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Mar 19, 2022 / 21:52

Vietnam sets target of removing EC's yellow card on fisheries this year

The European Commission has recognized Vietnam’s progress in combating IUU fishing in terms of legal matters, seafood origin, and boat tracking.

Vietnam has requested the European Union (EU) to remove the “yellow card” on Vietnamese seafood exports for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2022, five years after the bloc issued such warning.

The request was made by Vu Hai Ha, Head of the National Assembly’s Committee for External Relations, at the meeting between the parliaments of both sides on March 18 with the participation of Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA) Daniel Caspary and Chairman of European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Countries of Southeast Asia and ASEAN (DASE) Daniel Caspary. 

Vietnam said the removal would boost the bilateral trade following the enforcement of the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) in August 2020. He also expected EU support to improve Vietnamese seafood exporters’ competitiveness.  

 Fishing boat fleet in Danang. Photo: Hoang Hiep/ Bao Da Nang

The European Commission imposed a yellow card on Vietnam in October 2017. Since its imposition, the EU has been conducting a review of Vietnam’s fisheries-related policies to determine which route it will take out of three options available: maintaining the yellow card status, issuing a red card banning all seafood imports from Vietnam to the EU, or rescinding the yellow card and resuming normal trade.

To address the issue, Vietnam has actively engaged in the enforcement of the law to tackle illegal fishing. Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has repeatedly requested relevant agencies to take action for the yellow card to be removed.

Over the years, institutional and legal regulations have been refined to be in line with international rules and enormously improved the enforcement capacity of the fisheries management system for fishers to end the situation of fishing vessels engaged in illegal fishing in the waters of Vietnam and other countries, To Van Phuong and Robert S. Pomeroy said in “Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Removing Yellow Card From European Commission (EC): Vietnam’s Determined Actions.”

The authors said that recommended actions to address the yellow card include finalization of the fisheries guidance decrees in line with obligations to combat IUU fishing, tougher sanctions, strengthening the monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) system, information dissemination and education of the fisheries law and relevant regulations, and the application of an electronic catch documentation and traceability (eCDT) system.

As a result, the EC has recognized Vietnam’s efforts in this drive, appreciating the changes in legal matters and seafood origin which were proved by the small volume of aquatic products returned from the EU markets, Nguyen Quang Hung, Deputy Director of Directorate of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said at a meeting with the EC in October 2021.

However, the yellow card can provide an opportunity to restructure Vietnam’s fisheries sector to recover and grow back in the EU market. It can result in a turning point for the industry to transform into a more responsible and sustainable fishery, according to Robert S. Pomeroy and To Van Phuong.

To deal with the yellow card’s problems, the political will and capacity play a crucial role at the national government and the local levels. Specifically, Vietnam needs to pay attention to building institutional capacity from top to local management levels to deal with policy planning and regulation and enforcement on halting IUU fishing, they recommended.

Seafood is one of Vietnam’s main export staples. In 2021, the country earned US$8.9 billion from seafood exports, up 6% year on year. The volume to the EU accounted for 12% of Vietnam’s total seafood exports in 2021. Shrimp remained the major item in seafood export.