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EU begins Sri Lanka import ban

2015 Jan 19

After announcing a red card against Sri Lankan imports of seafood in October, based on a lack of work towards fighting IUU, the EU this week begins its ban.

It is thought he European Commission’s ban on fishery products could affect imports worth around €74 million a year; the EU imported 7,400 metric tons of fishery products from Sri Lanka in 2013, reported.

In particular, the ban is likely to be problematic for importers of fresh swordfish and tuna, especially yellowfin.

UK-based Le Lien, which has a plant in Sri Lanka, and French fresh tuna specialist Comptoirs Oceaniques, each expressed surprise at the timing of the red card when Undercurrent News spoke to them in October.

Both importers have worked closely with Sri Lankan fisheries to help them improve their practices, and lauded the European Union’s tough policy on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

However, the ban was announced just as Sri Lanka is putting in place new wide-ranging laws to control its fisheries, due to take effect in January, they said.

“[I] spend a great deal of my time [in Sri Lanka] and I see the potentially devastating effect this red card could have on fishermen and their livelihoods,” said Le Lien chairman Peter Stagg.

“Surely a red card is excessive and unnecessary and will not only put pressure on other supply lines…but more importantly if enacted, will affect the lives of one million Sri Lankans whose livelihoods depend on the fishing industry there.”

UK processors Icelandic Seachill, Direct Seafoods and New England Seafood too expressed disappointment over the red card decision – especially as some of those importers are engaged in fisheries improvement there.

The biggest disappointment came from Icelandic Seachill.

“It’s a government to government issue, and the EU has not engaged properly with industry stakeholders to ascertain if this is the correct measure to bring about compliance,” Nigel Edwards, technical director at the company, told Undercurrent News.

“The red card is not needed, the yellow card had done the job to stimulate the political will and action.”

Alberto Romero-Bermo, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability for Lumar Seafood International in Spain, noted the ban was harsh on those practicing legal and sustainable fisheries management, but needed overall.

“Though individual efforts such as Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) are commendable and necessary they cannot exist in a business vacuum,” he said.

“That is, they require a proper governmental environment that is compliant with international law and international sustainability efforts.”

“This, ultimately, is the way we can prevent unfairness: Why should the good guys in Sri Lanka (and anywhere else) be taken out of the market because bad guys in Sri Lanka (and anywhere else) are not compliant with responsible fisheries policies?”

The market effects of this ban may be slight for the UK, but more serious for Sri Lanka.

According to figures from UK industry body Seafish, the UK imported 1,942t of seafood from Sri Lanka last year, for a value of £12.6m, reports.

This tallies with estimates from Undercurrent sources, who attested to the small volumes involved. Inevitably now Direct Seafoods, as well as Seachill, will look to source from elsewhere, and both pointed to the Maldives. (Colombo Gazette)

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