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Why must one travel that far?


Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh has just signed approval for “the 2025 Scheme for Prevention and Control of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing " which aims to reduce and put a stop to IUU fishing, hence removing EC’s "yellow card" warning.

The scheme’s aim is that 100% of fishing vessels with the largest length of 15 m or more receive inspection before leaving the port for fishing at sea to ensure that all documents and equipment are complete as prescribed; 100% of fishing vessels with the largest length of 15 m or more must be monitored through the Fishing Vessel Journey Monitoring System when participating in activities at sea and receiving inspection when entering the port; 100% of fishery output from domestic fishing must be inspected and supervised when loading and unloading at fishing ports according to regulations; 100% of fishery products originating from foreign catches arriving at Vietnam's seaports must be inspected and monitored in accordance with FAO’s Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) in 2009.

This series of articles reflects the proactive and drastic approach of the Binh Dinh provincial government to realize the Government's common goals.

Hands are tied despite relentless efforts

In recent years, countering illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing to remove the "yellow card" has always been a hot topic in Binh Dinh, so much that the province regularly holds seminars regarding this matter. Coastal localities are constantly busy disseminating regulations that fishermen must follow while participating in fishery activities. Officials from the functional sector have their eyes "glued" to the screen at the shore station to monitor whether any fishing vessels cross the boundary through the cruise monitoring device. Fishing ports are full of enthusiasm with the additional works such as inspection of fishing vessels entering and exiting the wharf or certifying caught seafood.

The fight against IUU fishing has been implemented in many forms, but the situation has only shown a slight decrease instead of a complete stop. Since the beginning of 2022, Binh Dinh still has five fishing vessels with thirty fishermen arrested by Malaysian authorities for fishing in foreign waters. Two other fishing vessels and ten fishermen have had their output confiscated by Malaysian authorities and released to the sea. The common point of these violating fishing vessels is that they have not returned to the locality for decades, sticking to fishing ports in the South to operate.

Why must one travel that far?

Fishing vessels of Binh Dinh fishermen operate far offshore. Photo: V.D.T.

This situation causes great concern to the authorities and functional branches of Binh Dinh. The most worrisome thing is that if Vietnam still has any fishing vessel that violates foreign waters, it will not only not be able to remove the "yellow card" but also have the risk of getting a "red card", then Vietnamese seafood would have their path to the European market totally cut off.

Determining that preventing fishing vessels from violating IUU is a top task, Binh Dinh province's government has spent a lot of time and effort on this hot issue. The whole political system, from the provincial to the commune level, is involved at the same time. Binh Dinh functional departments regularly organize practical inspections of the implementation of IUU prevention in coastal localities. Binh Dinh Party Committee also directed districts, towns and coastal cities to set up a Steering Committee and issue an implementation plan, including the content "fishing vessels violating foreign waters" in the criteria for the annual evaluation and commendation.

Fishing vessels of fishermen in Hoai Nhon town (Binh Dinh) moored at Tam Quan fishing port. Photo: V.D.T.

But the sanctioning of administrative violations of fishing vessels violating foreign waters faces many obstacles. To give an example, in 2021 Binh Dinh issued a decision to sanction 13 ships for administrative violations in 2020 and 2021 with a fee of VND 11.7 billion. However, up to now, the above-mentioned penalties have not been implemented. The ship owner’s circumstances make it impossible to organize enforcement due to regulations, leading to fishermen having formed in their minds the intention to actively fish and invade foreign waters to achieve output.

“The stake now finds the buffaloes”

All of Binh Dinh’s five IUU-violated fishing vessels seized outside the country since the beginning of the year are concentrated in Phu Cat district with three in Cat Tien town, and two in Cat Minh commune. This incident led Standing Vice Chairman of Binh Dinh People's Committee Nguyen Tuan Thanh to direct the Phu Cat District People's Committee to hold a meeting to review the localities with violating ships, at the same time direct Binh Dinh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to preside over and coordinate with related sectors to organize an interdisciplinary mission to southern provinces where Binh Dinh fishing vessels "reside" to sign a regulation on coordination against IUU fishing and meet with fishermen to disseminate information.

Fishermen declare their fishing vessels entering and exiting at Quy Nhon Fishing Port. Photo: V.D.T.

Out of five fishing vessels seized by Malaysia, only one vessel has a length of over 15 m and has a cruise monitoring device. The remaining four are all under 15 m in length and do not have a cruise monitoring device installed, hence unmanageable by the functional force. There are even vessels with a capacity of only 50CV. In particular, the mentioned violating fishing vessels have long been in the South instead of their original locality (about 80-90% of Phu Cat district’s ships are in this category).

"If the buffaloes do not find the stakes, then the stake now finds the buffaloes", from August 8 to August 14, 2022, Binh Dinh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development set up an interdisciplinary working group to go to the southern provinces to disseminate information and mobilize fishermen not to violate IUU fishing to contribute to removing the EC ‘yellow card’. Phu Cat district also sent officials to participate,” said Vice Chairman of Phu Cat District People's Committee Pham Dung Luan.

Authors: Vu Dinh Thung – Le Khanh

Translated by Samuel Pham

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