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Major tuna importing country focuses controls on cans from West Africa

In a letter dated the 27th of February 2013 the UK government raises concerns over imports of canned tuna that may contain illegally caught fish from West Africa.  The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) issued a letter to 60 tuna importers in the UK raising serious concerns over illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa. These concerns have previously been voiced by Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF) in the article Illegal fishing in West Africa.  

The letter from DEFRA further warned that Port Health Officers would be paying particularly close attention to any tuna imported from West African fisheries. Port Health Officers have been instructed to increase the control of movement of West African tuna until they are satisfied that no IUU fishing activities have affected the goods, which may result in suspension or rejection of particular fish consignments.

The letter lists several IUU fishing concerns which include: unlicensed fishing, reliance on fraudulent documents and breaching the recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT). Much of the evidence detailing IUU fishing in West Africa is as a result of recent investigations supported or carried out by SIF and its partners, amongst them the Trygg Mat Foundation. These investigations have produced evidence of fraudulent licenses, unlicensed fishing and discrepancies with regards to  inconsistent vessel monitoring systems.

Previous investigations into illegal fishing activities have also resulted in authorities of different countries taking action against IUU fishing. Two examples already covered on the SIF website are that of the settlement agreement reached between the Liberian government and tuna purse seiner organisations found fishing illegally within the Liberian EEZ as well as the suspension of the Doniene's fishing license after Mozambican and Liberian cooperation.

This move by the UK has been followed by other European countries and it demonstrates a positive response against illegal operators that will make it increasingly difficult for illegally caught fish to enter the global market – making the business of catching, transporting or trading illegal fish a less profitable venture. 

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