BELIZE CITY–Back in March, the European Union imposed trade sanctions against vessels flying the Belize flag on the high seas, allegedly because Belize was deemed to be a non-cooperating country in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. However, the European Commission has proposals to formally lift the sanction against Belize’s fleet, which nets the Government $12 million a year, according to official Government of Belize sources.
While the ban stopped Belize-flagged vessels from landing their products obtained from high seas fishing at EU ports, those vessels, made up mostly of Spanish-owned vessels, found other ports in Asia to land their products.
Gian Ghandi, Director-General of the International Financial Services Commission, and legal counsel in the Ministry of Finance, told Amandala that the decision will be up for final consideration by the EU’s Council of Ministers next Wednesday, October 29, 2014.
In proposing the removal of the high seas fishing sanction against Belize, the EC said that Belize has demonstrated its commitment to reforming its legal framework and adopting a new set of rules for inspection, control and monitoring of vessels.
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, said: “The improvements Belize made as regards its fisheries control system since its ‘red card’ show that the EU’s fight against illegal fishing works. The formalized cooperation with the EU has helped the country to move towards sustainable fisheries.”
Of note is that Belize had rushed to introduce those measures even before the sanction took effect.
The good news is, the sanction has meant no financial loss to Belize, according to Ghandi, who said that although some ships cancelled their registration with Belize, others opted to sign on, including interests from places like Cyrus and the Philippines. Ships also found alternative ports in Asia for their products, Ghandi said.
The high seas fleet consists of 52 vessels and Ghandi said that only 20 of those fish in the Euro-zone. Nonetheless, he said, the EU wants Belize to limit its high seas fleet to only 75 vessels. The Belize-flagged fleet had previously included 90 vessels on the high seas.
Last week it was announced that while the Commission proposes to lift the trade measures imposed in March this year against Belize, it would “red card” Sri Lanka. It also said that Fiji, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu have successfully taken measures to tackle illegal fishing
Consequently, the Commission proposes to lift the trade measures imposed in March this year against Belize.
Ghandi said that the proposal from the EC to have the Belize sanction lifted means that vessels can start landing their products in the EU again.
He explained that the sanctions did not have an impact on Belize’s exports to the EU, such as agricultural and fisheries products from the mainland.