The European Commission announced a ban on imports of fisheries products from Sri Lanka, its second biggest importer in the sector, in order to "tackle the commercial benefits stemming from illegal fishing”.
Sri Lanka received a “yellow card”, a stern warning, in November 2012, as the country was not complying with international rules on illegal fishing and had inadequate control systems.
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki said that not much had changed since then, despite intense dialogue.
“The same problems are still there and are even getting worse. Sri Lanka is now authorizing huge vessels to fish in the Indian Ocean without marine GPS (VMS). This renders control totally impossible.”
“Sri Lanka is the second biggest exporter of fresh and chilled swordfish and tuna to the EU (74 million € of imports in 2013). In those circumstances we cannot tolerate not to know whether the fish they import into the EU was caught sustainably or not. EU citizens have the right to know what lands on their plate.”
“So today, the Commission goes to the next level: we are formally identifying Sri Lanka in the fight against illegal fishing. Fisheries products caught by vessels flagged in Sri Lanka will not be able to enter the EU market after three months' time from now. The Council will, by that time, have the possibility to confirm and extend the depth and scope of the trade measures.”
Sri Lanka last year claimed the EU was happy about the measures it had taken.
But the commissioner said investigations into Sri Lanka’s practices were launched as early as 2010.
“Since then, and especially after the warning in 2012, the Commission has worked, through dialogue and cooperation, with Sri Lanka. However, the country has not made credible progress to address shortcomings.
“The EU imported 7.400 tonnes of fish from Sri Lanka in 2013 with a total value of €74 million. Sri Lanka is one of the biggest exporters to the EU of high value fishery products such as fresh and chilled swordfish, tuna and tuna-like species.
“Further measures are proposed to the Council, to accompany the trade ban. These include a ban on fishing in the waters of Sri Lanka by EU flagged vessels, on joint fishing operations, on the reflagging of EU vessels to Sri Lanka, and on fisheries agreements. These additional measures will enter into force once the Council has adopted them.”