EU team due in October to review ban on fish exports to the bloc

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

A technical evaluation team from the European Union (EU) will visit the country in October, to evaluate the implementation process and to assess the ban imposed by the EU on the export of Sri Lanka’s fishery products, Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed on Thursday (30).

Addressing a media briefing held at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, its spokesperson Mahishini Colonne said that the office of the Director General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in Brussels had expressed interest in sending a technical evaluation mission to Sri Lanka in October.

Colonne said that the team would be visiting Sri Lanka from October 5 to 9 and it would engage in technical discussions regarding measures that have been put in place here already and future steps for the revocation of the EU ban on fishery products.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki declared that Sri Lanka was warned in November 2012 to address EU concerns or face the consequences.

The EU ban came into operation last October when Health Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne held the fisheries portfolio in the previous government.

Meanwhile the Fisheries Ministry said that after the EU technical team evaluated the Fisheries Ministry’s implementation process, they would take steps to revoke the formal listing of Sri Lanka as a non-cooperating country under the European Union-Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (EU-IUU).

According to the Ministry, the team would report to the next sitting of the European Commission, which consists of 28 countries, for their approval to lift the ban.

The Ministry, however said that they were hopeful the ban would be lifted by next February.

According to the Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Sri Lanka had already completed most of the tasks outlined by the EU in its recommendations. The government had stopped Chinese owned vessels from fishing in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.

The Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was in the process of installing the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) system on 1615 multiday fishing boats free of charge. It was expected to complete the installations by the end of this year.

The EU has introduced compulsory VMS tracking for all the larger boats in its fleet and its legislation requires that all coastal EU countries should set up systems that are compatible with each other so that countries can share data and the Commission can monitor that the rules are respected.

However, the estimated loss of revenue during the ban is approximately US$ 75 million. Sri Lanka was the second largest exporter of fresh and chilled swordfish and tuna to EU countries. In 2013, Sri Lankan fish exports to EU totalled 74 mn Euro.

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