Authority has failed, which must punish the crime, and the fleet owners who commit it. The European Commission Decision of October 30, 2019 shows it. It is a notification to Ecuador about the possibility of being considered a third country “non-cooperating in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”. The issue, in discussion since last October, has forced the creation of a public and private inter-institutional committee to face the crisis.
Diario EXPRESO presents unknown points that point in the direction of recurrent failures also of the national flag vessels and, worse, signatory members of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission ( CIAT ). This, coupled with an outdated law and an incompetent authority, jeopardizes the export of fish to the European Union, such as employment and foreign exchange generated by this activity.
Meanwhile, the deadline is for the National Assembly to approve in its instances the Draft Organic Law for the Development of Aquaculture and Fisheries, vital for not leaving the European market.
Already in the first 10 months of 2019, total exports of preparations and preserves were reduced by 2.7% to $ 1,009 million.
The EU has a system to prevent, discourage and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (Indnr) fishing . A third country should be considered non-cooperating if it does not fulfill the obligation to adopt measures to prevent, discourage and eliminate illegal or undeclared fishing. These are some of the failures detected by the EU in its technical visits to Ecuador since 2014.
- In 2017, at least 24 longliners of more than 23 meters in total length captured species covered by the CIAT Convention within the area of that Convention and were not included in the IATTC regional ship registry. Although the Ecuadorian authorities subsequently reported that this breach had been remedied, the Commission detected a similar case in 2019.
- During visits to the country, the Commission detected cases of Ecuadorian vessels that fished in waters under the jurisdiction of third countries. Ecuador could not confirm whether the country in question had authorized these vessels to fish in its waters. The same problem was raised again during the visit made in 2019. Despite this recurring situation, the Ecuadorian authorities have not implemented adequate cooperation mechanisms.
- The procedures applied before the registration of a fishing vessel do not include a thorough verification of the vessel’s history and are limited to verifying the Indnr lists prepared by the RFMOs (Regional Fisheries Management Organizations)
- The current system of sanctions is based on the Fisheries Law adopted in 1974 and completed in 2016 by Decree 852. However, the sanctions provided for in said Decree, which had been initially designed to compensate for the deficiencies of those included in the Law on 1974 fishing, have been applied rarely since its entry into force.
- The largest fine imposed in Ecuador on industrial vessels in 2018 did not exceed $ 4,500. The Ecuadorian authorities also acknowledged that they face legal and practical problems to collect these fines and that the cumbersome administrative procedures make it often impossible to avoid recidivism. The information provided by the authorities indicates an unequal approach to the application of sanctions, especially when it comes to confiscating illegal catches.
- There are serious and recurring problems in the control of ships and processed fish in the country. As a result, there is a significant risk that large volumes of fish caught through illegal fishing activities are traded and processed in Ecuador.
- In 2014 and 2015, twenty-five vessels violated the resolutions of the IATTC (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission) and that some of them were repeat infringing offenders who had already been identified in 2015 and in previous identification rounds. Some of the vessels had been subject to administrative infringement procedures by Ecuador in 2018 and 2019.
- A sanctioning procedure for serious infraction (making a fishing trip during the annual fishing interruption imposed by the IATTC) was initiated more than seventeen months after the infraction occurred, when states are required to investigate immediately and thoroughly any alleged violation of subregional or regional conservation and management measures. It is further explained that the non-application of dissuasive sanctions has led Ecuadorian vessels operating in the IATTC area to reoffend and, consequently, to commit new violations of conservation and management measures adopted by this organization.