A formal warning to the Republic of Cameroon by the European Union means that more will have to be done to manage fisheries – or face the close of EU markets for Cameroon’s products.
The yellow card warning opens the way for dialogue and provides an window for improvements to be made. But if there is a breakdown in co-operation and more is not done to prevent illegal fishing activity, the next stage would be a red card and a full ban on good from Cameroon entering EU markets.
The move is welcomed by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), which has previously identified the country as offering a flag of convenience to fishing vessels operating illegally.
‘We very much welcome the European Commission’s decision to warn and initiate a formal dialogue with Cameroon. We had already identified Cameroon as offering a flag of convenience in our 2020 report Off the Hook, showing that operators used the flag to operate under the radar and facilitate illegal fishing,’ said EJF executive director Steve Trent.
‘These practices undermine any attempts to manage fisheries sustainably and push fish populations to collapse, threatening food security and livelihoods in many regions.’
He commented that in recent years more and more vessels have been adopting the Cameroonian flag due to lax government control, adding that over a third of the vessels now sailing under this flag have adopted it only in the last two to three years, despite having no obvious link with the country.
‘Countries must come together and adopt measures designed to deter other states from freely offering flags of convenience, along with methods to ensure that these flags are not used by their own citizens,’ he said.
‘These include issuing deterrent sanctions against nationals when they engage or profit from illegal fishing, even when they are operating under a foreign flag; and requesting information on beneficial ownership upon registration of vessels.’