Common Fisheries Policy Developments in September 2012

October 2, 2012 16:35

There were a number of important developments in EU Common Fisheries Policy in September 2012, reports with reference to FishFiles.

1.      The European Council adopted a regulation allowing the Commission to apply trade sanctions in relation to third countries allowing non-sustainable fishing of fish resources they share with the EU. This follows a first reading agreement with the European Parliament. The German and Danish delegations abstained from the voting. The regulation will allow the EU to restrict fish imports from, for example, Faroe Islands and Iceland, in response to their alleged unsustainable exploitation of the NE Atlantic mackerel stock. The Regulation will come into force as soon as it is formally signed and published in the Official Journal.

2.      Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki hosted a quadrilateral Ministerial meeting on mackerel management in London, with the participation of ministers of fisheries from Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway. The parties discussed the sharing of the mackerel stock, but were not able to come to any agreement. The parties did however agree on the importance of respecting scientific advice, and will continue discussions in October 2012 in the frame of coastal states' discussions on the sharing of other joint stocks and exchanges of fishing opportunities.

3.      The Council of Ministers also discussed the political option of acting against Iceland and Faroe Islands regarding the unilateral setting of their quotas for the mackerel stock. The Council indicated that they would wish to see restrictive measures implemented on fish trade, and the Commission indicated that it was ready to act. The decision was deferred pending the outcome of the October 2012 talks between the parties (including Norway).

4.      The European Commission adopted a Communication on 'Blue Growth' presenting the approach to economic growth and increased employment in the marine and maritime economy, with a view to helping Europe's economic recovery. By 2020 the EU aims to increase jobs in these sectors from 5.4 million to 7 million, and gross value added from EUR500 billion to EUR600 billion. This will be achieved by gains in competitiveness in traditional sectors, such as maritime transport and maritime and coastal tourism, and by developing new products and services in emerging sectors, such as ocean renewable energy and blue biotechnology. Five specific areas are identified for targeted actions: i) maritime, coastal and cruise tourism, ii) blue energy, iii) marine mineral resources, iv) aquaculture and v) blue biotechnology. A set of Commission initiatives will be launched in the near future to explore and develop the growth potential in these areas. These will, include communications on coastal and maritime tourism, ocean energy, blue biotechnology and marine mineral mining, as well as strategic guidelines on aquaculture. All initiatives will be undertaken in consultation with Member States and relevant stakeholders.

5.      The Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers of the EU held a debate on the proposal for a regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) replacing the existing European Fisheries Fund. Member states supported minimum levels of funding for data collection and control. Some Ministers also want more funding for the modernisation of their fishing fleet and for decommissioning, but others oppose continuing such support. Most Member States agreed that the EMFF should provide more support for aquaculture activities. The aim is to finalise political agreement on at last some of the principles of the EMFF in October 2012.

6.      The Joint Research Council (JRC) of the European Commission published the 2012 Annual Economic Report on the EU fishing fleet, the EU aquaculture sector and the fish processing industry. The main finding is that the EU fishing fleet moved from a loss making position in 2009, to post a profit in 2010. Gross value added from the fleet was calculated at €3.4 billion, an increase of 5.7% with gross profit of €1.2 billion, a 39.5% increase. Net profits were estimated €288 million, an increase of over €300 million from 2009 (all excluding subsidies). Despite the uncertain economic climate, economic performance projections for 2011 indicate that profitability improved for around three quarters of the national fleets analysed.

7.      The European Commission adopted the second Progress report on the EU's 2007 Integrated Maritime Policy. The report sets out key policy initiatives in the areas of transport, research, environment, tourism, shipbuilding, climate change adaptation and regional policies. It outlines the contribution of these areas to the Maritime Dimension of Europe 2020 and the growth of Europe's Blue economy.

8.      The European Commission proposed an amendment to the long-term management plan for cod in the North Sea, the Skagerrak, the Eastern Channel, the Kattegat, the West of Scotland and the Irish Sea. The amendment will create an incentive to reduce discarding of unwanted fish by exempting vessels participating in anti-discard trials from the effort regime (with easing of their days at sea limits). The proposal will also introduce greater flexibility in the adjustment of TACs in cases where there is a lack of scientific data on fish stocks.

9.      Following the decision last month by the European Commission to amend the specific control and inspection programme for cod stocks in the Baltic Sea, to include the activities of the salmon fishery, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has now included controls on the Baltic salmon sector in the current joint deployment plan (JDP) in the Baltic Sea.

10.     The Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament issued a statement calling for the elimination of the exceptions to a ban on shark finning (which currently allow the practice providing that a minimum proportion of shark bodies are retained on board). The Committee voted that sharks should be landed with fins "naturally attached". Before it comes into force the proposed measure will need to be ratified by a plenary vote of the Parliament in 2013.

11.     On 26 September, the European Commission hosted a seminar on the state of fish stocks in European waters. Invited scientists presented data on the biological status of the fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Seas, and the Commission set out the implications for the 2013 TACS and quotas, as well as for the longer term. The latest data on the economic performance of EU fisheries was also presented.

12.     Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Spanish vessels fishing for Northern prawn, cod, tusk, and roundnose grenadier;  Belgian vessels fishing for whiting, Anglerfish, hake, megrims, Norway lobster, skates and rays, and plaice; Finnish vessels fishing for Atlantic salmon, and Dutch vessels fishing for hake, plaice and haddock.

13.     The EU passed a Regulation implementing the decisions of the Seventeenth meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean. The measure provides for greater protection to ten shark species by classifying them as endangered or threatened species, instead of species whose exploitation is regulated, as was previously the case.

14.     The European Commission attended the 34th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO), held from 17 to 21 September in St.Petersburg, Russia. The agenda included decisions on total allowable catches (TACs) for the main NAFO fish stocks (including Greenland halibut, cod, redfish, shrimps, and thorny skates) and investigation of ways to step up the protection of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems.

15.     The European Union announced that it has deposited its instrument approving the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean with the Government of New Zealand (being the Depositary for the Convention). However, the Convention has not yet come into force since, until now, only six signatories have deposited their instruments (out the eight required).

16.     The Commission announced that on 18 September 2012 the EU and Greenland signed a new Protocol to their Fisheries Partnership Agreement, setting out the fishing opportunities for EU vessels in the waters of Greenland and the financial contribution for the period 2013-2015. The new agreement reduces EU fishing possibilities for redfish, Greenland halibut, cod and prawn in West Greenland, whilst the EU quotas for capelin and prawns in East Greenland will be increased.

17.     The European Commission was called to brief the meeting of the EU’s Agricultural and Fisheries Ministers on the protocol agreed between the EU and Mauritania (under the fisheries Partnership Agreement) and initialled in July this year. Several Member States, including Spain, considered that the terms of the new protocol were not viable and called for its re-negotiation. The Commission pointed out that this agreement was the best possible under the circumstances.

18.     The European Council announced the conclusion of an Agreement between the EU and Morocco, on the reciprocal liberalisation of trade in agricultural and fishery products, within the frame of the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement. This sets new import conditions applicable to a range of agricultural and fishery products are set out in Protocols to the Agreement. However no new specific measures are applied to fishery products.

19.     The EU and Japan signed an agreement to cooperate in combating IUU fishing. As the world's top two seafood importers, they agreed that the seafood they import will not be caught illegally. They also agreed to systematically share information on IUU fishing and consignments of IUU fish entering international trade. The Agreement complements the agreement signed between the US and the EU in 2011.

20.     The Commission received notice that Netherlands proposes to designate three coastal areas as part of the Natura 2000 network. These are Vlakte van de Raan and Voordelta in Southern Netherlands and the North Sea Coastal Zone in the Wadden Sea. Fishing vessels will have to notify the relevant authorities when entering any of these areas to fish, and trawling is banned.

21.     The Commission published information on a state aid to the fishery sector declared by Germany, which will provide EUR289,000 to the construction of a new fish processing facility in Altkalen, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The measure is justified by the high rate of unemployment in that region.

22.     Maria Damanaki at the halfway stage of her tenure as Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, reported on progress on various EU maritime and fisheries policy issues, in the context of CFP reform and launch of the EU's Maritime Policy.

Fish Hygiene

23.     Rapid alerts were notified for failure to comply with health conditions for 38 consignments of fishery products, including 2 consignments of frozen cuttlefish from Morocco, 5 consignments of frozen shrimps and prawns from Mozambique, 2 consignments of mackerel from France, 2 consignments of frozen tunas from Ghana and  2 consignments of cockles and clams from Portugal (detected with PSP Toxins).

24.     The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO published a report on a mission to Madagascar in June 2012, to evaluate the control systems for the production of fishery products destined for export to the EU. The mission found that in general the sanitary controls implemented by the Competent Authority (l'Autorité Sanitaire Halieutique of the Ministère de la Pêche et des Ressources Halieutiques) were in line with EU requirements.  However, vessels undertaking transport of frozen fishery products were not registered with the Competent Authority, there was no official control of artisanal fishing and transport vessels or at landing sites, and the Competent Authority did not adequately check that imports of fishery products for processing and re-export to the EU were from authorised sources. The Competent Authority was requested to submit a plan of corrective actions for consideration by the Commission.

25.     A report was published by the Commission on an evaluation of the risk assessment and communication activities of EFSA, by consultants Ernst & Young, covering the period 2006 to 2010. The study finds that EFSA’s outputs have been of good quality and useful for policy making and risk management. It also recognises EFSA’s principles of independence, transparency and openness. It expresses some concerns regarding the relations with industry to enable safe innovation in the EU food sector. It criticises RFSA risk communication activities as not being accessible for a broader public. It also recommends strengthening its information role in dealing with food safety emergencies.

26.     The Commission received notice of declarations from Austria and Germany of VHS/IHN free zones and compartments.

27.     DG SANCO of the European Commission announced a revision of the guidance document on surveillance programmes for the oyster disease, ostreid herpesvirus 1 var (OsHV-1 var). The amendment allows for a lower number of samples to be taken in certain cases.

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