Atlantic swordfish) to the EU.
Today's action by the EU is compatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules which allow measures to be taken for the conservation of exhaustible natural resources.
The countries targeted by the sanctions have not exported any of the fish species covered by the measures to the EU market in recent years. Therefore, the economic impact of the measures should be limited. However, as one of the world's most important markets for tuna and tuna products, the EU is sending a clear signal that it will take action to support international efforts to promote sustainable fishing by closing its market to fish not caught in a sustainable manner.