Fish imports into Ireland from outside the EU are continuing to rise, according to figures released by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, the state body responsible for regulating the sea-fisheries and the sea-food production sectors.

In 2019 over 4,000 tonnes of fishery products were subject to SFPA import controls, up 26% on 2018. Fish and fishery products that are traded into the European Union are subject to specific regulatory controls to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fish and fishery products from entering the food supply chain.

The SFPA figures were released to mark the recent World Oceans Day and World Accreditation Day, which marks the critical role played by certification in assuring food security and safety.

Under EU regulations, all imports of fish from third countries (countries outside the EU) must be accompanied by a catch certificate which confirms that the fish was caught and declared legally, including where and when the fish was caught and by which vessel. Last year the SFPA, in turn, provided catch certificates for over 11,500 tonnes of Irish exports to Third Countries, an increase of 8% on 2018. In addition the SFPA provided health certificates for almost 84,000 tonnes of exports to Third countries.

Fish and fishery products from China, Ecuador and India accounted for almost half of the total volume of imports in 2019 while Nigeria, China and Egypt accounted for almost two thirds of the Irish seafood exports outside the EU in 2019.

Fish is highly traded in international markets. Dr Susan Steele, Chair of the SFPA said: “IUU fishing is a significant threat to the future of fishing. It creates an uneven playing field and jeopardises the development of sustainable fisheries on which many coastal communities globally rely for their livelihoods, including in Ireland where the fishing industry supports over 11,000 jobs. As regulators, we are committed to utilising all the controls available to us to help detect and deter IUU fishing and fishery products within our jurisdiction.”

Dr Steele said that everyone in the supply chain has a role to play in protecting it. “This includes importers and exporters who can ensure the goods they handle have the correct documentation. It may be difficult to distinguish between a legally and illegally obtained fish, however robust inspection processes and accurate paperwork will tell the tale.”

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