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Fisheries Officials Angered by EU Import Ban

Cambodian workers use barrels to float a fishing boat which just hauled from the Gulf of Thailand.
The EU has moved to ban fish imports from Cambodia and two other countries, in a move to sanction illegal fishing operations under flags of convenience.

Cambodia exports little fish to Europe itself, but it does allow its flag to be flown by many vessels, prompting the import ban, which also included Belize and Guinea and must be ratified by the EU before it goes into effect.

In announcing the proposed ban Tuesday, Maria Damanaki, the EU's fisheries commissioner, said that the problem with the three countries was their inability to “control their fleet.”

“How can they claim in these circumstances that the fish caught under their flag or in their coastal waters is sustainable?” she said.

Nov Thuak, director general of the fisheries department in the Department of Agriculture, said the ban “dishonored” Cambodia.

“We cannot act on anything, because this maritime fishing in in the international zone, and they are posting Cambodia’s flag,” he said Friday. “It’s not under the competency of the fisheries department or the Ministry of Agriculture.”

Cambodia has long been known as a country that allows so-called “flags of convenience,” permitting ships to register under the Cambodian flag with little oversight into their activities.

Nov Thuak said Cambodia does not export fish products to Europe, and only exports to about 10 countries around Asia.