Cameroonian fishery products banned in EU, commission says

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The European Commission on Thursday banned imports of seafood caught in Cameroon’s waters, or caught by ships flagged there, and it labeled the West African country as “non-cooperating” in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The commission gave Cameroon a so-called “red card” and said EU member states would turn away seafood shipments from Cameroon even when it has catch certificates validated by the national authorities.

Cameroon is one of four non-EU countries that are currently on the commission’s “red card” list, alongside St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Comoros and Cambodia. The country has in recent years emerged as one of several countries that offer “flags of convenience” where companies can -- for a fee -- register their ships in a nation that has no links to the vessel.

Last year, The Associated Press investigated 14 vessels registered in Cameroon that had been accused of illegal and unregulated fishing and found that they were owned or managed by companies based in EU member states.

The European Commission said illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is “one of the most serious threats to the sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources.”

“We have zero tolerance for IUU fishing and therefore the Commission has acted strongly today by giving Cameroon a red card,” said the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius

A spokesperson for Cameroon’s Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Thursday’s ban by the commission comes nearly two years after it urged Cameroonian authorities to step up its action against illegal fishing.

The Commission estimates as much as 26 tons of fish are caught illegally each year, comprising about 15 percent of the world’s total catch. Illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing is worth between 10 billion and 20 billion euros each year.