The EU Commission announced on November 26 that it included South Korea in its preliminary ruling list of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing countries, saying that it warned that these nations were negligent in their international obligations to supervise and control deep-sea fishing activities. Ghana and Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles were also included in the list.
Once designated officially as an IUU country, the nation is banned from exporting fishery goods to EU countries or using ports in the EU.
The Korean government showed displeasure with the preliminary designation, saying that the EU’s preliminary designation came despite the EU’s awareness that the country already revised the relevant law in late July this year to intensify fishing regulations, and the law is set to go into effect early next year.
Under the revised law on deep-sea fishing, all Korean vessels engaged in overseas fishing must be equipped with a tracking device, known as a vessel monitoring system, starting on July 30 next year after a six month waiting period, following the enaction of the revised law on January 31, 2014.
According to officials of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF), the Korean government will also set up a fishing monitoring center to keep a close watch on all overseas fishing by South Korean ships, a key issue raised earlier by the EU.
“There is little negative impact on our fishing activities from the designation. Still it’s a disgrace for us to be branded as an illegal fishing country,” said Lyu Jae-hyung, director of the International Cooperation Division at the MOF. Korea exported around US$100 million worth of fishery products to EU member countries in 2012.
Another issue raised by the EU has been South Korea’s penalty against IUU fishing, which currently is a fine of less than 5 million won (US$4,717). Starting January 31 next year, the maximum fine for IUU fishing will be raised to three times the value of the catch from illegal fishing.
The ministry officials said that the country’s new and strengthened measures against illegal fishing should be enough to meet all EU criteria to keep the country off the list of official IUU designated countries. According to EU regulations, the country preliminarily designated as an IUU fishing nation must work with the EU to avoid an official designation.