EU Common Fisheries Policy in November 2012

December 7, 2012 10:30

EU Common Fisheries Policy in November 2012 has seen a number of important developments, reports with reference to FishLites.

1.      The European Commission passed a Decision notifying Belize, Cambodia, Fiji, Guinea, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vanuatu that they are considered to be possible non-cooperating third countries, with regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  The notifications are based on these countries consistent failures (all explained in detail) to cooperate and to enforce measures against IUU vessels operating under their flag, failure to implement international rules set by RFMOs and being engaged in trade in products of IUU fishing. The decision follows the findings of missions conducted by the Commission in several third countries. Some of the factors leading the Commission’s conclusions were refusal to enter into dialogue with Commission, lack of action to address established shortcomings, existence of deficiencies in monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries, and the existence of flags of convenience. The Decision establishes the first step towards listing the countries as non-cooperating, and can lead to subsequent denial of access to the EU market for fishery products, banning vessels from EU ports, and prohibition of vessels purchase by EU nationals should they not address their failures. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Mrs. Damanaki said "This is not a black list, but a yellow card. We want these countries as partners to…. improve their legal and control systems as required by international rules.”

2.      Following its approval by Council in October, the Regulation which allows the Commission to apply trade sanctions in relation to countries allowing non-sustainable fishing was published in the Official Journal. The regulation now allows the EU to ban imports of fishery products from countries which share a stock of common interest with the EU, and which fail to cooperate with the EU in their management. The regulation opens the way for action against Faroe Islands and Iceland over their unilateral setting of quota for mackerel in the NE Atlantic.

3.      The Commission granted derogations from rules of origin regarding tariff preference for tuna loins imported into the EU from Guatemala and el Salvador. The derogation sets quota tariffs of 1,975 tonnes (2012) and 987 tonnes (2013) of non-originating cooked, frozen and vacuum-packed tuna loins in each case. The measure will allow the national tuna processing industry to operate when raw material from the national sector is not available.

4.      The European Commission presented its partial proposal for 2013 fishing opportunities for fish stocks which are jointly managed with third parties (e.g. Norway) or Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). Negotiations with third parties are ongoing (in particular with regard to sharing of the NE Atlantic mackerel stock).

5.      The Council of Ministers passed a regulation amending some EU fisheries management measures. Following new data for Irish Sea herring, the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) approach  can now be adopted, with a conditional increase in the fishing opportunities set for 2012. Three groups of French vessels were excluded from the effort limitation measures under the cod recovery plan, due to their low levels of bycatch of this species. Quotas for Norway pout in the North sea  were adjusted following new scientific advice from ICES on the TAC. 

6.      The European Parliament voted to remove exceptions to the EU ban on "shark finning" which allowed finning subject to rules on the ratio weight of fins to carcase. Sharks must henceforth be landed with their fins "naturally attached".

7.      The European Parliament passed a resolution to adjust the biological targets under the multiannual plan for protecting the Baltic Salmon and thus reduce fishing pressure. The Parliament also criticized the European Council for not approving long term management plans for horse mackerel in the Western Atlantic and anchovy in the Bay of Biscay, which were approved previously by Parliament.

8.      The European Economic and Social Committee of the Parliament gave an opinion on extension of the EU’s temporary regime of fisheries technical measures, pending the development of the much delayed new regulation on this subject. In general the extension is approved, with some minor technical observations regarding gillnetting for anglerfish at depths more than 600m.

9.      Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Spanish vessels fishing for forkbeards and alfonsinos.

10.     The European Commission announced the adoption of its Action Plan on incidental catches of seabirds in fishing gears.  The Plan sets up a management framework to minimise seabird bycatch, with a focus on long line and static net fisheries. It proposes 30 binding and non-binding measures (such as implementing mitigation measures) to be applied to EU fishing vessels inside and outside EU waters as well as non-EU vessels operating in EU waters.

11.     The 31st Annual Meeting of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) was held in London from 12 to 16 November 2012.  TACs were agreed for haddock, blue ling, various shark species and orange roughy. Management measures for the pelagic fish stocks (blue whiting, herring and mackerel) will be set once coastal states resolve their shares (especially in relation to the current dispute between the EU and Iceland and Faroes regarding mackerel). A new area was closed to bottom fisheries (the Edora Bank).

12.     The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas held its annual meeting in Agadir, Morocco, from 12 to 19 November 2012. It strengthened the recovery plan for Bluefin tuna with TACs set in line with scientific advice and set TACs for Blue and White Marlins. However it did not approve the EU’s proposal to limit catches of Shortfin Mako and failed to adopt a ban on catching of Porbeagle shark. 

13.     The European Parliament Development Committee commented on policy coherence issues for developing countries  raised by aspects of EU fisheries policy. The Committee considered that the EU should oppose the introduction of transferrable fishing concession schemes in RFMOs, due the potential impact on developing countries. It also urged the EC to ensure that the evaluations of Fisheries Partnership Agreements are published.

14.     The Meeting of the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers ratified the protocol setting out fishing opportunities and the financial contribution under the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between the EU and Madagascar. The Council also adopted the regulation setting of the allocation of fishing opportunities under the Agreement to the EU Member States.

15.     The Commission passed a decision approving the use of the term “Isle of Man Queenies” as a protected designations of origin for scallops from relevant regions of the UK.


Fish Hygiene

16.     Rapid alerts were notified for failure to comply with health conditions for 45 consignments of fishery products. One of the notices concerned “incorrect labelling (species mentioned on the label has been extinct for millions of years) on frozen shark fillets (Carchrocles megalodon)”.  Also including 4 consignments of live or chilled mussels from Spain,  2 consignments of Norway Lobster from the United Kingom, 3 consignments of canned tuna from Thailand and 3 consignments of frozen tuna from Indonesia, 

17.     The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of DG SANCO reported on an audit mission to Germany in June 2012, with a view to assessing the status of monitoring of organochlorinated contaminants in fish from the Baltic region. The mission concluded that the German dioxin and PCB monitoring programmes satisfied EU requirements. Results showed that whilst some fish (herring, cod and sprat) complies with the EU maximum limits for dioxins and/or PCBs in food and feed, other products (cod liver, salmon and fish oils) did not. The FVO was critical of inadequate co-ordination between the central competent authority (Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety) and regional authorities regarding non-compliant findings. It concluded that measures taken to protect public health were inadequate and recommended a number of actions to correct the situation.

18.     The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of DG SANCO reported on an audit mission to Poland in May 2012, with a view to assessing the status of monitoring of organochlorinated contaminants in fish from the Baltic region. The mission concluded that the Polish dioxin and PCB monitoring programmes satisfied EU requirements. However maximum limits of contaminants are sometimes exceeded in cod liver, salmon and sea trout. No measures were in place to ensure that contaminated fishery products could not be placed on the market. The mission found that the effectiveness of official controls was undermined by deficiencies in the oversight of operator own-check programmes, due in part to a lack of relevant training for officials in the assessment of HACCP plans. The report recommended a number of actions to correct the situation.

19.     The Commission amended the emergency measures applied to  aquaculture products imported from India and Indonesia. In the case of India, these required that at least 20 % of consignments be tested for the presence of pharmacologically active substances. As a result of an inspection to India by the FVO in November 2011, which confirmed that an adequate official control system for aquaculture products is in place, the sample frequency has been reduced to 10% (since some residues are still detected in imported consignments). The similar safeguard measure in place for Indonesia was repealed, since no residues of illegal substances have been detected.

20.     The Commission passed a Decision amending the list of third countries from which imports of fishery products for human consumption may be accepted by the EU, due to changes in controls and conditions of production accepted by DG SANCO. Croatia is added to Annex I (bivalve molluscs and similar); Brunei is added to Annex II (in respect of aquaculture products only); restrictions on imports from Togo (Annex II, previously lobsters only) have been lifted; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are added to the Annex II, following presentation of information by the Netherlands Competent Authority regarding the controls applied on fishery products transferred to the European Union.

21.     The DG SANCO Programme Better Training for Safer Food published its annual report on its EU training activities for 2011. In total the programme trained 6,081 participants in 151 different training events. The overall cost was EUR14 million (about EUR2300/person trained). HACCP, food hygiene controls, and plant health controls were the most frequent topics covered. About 65% of the participants were from Member States and the balance from third countries.

22.     The Commission passed a regulation amending import and certification of animal health conditions of ornamental fish imported by the EU (to address changes in the way in which certain diseases are considered), and amending the list of countries from which imports of live fish may be accepted, to include Thailand.

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