BRUSSELS — The European Union's fisheries chief wants trade measures imposed against Belize, Cambodia and Guinea for allegedly refusing to curb illegal fishing.
And in a warning to a big fisheries nation, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki on Tuesday told South Korea to change its ways or end up on the blacklist too. Given the EU is the world's biggest trading bloc, a ban can really hurt.
Environmental groups welcomed the moves and the Pew Charitable Trusts said it showed the 28-country EU "is serious about combatting illegal fishing."
Damanaki said the three countries continued with illegal practices even after being warned last year. The EU says illegal and unregulated fishing accounts for at least 15 percent of the global value of catches.
And a conservative EU estimate values the theft from the oceans at 10 billion euros ($13.5 billion) a year. Other studies put it at almost twice that.
A study by the Oceana group said that sharks, famed for their fin soup, topped the ranks with some 80 percent of illegal catches. Bluefin tuna, which is prized the world over for its fine, fatty meat in sushi dishes, has also been hit hard.
Altogether, illegal fishing accounts for a sizable part of the depletion of the world's oceans.
As a result, Damanaki said she had "no other choice" but to put the three nations up for stiff penalties given "the critical state of many fish stocks."
Once, and if, the member states agree to back her, the fish caught by the three countries will be fully banned in the EU — a move that Damanaki says would hit illegal fishing by reducing the possible commercial gain available.
Damanaki said Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu, will not be sanctioned. The five countries had been warned but Damanaki said they had made sufficient progress in improving the monitoring and control of catches.
Apart from South Korea, Ghana and Curacao were also given "yellow cards" on Tuesday to improve their surveillance and enforcement.
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