The European Commission today decided to propose the lifting of the ban on fisheries exports from Sri Lanka to the  European Union, while warning Kiribati, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago that they  risk being listed as uncooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“Today’s proposal will be discussed by the European Union (EU) Fisheries Council at the next available opportunity. If the Council agrees with the proposal, the ban will be lifted with immediate effect,” the European Union said in a statement released a short while ago.

The European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said “Today’s decisions are yet another sign of the EU’s determination to fight illegal fishing globally. It also shows that we can bring important players on board: Sri Lanka has now a robust legal and policy framework to fight illegal fishing activities. As the fight against IUU fishing is part of the EU’s commitment towards sustainability and good ocean governance, each third country that comes on board is an asset.”

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a major threat to global marine resources. It is estimated that between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally each year with an annual global value of up to 10 billion euros.

Sri Lanka was issued with a yellow card in 2012 and listed by the Council in February 2015. This was the result of a long standing failure to address serious shortcomings in the implementation of control measures, a lack of deterrent sanctions, as well as the failure to comply with international and regional fisheries rules.

Sri Lanka has subsequently amended its legal framework, strengthened sanctions and improved its fleet control.With today’s decision Sri Lanka joins the growing list of countries (Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Korea, the Philippines, Fiji, Belize, Panama, Togo and Vanuatu) that have reformed their systems, following action by the EU.

Sri Lanka was previously the second biggest exporter of fresh and chilled swordfish and tuna to the EU with exports worth EUR 74 million in 2013.