By Andrew Hobbs

BARRIERS to the import of Papua New Guinean tuna stocks to Europe have been lifted after the European Union announced it was satisfied with PNG attempts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The EU had issued a pre-identification, or “yellow card” against PNG in June 2014, warning the nation of the need to take strong action to fight IUU fishing, after making initial warnings in November 2013.

However it was convinced to lift the restrictions in October, saying it had observed sufficient progress in amendments to PNG’s legal framework, as well as strengthened sanctioning systems and improved monitoring and control of fleets.

“The (EU) will now end formal discussions with PNG and looks forward to continued cooperation with PNG in the fight against IUU fishing,” the group said in an announcement.

European commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries Karmenu Vella said PNG now had robust legal and policy frameworks in place to fight IUU fishing activities.

PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill welcomed the lifting of the restrictions, saying the government would continue to work with the fisheries sector to improve monitoring and enforcement.

“Illegal fishing and not reporting full catch amounts costs the people of Pacific island nations an enormous amount of money and undermines the sustainability of fish stocks,” he said.

“Papua New Guinea is committed to ensuring we have full control of our fisheries and fighting those who would seek to illegally exploit our resources.”

The prime minister said coordination between Papua New Guinea’s security agencies and industry stakeholders will continue to improve monitoring and enforcement.

“The European Union recognises the effort that is being made in Papua New Guinea to prevent the illegal removal of fish stocks and we will continue to strengthen these measures.”

Mr O’Neill said Pacific Islands Forum Leaders has continued to place a priority on ensuring proper management of marine resources, and this was reaffirmed at the recent Forum meeting in Port Moresby that he chaired.

Proof of this was in the forum leaders’ decision to request a joint comprehensive evaluation regional monitoring, control and surveillance, and compliance regimes currently in place by the fisheries, economic and foreign ministers of member nations.

Mr O’Neill said the report would pay special attention to the use of modern information and communications technologies that can be deployed for fisheries surveillance.

“Global demand for fisheries products will only continue to rise in the coming years, so now is the time to be proactive and ensure monitoring and enforcement,” he said.