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EU bans importation of fishery products from Cameroon

With a press release issued on 5 January, the European Commission announced its intention to include Cameroon in the list of “non-cooperating countries” in the framework of its fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Even though the final decision has to be adopted by the EU Council, in the meantime, the EU Member States are obliged – as an interim measure -  to refuse the importation of fishery products from Cameroon even if accompanied by catch certificates validated by the national authorities.

On 29 September 2008, the Council of the EU adopted the Regulation No 1005/2008 to regulate import of fish from third countries identified as having inadequate measures in place to prevent and deter IUU fishing, which is considered one of the most serious threats to the sustainable exploitation of the living aquatic resources. The Regulation, effective from 1th January 2010, establishes an alert system based on the issuance of a formal warning (yellow card) with which the competent authorities of the third country are invited to adopt corrective measures for the cessation and prevention of illegal fishing. If the concerned country fails to do so, the EU gives the country a “red card” status which involves a ban from the EU market of its fishery products. The designation can also involve a ban for EU companies from buying Cameroon-flagged fishing vessels, from carrying out joint fishing operations with such vessels, or from reflagging such vessels.

According to the EU Commission statement, Cameroon continues to register fishing vessels under its flag without demonstrating its ability to effectively control and monitor their fishing activities, particularly when operating outside its territorial waters. Moreover, Cameroon has not ensured sufficient cooperation with the Commission in the fight against IUU fishing, and did not provide adequate and timely replies to queries from the Commission. In July 2022, the Associated Press reported 14 vessels registered in Cameroon that were engaged in illegal and unregulated fishing. All of such vessels were owned or managed by companies based in EU member states, namely in Belgium, Malta, Latvia and Cyprus.

It must however be noted that at the moment Cameroon fish exports already are not admitted to the EU because the country has not fulfilled the necessary standards of hygiene and food safety required for export to the EU.

Cameroon becomes the second country in Africa to be flagged as “red card” country after Comoros, while Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone have received a "yellow card", respectively in June 2021, May 2017 and April 2016. Togo and Guinea were instead delisted, respectively in October 2016 and October 2014.

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