A new system to beat illegal fishing around the world by tracking fish from the moment they are caught to when they arrive on consumers’ plates will get the backing of the UK Government today (30 April).
UK Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw and Gareth Thomas, the Minister for International Development will meet supermarkets including Tesco and Marks & Spencer to champion measures designed to deter illegal fishing and boost consumer confidence.
The Ministers will also announce a £15 million scheme to help fishermen in Sierra Leone stamp out illegal fishing, including setting up a tracing scheme that will track fish being exported to the EU.
Illegal fishing is a major form of organised crime that deprives often very poor communities, of up to $9 billion in lost income every year – $1 billion of which is the loss to Africa.
Gareth Thomas, UK Development Minister, said:
“Every year billions of dollars are snatched away from poor people around the world that could be used to help make poverty history. One way of stopping this is to have an EU wide tracking system that protects poor fishermen and reassures UK consumers that the fish they buy from the supermarket freezer or fish and chip shop has been caught fairly and responsibly.
“It would build business confidence, lead to companies rushing to work with poor communities and help fishermen reap the benefits of their hard work.”
Ben Bradshaw, UK Fisheries Minister, said:
“Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a huge problem. It destroys fish stocks and marine biodiversity, it depresses the market in legally caught fish, and drives legitimate fishermen out of business.
“It’s driven by sophisticated criminal gangs who don’t care what or who they damage in the pursuit of easy cash. It’s a crime that should concern the world, because it plunders a world resource.
“We all have a responsibility and a duty to make sure there is adequate governance and enforcement in place to stop illegal fishing and to block illegal produce entering the food chain. New laws will target not only fishermen but processors and importers who trade in illegal fish.”
David Audley, President of the group that represents 10,000 fish and chip shop owners in the UK, said:
“The NFFF [National Federation of Fish Friers] strongly advise all fryers to use fish from sustainable sources to ensure the British public can continue to enjoy their favourite fish and chips. Any effective measures the EU propose to stop illegal fishing have our wholehearted support.”
At the meeting of representatives from several African Governments, British food processors and supermarkets including Tesco and Marks and Spencer’s the Ministers will highlight the importance of including a fish monitoring system in new European legislation currently being drafted.
They will say that new EU regulations should take account of successful initiatives already being used by British businesses such as members of the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF). The UK Government has been working with the FDF, which has a voluntary code of practice for tracking fish imports, to influence EU policy makers so they adopt a tracing system that is workable, meets the needs of fishermen and stops criminals selling on illegally caught fish to the EU. The FDF code of practice has been endorsed by WWF Europe.
Cliff Morrison, Chairman of the Seafood Group, UK Food and Drink Federation, said:
“The issue of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing is at the forefront of the food processing industry’s agenda. The development and implementation of the industry’s code of practice to counteract IUU fishing activities is a major step in addressing this problem.”
An effective traceability system to responsibly source tuna, such as that used by FDF members, currently allows them to trace fish back to the boat, whilst developing a supply chain verification system that uses electronic systems throughout the chain. In addition to the traceability systems, regular technical audits of the whole chain will continue to validate the process.
The proposed EU regulations are intended to close a gap in current EU laws and prevent illegally caught fish entering member states. Draft legislation is expected to be published by the summer of 2007.