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Tuesday , October 21, 2014 - 05.12 GMT
UK seafood importers criticize EU ban on Sri Lanka, willing to help government to improve the industry


UK seafood importers have slammed the European Union's decision to slap a ban on Sri Lanka's fish imports which will go into effect from January 2015.

UK seafood processors Icelandic Seachill, Direct Seafoods and New England Seafood have expressed disappointment over the EU's red card decision, especially since some of those importers are engaged in fisheries improvement in the island, seafood industry website Undercurrent News reports.

The European Commission October 14 proposed to ban imports of fisheries products from Sri Lanka, the second biggest exporter to the bloc, due to Sri Lanka's failure to demonstrate that it sufficiently addressed illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The ban will mainly impact imports of fresh and chilled yellow fin tuna or swordfish from Sri Lanka, largely for the foodservice sector, with total imports to the EU valued at 74 million.

In the UK, the views on the decision range from it being the wrong one, to a ban being the 'line in the sand' which had to be drawn eventually, Undercurrent News says.

The fish-processing firm, Icelandic Seachill has been disappointed the most by the EU ban.

"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.

Edwards said Sri Lanka had shown big improvements in its fisheries.

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

The EU in 2012 issued a Yellow Card warning to Sri Lanka following complaints of 11 Sri Lankan vessels intruding into international waters in 2011for fishing and fishermen violating the international maritime boundary laws.

Edwards said Icelandic Seachill is part of a very active Fishery Improvement Project [FIP] that has been helping the Sri Lankan government to comply and to address the wider issues of the tuna fisheries management in the Indian Ocean.

"We have seen a huge commitment from the Sri Lankan ministry of fisheries and from the local industry that are working with us," he said.

This FIP involves retailers Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's, and UK importers New England Seafood and Le Lien.

Le Lien is one of the UK's biggest seafood importers from Sri Lanka, and has invested in the past to form a processing joint venture there.

Sri Lanka has been working very hard to address the outstanding issues, and Seachill is still confident they will succeed, Edwards said, adding that with the ban, EU is forcing Sri Lanka to sell its products to markets that are not engaged in driving sustainability standards.

"As a member of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition we are committed to seeking improvements in fisheries, not walking away. In effect the EU is walking away, and telling Sri Lanka to sell their fish to markets that are not engaged in driving sustainability standards."

Sri Lanka's Fisheries and Aqautic Resources Minister Dr. Rajith Senaratne said several foreign countries including China and Japan have already expressed their willingness to purchase their fish product requirements from Sri Lanka.

Direct Seafoods and New England Seafood were also disappointed, but supported the EU's move.

Dave Jones, category manager for tuna at processor New England Seafood said the firm supports EU measures to drive out IUU in the world's oceans but "naturally very disappointed" to see Sri Lanka gets a red card.

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

Both Direct Seafoods and Seachill said they will look to Maldives as a source for seafood, especially tuna. Both firms buy more from the Maldives than Sri Lanka and expect that source to get more expensive.

"Fishery management in the Maldives is generally considered to be better and that gives them a market advantage," Seachill's Nigel Edwards said.

New England Seafood's Dave Jones was confident Sri Lanka will continue to respond positively to EU requirements, and do all it can to go back to a green light on trade.

"We at NES will certainly support them and their government in any way we can to help them achieve this," he said.

"We are not walking away from the fishery improvement work in Sri Lanka," confirmed Edwards. "This is the way we will help them to return to our market of responsible buyers."

"There are a million people dependent on the fishing industry in Sri Lanka. This is a crucial part of their economy, and we have been a crucial part of helping the Sri Lankan government to control this resource more effectively," he said.

For the full article by Under Current:





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Last modified: October 21, 2014.

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