IUU fishingThe European Commission has issued a ‘yellow card’ to Cameroon over IUU fishing. Photo: EJF

The European Commission has formally warned the Republic of Cameroon that it must do more to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) or face being denied future access to EU markets.

On 17 February, the European Commission issued a ‘yellow card’ – a formal warning that can lead to import bans to the EU – to the Central African country and urged it to do more to stop illegal fishing. If the government of Cameroon cannot work along with the EU to solve all issues of concern this could be followed by a ‘red card’ involving a full ban.

Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), said: “We very much welcome the European Commission’s decision to warn and initiate a formal dialogue with Cameroon. We had already identified Cameroon as offering a ‘flag of convenience’ in our 2020 report Off the Hook, showing that operators used the flag to operate under the radar and facilitate illegal fishing. These practices undermine any attempts to manage fisheries sustainably and push fish populations to collapse, threatening food security and livelihoods in many regions.”

Getting around the law

‘Flags of convenience’ – when vessel owners choose a flag which entails minimal monitoring and enforcement – facilitate illegal fishing by making it hard to identify and take action against boat owners.

In recent years more and more vessels have been adopting the Cameroonian flag due to lax government control. Over a third of the vessels now sailing under this flag have adopted it only recently, in the last two to three years , despite having no obvious link with the country. Cameroon’s fishing capacity is about nine times larger than it was before 2018 (in registered gross tonnage).

Mr Trent added that countries must adopt measures designed to deter other states from freely offering flags of convenience, along with methods to ensure that these flags are not used by their own citizens, such as issuing deterrent sanctions and requesting information on beneficial ownership upon registration of vessels.

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