Developments in Common fisheries policy and fish hygiene in February 2012

March 5, 2012 13:04

The main developments in February have covered  Icelandic and Faroese mackerel quotas, progress on jack mackerel measures, rapid alerts for consignments of fishery products and many other issues as summarized below, reports with reference to Megapesca.

Common Fisheries Policy

1.      The EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands met in Reykjavik to hold a fifth meeting regarding the sharing of the mackerel fishery in the North-East Atlantic. Although the EU and Norway recognise that the change in the migration pattern in recent years justifies a modified sharing arrangement, they accuse Iceland and the Faroe Islands of not being "really engaged in the negotiation process" and of "not respecting the zonal attachment principles and historical fishing", on which stock sharing arrangements have in the past been made between the parties. Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, Minister of Fisheries of Norway issued a joint statement which expressed their grave concern at the outcome.

2.      The European Commission attended the Third Preparatory Conference for the launch of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO), in Santiago, Chile. The SPRFMO Convention is expected to enter into force in 2013. In the meanwhile voluntary measures for the conservation of the jack mackerel stock were extended to the end of 2012. Parties agreed to limit catches to 40% of the 2010 baseline, in line with scientific advice. The EU overall catch limit was fixed at 27,000 tonnes for 2012 (down from 135,000 tonnes in 2010). The European Commission expressed concern regarding lack of cooperation from Peru, which set a unilateral quota for its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

3.      The Commission published a proposal for a new regulation which will allow the EU to take action to limit imports from countries which engage in unsustainable fishing in relation to stocks of common interest (stocks which are shared with the EU and whose management requires the cooperation between the third countries and the Union). Trade measures may be applied when a third country either fails to adopt any fishery management measures, or adopts measures without due regard to the rights, interests and duties of others (including the European Union) and which are likely to result in the reduction of the stock level below that which would generate maximum sustainable yield. The measures may include quantitative restriction on imports of fish from the third country, denial of access by the third country's vessels to EU ports and prohibition of the third country vessels to be sold to EU interests, or re-flagged to an EU member states. The measures must however be related to the conservation of the stock of common interest.

4.      Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, gave a speech on the implementation of the CFP Reform process at a meeting of the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. She indicated that the EU now has 20 stocks fished at Maximum Sustainable Yield (up from 2 in 2005) which allowed a sustainable increase in quotas from 2011 to 2012, generating an extra profit of EUR135 million. She appealed for the end of the "annual horse trading" over quotas by enshrining MSY 2015 in the new Common Fisheries Policy. She also set out some of the aims of the new subsidies proposed to help fishermen adapt to new requirements (such as a discard ban) and to help local economies to develop and diversify their activities. In particular the Commission will propose and increase in the public investment subsidy from 60 to 75% where a vessel owner wants to invest in more selective gear or in modernisation to improve working conditions.

5.      The Committee of the Regions (the political body that represents regional and local authorities at the EU level) has presented its views on the Commissions proposals for CFP Reform. The Committee is broadly supportive of proposals regarding control of discards, effective long-term management of fish stocks and the role of regional and local authorities in conservation measures, but advises that a balance be sought between the funding of the different priorities of the new fund and the contribution of local and regional authorities to the development of the areas dependent on fisheries.

6.      Members of the Inter- Parliamentary Committee (European Parliament and National Parliaments) held a debate on the reform of the common fisheries policy in Brussels on 28 February. The event gave members of national parliaments the opportunity to debate the three legislative reform proposals with Members of the European Parliament.

7.      Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, gave a speech on the implementation of the CFP Reform process to the Inter- Parliamentary Committee meeting (European Parliament - National Parliaments) in Brussels. She argues against watering down the reforms proposed by the Commission on Maximum Sustainable Yield, a discard ban, and Transferable Fishing Concessions.

8.      A Seminar on "The Future of the European Fisheries sector" was organized by the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions attended by DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Participants from maritime regions of the EU expressed concerns regarding Commission proposals for individual transferable concessions (combing fishing quota and effort limits), lack of clarity on social aspects, lack of knowledge to set MSY (especially in the Mediterranean) and risks associated with high oil prices.

9.      Maria Damanaki also made a visit to the European Fisheries Control Agency, to review its work and deliver a speech regarding the importance of fisheries control. She praised the contribution of EFCA to the ongoing Bluefin Tuna inspection campaign. She indicated the need for integrating the joint deployment approach into the new Control and Inspection Programmes which Member States are required to prepare and implement. She also emphasised the need for greater cooperation with third countries on shared stocks, particularly in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.

10.     The Commission used emergency powers to pass a Regulation which suspends the catch composition rules set under  Regulation (EC) No 43/2009 and which limit the bycatch of haddock in the  fishery for Nephrops with trawls, demersal seines or similar gear in waters to the west of Scotland. In future catch composition percentages will not apply to haddock. The measure is expected to limit the removal of juvenile haddock entering the fishery and prevent the spawning biomass falling below safe biological limits. The measures come into effect immediately and will be in place for 6 months initially and can be renewed, once only, for a further 6 months at the most.

11.     The EU and Greenland reached agreement on a new Protocol to implement the EU/Greenland Fisheries Partnership Agreement. The Protocol will enter into force on 1 January 2013 and will be valid for a period of 3 years. Greenland will provide EU operators annual fishing opportunities for Cod (2,200 tonnes), Pelagic Redfish (3,000 tonnes), Demersal Redfish (2,000 tonnes), Greenland Halibut (6,815 tonnes), Northern Prawn (10,900 tonnes), Atlantic Halibut (400 tonnes), Snowcrab (250 tonnes), Capelin (60,000 tonnes) and Grenadier spp (200 tonnes). The opportunities will be allocated to Norway (as part of the annual bilateral exchange), Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Germany, the UK, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal.

12.     The EU and Guinea Bissau agreed on a new Protocol under their Fisheries Partnership Agreement. This will replace the current protocol which expires on 15 June 2012. It will continue to provide EU operators with fishing opportunities for tuna and large pelagic species, cephalopods and shrimps. The EU will pay annual compensation of € 9.2 million, out of which € 3 million is earmarked to support the fisheries policy of Guinea Bissau. The new Protocol includes a clause on the respect of human rights, and will be valid for 3 years. The Member States with an interest in the Agreement are France, Portugal and Spain.

13.     The European Union and Mozambique signed the new Protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and financial contribution provided for in the Partnership Agreement in the fisheries sector in Brussels on 1 February 2012. The new Protocol will apply provisionally from 1 February 2012, pending ratification by both parties. The protocol provides fishing opportunities for 3 years for 43 tuna seiners and 32 surface longliners, with an annual reference tonnage of 8,000 tonnes per year. The fishing opportunities are to be allocated as follows: (a) tuna purse seiners: Spain (22 vessels), France   (20 vessels), Italy (1 vessel) (b) surface longliners: Spain (16 vessels), France (8 vessels), Portugal (7 vessels), United Kingdom (1 vessel). The annual financial compensation to be paid is EUR 520,000, with an additional amount of EUR 460,000 for the support and implementation of Mozambique's sectoral fisheries and maritime policies.

14.     The EU published a notification that following signature by Seychelles on 11 November 2011, the new protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the parties entered into force on 11 November 2011.

15.     The EU and Mauritius initialed a new Fishery Partnership Agreement (FPA) and Protocol which repeals their 1989 Agreement. The Protocol provides the EU with fishing opportunities for purse seine and long line vessels targeting tuna and other large pelagic fishes. The EU will pay Mauritius an annual compensation of EUR 660,000, out of which EUR 302 500 is to be allocated to support the fisheries policy of Mauritius.EU vessels will only be allowed to fish beyond 15 miles. The Protocol will be valid for 3 years from the date of ratification. The Member States with an interest in this Protocol are mainly France, Portugal and Spain.

Fish Hygiene

16.     Rapid alerts were notified for failure to comply with health conditions for 39 consignments of fishery products, including 3 consignments of oysters from Ireland, and 7 consignments of various fish products from Vietnam including (unintentionally present escolar containing wax esters that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms) on frozen swordfish.

17.     DG SANCO Food and Veterinary Office reported on an inspection mission to Malaysia in July 2011 to evaluate the animal health controls for aquaculture products exported to the EU. The mission found that the CA structure, the legal framework, SOPs and check lists were in place. However effectiveness of the control system was undermined since staff at all levels were insufficiently acquainted with the practical daily implementation of the system. There was only limited surveillance of animal health conditions and shortcomings in the diagnostic capacities in spite of the availability of high quality equipment. The FVO has made a number of recommendations to the Malaysian authorities, aimed at rectifying the shortcomings identified.

18.     The Commission passed a regulation amending the requirements for the labelling of frozen food products of animal origin, including fishery products, as set out in Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004. This now requires that, prior to retail sale and labelling, food business operators should ensure that information is supplied to the food business operator to whom the food is supplied (and on request to the competent authority) regarding the date of production, and the date of freezing (if different). For fishery products, the date production is to be taken as the date of harvesting. Where a product is made from a batch of raw materials with different dates of production and of freezing, the oldest dates of production and/or of freezing, as appropriate, must be used. The means by which the information is communicated is left to the discretion of the supplier. The measure comes into force from 1 July 2012.

19.     The Commission and Member States discussed the interpretation of the minimum durability date, which is required to be applied to certain foods as laid down in Directive 2000/13/EC and Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011. The majority of the Member States agreed that foods should not be automatically forbidden to be sold after expiry of the minimum durability date. However, the evaluation should be made on a case-by-case basis by the relevant Competent Authority.

20.     The EU and the USA have agreed to recognise each others organic certification systems, so that products certified by one party may be labelled and sold as organic in the others market. This will avoid the current situation whereby producers are required to undergo two certification procedures if they wish to sell in both markets. The signing took place at the BioFach World Organic Fair, a large organic products trade show held in Germany.

21.     The European Food Safety Authority published a press release announcing its achievements over the 10 years since it was created. The major results include reduction of human Salmonella cases in the EU by almost 50% since 2005; evaluation of more than 3,000 health claims, re-evaluation of most food colours, publication of more than 2,500 scientific outputs as well as risk assessment opinions from more than 1,500 independent scientific experts.

22.     The EFSA published a peer review risk assessment on the use of fish oils as a pesticide, which found that the fate and behaviour of fish oil is expected to follow the normal pathways of dissipation and degradation common to naturally occurring residues of biological origin. The EFSA concludes that given the nature of the substance and the limited usage, a definition of residue in the environment for risk assessment is deemed to be unnecessary for fish oil.

23.     The EFSA has reported on the work of the Scientific Network for Risk Assessment of Nanotechnologies in Food and Feed (the "Nano Network") which was launched in 2011. The network has identified a number of knowledge gaps in relation to best practices, Member States product registers, and experiences related to analyses and monitoring of products on the market. Information on products aimed for children was considered a priority. It also noted that risk assessments have already been delivered by EFSA on two nanotechnology applications. In November 2008 the Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids adopted an opinion on titanium nitride for use as a food contact material, and the Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food provided a statement on silver hydrosol for use as a food supplement.

24.     Following a request from the Commission, the EFSA Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed (FEEDAP) has delivered a scientific opinion on an application for the re-authorisation of acetic acid, calcium acetate and sodium diacetate when used as a preservative in feed and for a new use of acetic acid as preservative in water for drinking. It finds that given the complete and rapid metabolism of acetate, the use of acetate in animal nutrition is not expected to contribute to human exposure, and do not impact on the environment. It suggests limits which are safe for a range of ruminants and other animals, but notes that there is no data available for tolerance in salmonids.

25.     EFSA has produced a technical report which seeks to improve the analysis and reporting of data in the European Union on antimicrobial resistance in animals and food. Its sets out proposals for a harmonisation of national monitoring designs, use of weighted indicators of resistance, and to emphasize the monitoring of resistance in indicator bacteria.

26.     EFSA Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids has published an updated assessment of the safety of the smoke flavouring Primary Product AM 01. There are concerns regarding limited margins of safety based on toxicity studies, and lack of data on reproduction, developmental toxicity and absence of long term studies. As a result the Panel concluded that the proposed use of this product gives rise to concerns over consumer safety.

27.     The Commission and the Member States discussed proposed amendments to Annex I of Directive 2002/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards maximum levels for diverse undesirable substances. The proposal is to amend limits for arsenic in animal feeds, and dioxins in crustacean meal, (amongst other changes).

28.     The European Commission has updated its website on food contact materials with new contact details of EU Competent Authorities and Professional organisations, as well as sections on EU and Member State legislation.

29.     The European Commission and the Danish Presidency of the EU organised a two-day international conference on the new EU animal welfare strategy, with a view to driving forward an integrated approach to animal welfare. The Commission presented the new EU animal welfare strategy adopted in January 2012.

30.     John Dalli, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy gave a talk on "Fight Food Crime" at the Better training for safer food conference on food-related crime in Brussels. He highlighted the damage caused by counterfeiting and the intentional use of prohibited or low-quality ingredients. He described the results of the Europol and Interpol-coordinated operation "Opson" which removed from the market 13,000 bottles of substandard olive oil, 30 tonnes of fake tomato sauce, around 77,000 kg of counterfeit cheese, 12,000 bottles of substandard wine and five tonnes of substandard fish and seafood.

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