Leading an online meeting with 28 coastal provinces and cities on the issues of combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang requested that localities concentrate their efforts and launch a “high peak of the high peak” campaign with the highest goal of removing the yellow card after the upcoming 5th inspection.
TOUGH HANDLING OF “3 NO” FISHING VESSELS
In his opening remarks at the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang emphasized that the 5th inspection is the last opportunity for Vietnam to lift the yellow card before the EU election, so it is essential to have comprehensive solutions to create substantial changes in the IUU combat work to lift the yellow card as soon as possible.
“If we cannot lift the yellow card in the near future, it may take several more years to have the opportunity to lift it. There is even a risk of being issued a red card and being restricted from exporting seafood to other important markets,” Deputy Prime Minister stated.
Nguyen Quang Hung, Director of the Fisheries Surveillance Department, stated that after more than 6 years of combating IUU fishing (from October 23, 2017, to present), the ministries, sectors, and localities have actively implemented tasks and measures to combat IUU fishing under the direction of the Prime Minister. However, some important and urgent tasks have not been completed in accordance with the Prime Minister’s directions. Recently, from the 4th EC inspection to the present, there have been 17 ships/190 fishermen arrested by other countries.
“The investigation and punishment of cases of illegal fishing in foreign waters from early 2023 until now are still limited. Only 8 out of 37 ships arrested by foreign countries have been verified and penalized (occupying 21.62%).”
Nguyen Quang Hung, Director of the Fisheries Surveillance Department.
Until now, some localities have not implemented unified and synchronized measures in the National System of Electronic Traceability to monitor and control the confirmation and certification of the origin of domestically caught seafood, while the Prime Minister’s directive requires completion and reporting of results before December 31, 2023.
Currently, there are still about 15,198 “3 no” fishing vessels (unregistered, unlicensed, and unpermitted) in the country. The situation of fishing vessels violating regulations by disconnecting the VMS connection continues to be common. From early 2023 to now, nearly 5,000 vessels have lost connection for more than 10 days. In addition, the act of transporting and sending VMS equipment on other fishing vessels to evade supervision by management agencies is becoming complicated.
“The verification and punishment of cases of VMS disconnection according to regulations are still limited. Specifically, for ships over 24 meters in length, the violation rate is about 10% and there has been hardly any penalty for disconnection for more than 6 hours without notifying the position as regulated,” Mr. Hung informed.
Proposing solutions for handling “3 no” fishing vessels, the leaders of Kien Giang province believe that in the first quarter of 2024, localities need to vigorously investigate and prosecute violations of IUU fishing to enhance deterrence. Kien Giang province is the first locality in the country to prosecute and try a case related to broker and intermediary vessels and fishermen engaging in unauthorized fishing in foreign waters. Specifically, the People’s Court of Kien Giang province sentenced 4 defendants residing in Kien Giang province to imprisonment for organizing others’ unauthorized emigration, ranging from 1 to 8 years.
The leaders of Nghe An province announced that it had recently imposed administrative penalties on violations by Nguyen Van Thuong, captain of the NA-95079-TS fishing vessel, and Ngo Van Chinh, captain of the NA-95177-TS fishing vessel, each with a fine of VND 20 million and a suspension of fishing certificate for 3 months for disabling the navigation monitoring equipment during operations at sea.
Nghe An province also decided to impose administrative penalties on Tran Van Nhat, captain of the NA-99995-TS fishing vessel, with a fine of VND 24 million for not complying with regulations when the navigation tracking device on the fishing vessel was damaged.
According to the leaders of Binh Thuan province, the province has imposed a fine of VND 900 million on Tran Thi Thong, a fishing vessel owner in Ward 8, Phuoc Hoi town, La Gi district, for illegally fishing in foreign territorial waters without a permit or acceptance letter. Ms. Thong is the owner of the BTh 97352 fishing vessel, which was discovered and arrested by authorities in Malaysia for fishing in a region of Malaysia on January 7, 2023.
The Chairman of the People’s Committee of Binh Thuan province also imposed a fine of VND 900 million on Tran Thanh Muoi, residing in Ward 8, Phuoc Hoi town, La Gi district, for a similar violation. Mr. Muoi, the owner of the BTh 95204 TS fishing vessel, violated Malaysian territorial waters on January 7, 2023, and was arrested by Malaysian authorities.
COMPREHENSIVE, FUNDAMENTAL SOLUTIONS ARE NEEDED
In conclusion, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang commended and highly appreciated the positive results that the ministries, sectors, and localities have achieved in combating IUU fishing in the past time.
In particular, Deputy Prime Minister highly praised Kien Giang province for accomplishing many impactful tasks and becoming the first locality in the country to prosecute and try a case related to broker and intermediary vessels and fishermen engaging in unauthorized fishing in foreign waters.
“To combat IUU fishing in the next 3 months, it is necessary to focus on 2 tasks: (i) to prevent fishing vessels from being arrested by foreign countries; (ii) to strictly handle violations without exceptions, including the organization and intermediary of unauthorized emigration and the unauthorized use of explosives in fishing.”
Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang.
Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang requested that the localities conduct thorough studies and apply the existing regulations to handle IUU violations. For localities that have dealt with cases similar to Kien Giang, they should boldly take action. The Ministry of Public Security has sent the case file mentioned above by Kien Giang province to the police in all coastal provinces and cities for study, reference, and application.
“It is expected that in February, the Party Central Committee will issue a Directive, assigning specific responsibilities to the leaders of party committees at all levels from the central to the local levels in IUU combat work,” Deputy Prime Minister informed.
Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang assigned the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to organize inspection delegations to supervise, urge, and instruct localities in carrying out IUU combat tasks; directed the Fisheries Surveillance Department to coordinate with the Ministry of Public Security to thoroughly handle the ships mentioned in the EC inspection team’s findings in Khanh Hoa province.
The Ministry of National Defense directed the border forces to effectively manage and control fishing vessels entering and leaving ports in the border areas, focusing on offshore areas in Kien Giang and Ca Mau provinces.
The Ministry of Public Security will promote the investigation and prosecution of organized and mediatory unauthorized emigration and legitimate the records concerning exported seafood batches; expand investigations into groups of vessels that do not return to ports but use other vessels for refueling, stones, food, and receiving fish ashore for sale.
Deputy Prime Minister emphasized the need for fundamental and long-term solutions to develop sustainable fisheries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development needs to develop a plan for sustainable fishery exploitation, including considering the possibility of imposing a fishing ban to protect and restore fishery resources and providing support to fishermen when implementing the ban.