Seachill Slams EU Ban on Sri Lanka!

UK processors Icelandic Seachill, Direct Seafoods and New England Seafood expressed disappointment over the EU’s red card decision – especially as some of those importers are engaged in fisheries improvement there, reported seafood business news website Undercurrentnews.
The ban will mainly impact imports of fresh and chilled yellowfin tuna or swordfish from Sri Lanka, largely for the foodservice sector, with total imports to the EUvalued at €74 million.

In the UK, views on the decision, announced last week, range from it being the wrong one, to a ban being the ‘line in the sand’ which had to be drawn eventually.

The biggest disappointment came from Icelandic Seachill.

“It’s a government to government issue, and the EU has not engaged properly with industry stakeholders to ascertain if this is the correct measure to bring about compliance,” Nigel Edwards, technical director at the company, told Undercurrent News.

“The red card is not needed, the yellow card had done the job to stimulate the political will and action.”

He said Sri Lanka had shown big improvements in its fisheries.

“We are part of a very active Fishery Improvement Project [FIP] that has been helping the Sri Lankan government to comply and to address the wider issues of the tuna fisheries management in the Indian Ocean. We have seen a huge commitment from the Sri Lankan ministry of fisheries and from the local industry that are working with us.”

This FIP involves retailers Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, and UK importers New England Seafood and Le Lien.

Sri Lanka has been working very hard to address the outstanding issues, and Seachill is still confident they will succeed, added Edwards.

“As a member of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition we are committed to seeking improvements in fisheries, not walking away. In effect the EU is walking away, and telling Sri Lanka to sell their fish to markets that are not engaged in driving sustainability standards.”

Peter Stagg, chairman of Le Lien, accepted that the EU’s operations against IUU fishing were important, but questioned whether this red card was the correct move.

“My personal opinion is that it is really important we try to stop IUU fish from coming into our supply chains, and I totally support the role the EU is playing in preventing this. However, my company has a joint venture in Sri Lanka, I spend a great deal of my time there and I see the potentially devastating effect this red card could have on fishermen and their livelihoods.”

“Surely a red card is excessive and unnecessary, and will not only put pressure on other supply lines, but more importantly, if enacted, will affect the lives of one million Sri Lankans whose livelihoods depend on the fishing industry there.”

It is very disappointing that EU action has come down to an outright ban for all Sri Lankan seafood products, said Stagg. “It seems to me to be an excessive and very heavy handed approach that is being taken by the EU, when surely it is a time for patience and common sense.