On Thursday, the European Union (EU) issued a “red card” to Cameroon for failing to cooperate in the international effort to combat illegal fishing. According to a statement released by the European Commission, Cameroon has been designated a “non-cooperating country” and the EU will request that its member states add Cameroon to the bloc’s blacklist.

The decision to issue the “red card” to Cameroon was made due to the country’s continued registration of fishing vessels operating outside its waters without sufficient monitoring of their activities, including at least one vessel involved in illegal fishing. As a result of this designation, Cameroon may be prohibited from exporting its fishery products to the EU.

At present, Cameroon is not able to export such products to the EU due to the fact that they do not meet EU sanitary standards. However, the “red card” could also lead to a ban on EU companies purchasing Cameroon-flagged fishing vessels or engaging in joint fishing operations with such vessels, or reflagging such vessels.

In response to the EU’s decision, Fishing Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius stated that the EU has “zero tolerance for IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing” and the proposed designation of Cameroon reflects this commitment. Sinkevicius also indicated that the Commission is willing to continue talks with Cameroon in order to help the country meet the required standards.

The EU views illegal fishing as a major threat to the sustainable exploitation of aquatic resources and to the success of its common fisheries policy and efforts to promote better ocean governance. Since 2013, the EU has issued “red cards” for illegal fishing to six other countries: Belize, Cambodia, Comoros, Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Of these, Belize, Guinea, and Sri Lanka have made changes in order to be removed from the EU blacklist.

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