The European Commission (E.C.) will today ban all fish imports from Cambodia, carrying through on its threat made in November to punish the country for failing to show genuine commitment to tackling the global problem of illegal fishing, according to a memo released Friday.
The ban, which will also be issued against Belize and Guinea, is the first time that such measures have been taken by the European Union (E.U.) and comes after repeated warnings to curtail the practice of illegal fishing by non-Cambodian vessels flying the Cambodian flag.
“Ministers are expected to adopt the Commission’s proposal of November 2013 to list Belize, Cambodia and Guinea as non-cooperating third countries in the fight against illegal fishing,” the memo states.
“The three countries have not demonstrated real commitment to tackling illegal fishing,” it continues.
When the threat was first made in November, Nao Thuok, director of the Fisheries Administration in the Ministry of Agriculture, said it was a largely symbolic move as Cambodia does not export any fish to the E.U., meaning trade will not be adversely affected.
On Sunday, however, he said that the ban will damage Cambodia’s international reputation and may hamper its ability to secure important developmental grants and loans.
“Even though we do not export [fish] to the E.U., it can affect the image of the country and our bilateral relations,” he said.
Though Cambodia has only a few ocean-worthy fishing vessels, the government sold the rights to register ships under the national flag to a South Korean company in 2003 for $6 million, leaving it with no means to monitor the activities of vessels flying the national banner.
And according to the E.U., hundreds of Cambodian-flagged vessels are using the flag to flout international maritime law and plunder the ocean’s fish reserves.
Mr. Thuok said that the E.U.’s penalty for failing to address the issue came just days after the government held an inter-ministerial meeting on Thursday to work out a “national plan of action” to tackle the points raised by the E.U.
“We are now drafting it. We are doing it now and we plan to implement it in two years,” he said.