EU Fisheries Commissioner Sympathetic but Firm on Belize Fish Ban
Oceana Voices Commitment to Helping End Ban In Meeting with Damanaki
Press Release Date: September 23, 2014
Location: Belize City, Belize
“Real change is never easy.” That was the tone presented by European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki during a speech to Oceana’s board of directors in San Sebastián, Spain. Referring specifically to the European Union’s ban on Belizean imports, Damanaki maintained that the decision was not easy given the country’s economic status, but stressed that “the same rules must be applied across the globe to achieve sustainability.”
The EU Commissioner maintained that under her leadership, significant policy reforms like the Common Fisheries Policy, which was created to better manage European fish stocks through quotas, and the approximately 97,000 vessels fishing in European waters, are now in force. “By 2019 we will no longer be throwing away by-catch but using it as food, feed or raw material. Countries have started fine-tuning management rules to the specific conditions of each fishery. We have some new Advisory Councils and their composition has changed in favour of small fishermen and civil society. We have gone from 5 stocks being fished sustainably in 2010 to 27 today – and counting. We also put an end to the gruesome practice of shark finning. Internationally, we have been pushing for sustainability with all our partners; when we fish outside the EU, we make sure it is with no detriment to fish stocks or local communities.”
In March 2014, Belize [i.e. all vessels operating under the Belize flag] was one of three countries banned from selling fish to the EU. The blacklist, first proposed by the European Commission and then subsequently approved by the member states of Europe was a first for the EU under its illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing regulation from 2010. At the time Damanaki maintained, “I want EU citizens to know that the fish they consume is sustainable, wherever it comes from. We are steadily moving in that direction.”
The ban was imposed because the EU determined that Belize, Cambodia and Guinea were not complying with international fishery laws; rules to prevent illegal fishing practices. Oceana Belize applauds the Government of Belize’s commitment to fully cooperate with the EU to eradicate the scourge of IUU fishing and the positive steps already taken to rectify the deficiencies in the infrastructure; including taking over the direct management of the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE), which registers and monitors the high seas vessels, on June 11, 2013.
Following Damanaki’s remarks this week in Spain, Oceana’s Vice President in Belize, Janelle Chanona, reiterated her organization’s commitment to seeing the ban on Belize lifted. “This situation needs to be resolved before the repercussions become more serious than an international black eye. As Commissioner Damanaki highlighted herself, ‘enforcement remains a major obstacle for many countries.’” Chanona said. “But the world’s fish stocks are the world’s property, and collectively we have to take that responsibility seriously. By helping consumers become informed citizens, civil society members like Oceana can be part of the solution; that is better management and policies in place.”
“We’ve come quite a long way,” Damanaki told the Oceana board. “To put it upfront: we have managed to modernize our fishing and set aside short term economic interests in favor of science and sustainability.” And to be sure, the EU is expecting the rest of the world to follow their lead.
A new European Commission and commissioner of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries are currently being appointed. Oceana’s European and Belizean offices will continue discussions on the Belize ban with the new authorities as soon as the appointments are announced.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America, Asia and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.