Atuna reported that the South Korean government, Dongwon Industries, and other tuna fisheries companies are under fire for failing to take pre-emptive steps to prevent the European Union (EU) preliminary listing of Korea as a country engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) (see Gov’t Subsidized IUU Fishing By Korean Fleet?). On 26 November 2013, the European Commission handed South Korea a formal warning for failure to keep up with its international obligation to fight IUUF (see GFBF post: J’accuse!! eNGOs point finger pointed squarely at South Korea as the main IUU tuna fishing nation in African waters on the back of EU accusations).
Though the preliminary listing by the EU will not, at this stage, entail any measures affecting seafood trade, if Korea is designated as a full IUU fishing nation, all fish and fish products caught or manufactured by Korean fleets and their owner companies will be precluded from entering the EU market.
According to Atuna this warning came as a “shock to Korea, which prides itself as being a fishing powerhouse with 344 registered vessels in 2012.” Yet the article implies that this shock cannot be all that ‘unexpected’, noting that since 2010:
“[T]he E.U. urged the Korean government to actively engage in stopping illegal fishing, after a number of international environmental organizations disclosed fishing illegalities by Korean ships. Rumors that the E.U. could issue a warning to the country were common place.”
The South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries claimed that it was talking with the E.U. and Korea would not likely face any penalties. I wrote earlier in this blog that in furtherance of this; South Korea amended their Water Fisheries Act:
“For South Korea the possibility of being blacklisted by the EU is not only embarrassing; it could have real economic impact. Atuna points out, that in July (2013), the Korean National Assembly amended its Water Fisheries Act to help curb illegal fishing. One of the amendments includes an increase in penalties for illegal fishing from a fine of USD 5,000, to a significant maximum fine of three times the value of the fish caught.”
But According to Atuna the EU reportedly did not accept the legislative amendment, maintaining that “the revision lacks control over IUUF.”
In the face of the ‘shock’ as a consequence of being stigmatized as an IUUF nation, the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, in addition to the legislative amendment, instead of fortifying compliance measures, recently suspended the introduction of a compulsory Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), which tracks a fishing vessel’s whereabouts, until July next year. Interestingly China has already made VMS compulsory. It is said that this suspension of compulsory VMS is one of the justifications for the preliminary IUU blacklisting.
The Korean Ministry claimed that enforcing the system which will cost millions of won for each vessel could be a financial burden to companies. However Atuna notes that according to a fishing industry insider, who asked for anonymity, it may be burdensome for some small companies, but it was not a big deal for large companies such as Dongwon, Korea’s largest canned tuna provider.
South Korea’s fishing industry receives yearly a high amount of government subsidies, of which also tuna fishing companies are profiting, some of them directly or indirectly being associated with IUU fishing. Park Ji Hyun of Greenpeace added that “large companies (like Dongwon and Sajo Industries) take about 80 percent of the ministry’s subsidies to the fishing industry amounting to 300 billion won a year.”
South Korean Fishing Vessel. FV Oyang 70
Korea criticizes EU IUU ‘double standard’
According to Seafood Source the EU is facing a backlash from Korean fishermen’s organizations over its 26 November decision to preliminarily add the country to its illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) list. The Korea Overseas Fisheries Association (KOFA), a group of operators of fishing vessels in international waters, claimed the EU applied a double standard when blacklisting countries.
Yi Whan-woo wrote in the Korea Times that KOFA is criticising the EU for its silence with respect to China, and acknowledged the potential for the EU decision to be at least partly bases on a premise that Korean fishing boats compete with Spanish ones in seas off West Africa.
The association criticized the E.U. for keeping mum about China, saying its decision came partly because Korean fishing boats compete with Spanish ones in seas off West Africa.
According to a spokesperson from KOFA (on condition of anonymity in a telephone interview with The Korea Times):
“The EU’s measure is rational at all, although its true we have performed IUUF activities […]
Chinese fishing boats have also been engaged in a number of IUUF activities but the EU is taking a lenient attitude […]
The Ministry (Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries) has been making efforts to cope with the unions requirements, and it is inappropriate to blacklist a country without giving it sufficient time to meet the demands.
According to the South Korean Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries, the EU has been demanding Korea equip its distant water fishing fleet with VMS, since 2010. It has also asked Seoul to set up a fisheries monitoring center (FMC) that oversees activities of vessels equipped with VMS through a satellite network.
A revised EU regulation requires all distant water fishing vessels operating on the high seas who are selling product entering the EU, must be equipped with a VMS commencing July 2014 The Korean National Assembly approved a bill in July 2013 to require the Ministry and Korean fishing boats to respectively set up an FMC and install VMS by mid-2014.
It would seem that South Korea may end up complying with EU regulations, and will overcome their preliminary black listing. They must. As I said above “for South Korea the possibility of being blacklisted by the EU is not only embarrassing; it could have real economic impact..“