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Bold action taken by Korea to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing shows EU IUU Regulation is working
Jan 29, 2015

Bold action taken by Korea to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing shows EU IUU Regulation is working

By EJF Staff

The National Assembly of Korea has adopted an amended Distant Water Fisheries Development (DWFD) Act which will be in force from 7 July 2015. The Act is the most significant of a series of measures taken by Korea to proactively prevent, deter and eradicate IUU fishing following a ‘yellow card’ warning given by the European Union in 2013. 

Korea has significantly improved its efforts to prevent, deter and eradicate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The Act will allow greater control over all IUU vessels, the confiscation of illegal fish and restriction of fishing authorisations; increased ability to act when Korean nationals engage in IUU fishing in waters outside Korea’s jurisdiction; enhanced Monitoring, Control and Surveillance including installation of Vessel Monitoring Systems; and tougher sanctions on serious infringements.

Global losses due to IUU fishing are estimated to be between US$10 billion and US$23.5 billion per year. By depleting fish stocks, IUU fishing severely compromises the food security and livelihoods of vulnerable coastal communities dependent on fish for protein and income. It also puts legitimate operations at an unfair disadvantage and dis-incentivizes responsible fishing.

From 2010 to early 2014, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) documented a large number of Korean-flagged vessels operating illegally in West Africa, particularly in Sierra Leone where EJF operates a Community Surveillance project to report IUU fishing activities in the inshore areas reserved for local fishers. EJF’s evidence contributed to the 2013 decision by the European Union to warn Korea that it faced trade sanctions if it did not improve fisheries management.

Korea was encouraged to act by the European Commission’s EU IUU Regulation and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with EJF in June 2014, committing to renew efforts to curb IUU fishing. In 2014 Korea significantly strengthened its Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) capacity and reinforced sanctions on IUU fishing activities. Korean fishing vessels are now required to carry Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), which allow satellites to track their movements. Korean officials monitor VMS from a 24-hour Fisheries Monitoring Centre that opened in May 2014. From September 2015, all vessels will be fitted with an electronic logbook system, which will allow vessels to share real-time information on catch and fishing operations.

The recent adoption of an amended Distant Water Fisheries Development (DWFD) Act, to come into force on 7 July 2015, confirms the political commitment of the Korean Government to a strict sanctions system to deprive offenders of any economic benefit from IUU fishing and remove this incentive. As a strong deterrent against illegal fishing activities, serious infringements will be listed as a criminal offence with imprisonment up to five years or a fine of at least 500 million Korean Won. The DWFD Act also introduces stronger control over IUU vessels with tighter restriction on fishing authorizations for fishing vessels involved in IUU fishing as well as a precautionary measure which will restrict fishing authorization in the waters of countries without proper fisheries management and control systems. To provide a greater level of consistency with international standards in holding the actor accountable, and to be able to sanction IUU perpetrators despite flag changes, the Act will further strengthen the control over Korean nationals involved in IUU activities.

“Korea’s efforts to stop illegal fishing are unprecedented and demonstrate a clear intent to deliver national, regional and international leadership to combat IUU fishing which devastates marine environments, biodiversity, fish stocks, livelihoods and food security. Flag States need to maintain a firm grip on their distant water fleet, and we hope that other States will follow Korea’s lead. The actions taken by Korea since 2013 clearly demonstrate the global impact of the proactive steps taken by the EU and European Commission, through the EU IUU Regulation, to drive out pirate fishing from global supply chains. In the last 12 months Korea has taken huge strides away from poor performance to becoming a leading nation in the fight against IUU fishing with innovative and deterrent measures. The Korean industry, in particular Korean fishing vessel operators, must match the intention of their Government, make sure they abide by the law and become an exemplary distant-water fleet. We hope that the EU’s yellow card sanction will be soon lifted, having done its job, and Korea can take on a role as a regional leader in the fight against IUU fishing, inspiring others to act.” Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF

Some region-specific measures have also been adopted, such as in West Africa, a region particularly susceptible to IUU fishing. A large part of the Korean fleet that has been operating in West Africa will be bought by the Korean Government and scrapped, as part of a vessel de-commissioning programme worth 9.9 billion Korean Won (equivalent to $9 million USD or 7.8 million Euro). In an effort to improve transparency and combat corruption, the Korean Government will not allow private licensing in some West African countries, where fishing licences will be negotiated in the framework of bilateral agreements from Government to Government.

Notes to editors

  • Korea’s Distant Water Fisheries Development Act is being amended to increase the consistency with relevant international laws and regulations, such as the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. The draft re-amendment was submitted to the National Assembly on 8 October 2014. Major elements in the second amendment include:
  1. Stronger Control over IUU Vessels, including confiscation of illegal fish and fishing authorization restrictions in waters of a country without proper fisheries management and control systems.
  2. Stronger Control over Korean Nationals; a new provision was introduced to allow the Korean government to exercise control over Korean nationals who have engaged in IUU fishing in waters outside Korea’s jurisdiction.
  3. Stronger Monitoring, Control and Surveillance including installation of VMS on fish carriers and pre-authorization requirements for transhipment.
  4. Stronger Sanctions, including increased level of sanctions on serious infringements up to and including imprisonment.
  • The amendment is scheduled to take effect on 7 July 2015. However, provisions relating to restricting fishing authorisations in the waters of a country without proper fisheries management and control systems have been implemented with immediate effect through a special Ministerial Instruction that came into force on 27 October, 2014. Fishing activities of Korean-flagged vessels will be restricted in the following:
  1. Waters in which laws and regulations of coastal states prohibit fishing activities;
  2. Waters in which fishing authorization management system over foreign fishing vessels is ambiguous or insufficient;
  3. Waters whose relevant fisheries laws and regulations of coastal states are unknown or it is unclear whether such laws and regulations exist or not;
  4. Waters in which safe fishing by Korean-flagged vessels cannot be ensured; and
  5. Waters in which inefficient control over Korean-flagged fishing vessels may damage Korea’s national interest.
  • The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is a UK-based non-profit organisation working internationally to protect the environment and defend human rights. EJF believes environmental security is a human right.
  • EJF’s Oceans Campaign mission is to protect the marine environment, its biodiversity and the livelihoods dependent on it. The campaign aims to eradicate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate’ fishing. We are working to create full transparency and traceability within seafood supply chains and markets. We actively promote improvements to policy-making, corporate governance and management of fisheries along with consumer activism and market driven solutions.
  • EJF’s ambition is to secure truly sustainable, well-managed fisheries and with this the protection and effective conservation of marine biodiversity and ecosystems. EJF believes that there must be greater equity in global fisheries to ensure developing countries and vulnerable communities are given fair access and support to sustainably manage their natural marine resources. We believe in working collaboratively with all stakeholders to achieve these goals.

Contact details

For more information or interview requests, email media@ejfoundation.org.

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