Latest key developments in EU fisheries, fish trade policy and legislation

October 3, 2011 16:49

FishFiles Lite has summarized key developments in EU fisheries and fish trade policy and legislation over the last month as follows:

Common Fisheries Policy

1.      The European Commission set out its proposals for 2012 TACS and quotas in the Atlantic and North Sea. The Commission proposes to increase the TAC for 9 stocks (certain stocks of cod, anglerfish, herring, haddock, hake, sole, megrim and Norway lobster) and reduce it for 53 stocks. A ban on the fishing of cod in the West of Scotland, the Irish Sea and the Kattegat, is proposed. Overall the proposals would reduce TACs by 11% (in terms of weight) compared to 2011. The European Council will deliberate on the proposals before the end of 2011.

2.      The European Commission set out the proposed fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2012. The Commission proposal is to increase TACs (total allowable catches) for Baltic cod and Western and Gulf of Bothnia herring stocks. However the Commission proposes to limit the number of days at sea for fishing vessels, to the levels established last year. Decreases for salmon catches are also deemed necessary.

3.      At its Annual Meeting held in Halifax, Canada, on 19-23 September 2011, NAFO set total allowable catches (TACs) for 2012 for a number of  stocks including cod and redfish in the Flemish Cap,  strictly in line with the scientific advice, at 9,280 tonnes and 6,500 tonnes respectively, but the shrimp fishery remained closed. NAFO also lowered the threshold for sponge indicator species used to trigger reporting obligations.

4.      The Commission published the report of the ex-post evaluation of the protocol to Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and Federated States of Micronesia undertaken by consultants contracted by DG MARE in 2010. The study found that none of the licence applications to fish in the EEZ from the four vessels of the EU purse seine fleet were granted by the FSM, resulting in no catches made under the agreement. The parties did not manage to start a dialogue on national fisheries policy in the frame of the joint committee. Consequently, the first three year period of the agreement did not produce any results towards the objectives assigned to the EU bilateral fishing agreement policy.

5.      The Commission published the report of the ex-post evaluation of the protocol to Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Solomon Islands, undertaken by consultants contracted by DG MARE in 2009. The study found that utilisation of fishing possibilities by EU vessels was good for tuna purse seiners (100% of the 4 possible fishing licences) but disappointing for surface longliners (7 licenses drawn out of 10 possible the first year, nothing thereafter). EC catches in the Solomon Islands EEZ were nil the first year of the agreement and around 600 tonnes the second year (10% of the reference tonnage). Overall the study found that contribution of the agreement to the objectives of supporting the European fishing industry (EC employment, and supply of the European market) was negligible. Furthermore, since the parties never defined the components of the sectoral partnership aimed at implementing responsible fishing practices in the EEZ and at promoting EC investment, the partnership component included in the agreement was also considered to have failed.

6.      The EU announced that on 27 July 2011 it signed the Protocol with the Government of the Republic of Cape Verde, setting out the fishing opportunities and financial contribution provided under the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the parties. The Protocol applies provisionally until it is ratified by both parties.

7.      The Community Fishery Control Agency (CFCA) launched a joint deployment plan with EU Member States for pelagic fisheries in the North East Atlantic. The plan will focus on ensuring application of fisheries rules to vessels fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel, anchovy and blue whiting, and will involve Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, France, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and United

8.      The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki visited the USA with the aim of strengthening co-operation on maritime and fisheries policy, with a major focus on IUU fishing. She issued a joint statement with Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pledging to increase level of coordination between the EU and the USA on IUU fishing. The parties agreed that illegally caught fishery products should be excluded from access to their markets. The agreement also commits the parties to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of management measures, to exchange information on IUU activities and encourage other countries to ratify and implement the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's Committee on Fisheries' Port State Measures Agreement.

9.      The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki gave the keynote speech at a Conference on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington. She made the point that illegal fishing is a form of organised crime, which entails excessive risk to safety of crews, and health of consumers, as well as damaging fish stocks and the marine environment. She also claimed that such vessels were engaged in other illegal activities (smuggling, trafficking and terrorism) and called for greater cooperation in the fight against global cartels operating IUU vessels.

10.     The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs.Maria Damanaki  gave a speech at the European Parliament entitled "Our turn to protect dolphins". in which she indicated that by-catch of cetaceans is low or non-existent in many of the EU fisheries observed, but that there are still unacceptably high levels in several fisheries, for example in the pelagic trawl fishery for bass and tuna in the English Channel and in the Bay of Biscay. At the same time several sub-populations of harbour porpoise and common dolphin in EU waters are under threat and require protection. She indicated the need for a new regulatory ecosystem-based approach under a reformed CFP. This will introduce better monitoring and strengthened mitigation measures, to be applied within a framework of a new regulation on fisheries technical measures.

11.     The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs.Maria Damanaki gave the keynote speech the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative Stakeholder Roundtable at the Meridian Institute, Washington, 6 September 2011. She drew the similarities between the issues faced in the sustainable exploitation of oceanic resources on either side of the Atlantic. She set out the problems of fragmented observation systems under different Agencies and regional bodies, and the need to find sustainable energy sources and improve management of coastal zones, She announced that the EU has called for proposals from US researchers, using EU funds, and encouraged submissions in the marine area.

12.     EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs.Maria Damanaki visited Ireland and gave a speech at the Institute of International and European Affairs, on the gains that Ireland can expect from a reformed CFP. She also participated in a roundtable on Maritime Policy in Ireland with the representatives of Irish maritime administration and industries. She spoke about the hidden costs of centralised micro-management of fisheries, and expressed support for decentralization, allowing different Member States to determine the fisheries management measures to be applied, providing long term objectives were met.

13.     The EU gave notice that the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, signed in Madrid on 16 January 2009 came into force on 24 March 2011. The Protocol binds signatories to ensure sustainable management of coastal natural resources, coastal areas, throughout the Mediterranean region.

14.     The Commission has announced that the EU's strategy for the Atlantic Ocean will be launched in November 2011 in Lisbon, Portugal.

15.     Stop fishing notices were published due to exhaustion of quota for EU vessels fishing for Norway pout, forkbeards and roundnose grenadier.

Fish hygiene

16.     Rapid alerts were notified by the Commission in respect of failure to comply with health conditions for 1 consignment of bivalve molluscs, 8 consignments of cephalopods, 3 consignments of crustaceans, and 45 consignments of fish and fish products, including 4 consignments of frozen squid from New Zealand, 3 consignments of frozen whole round cuttlefish from Yemen, 3 consignments of chilled swordfish from Malta and 6 consignments of Atlantic club mackerel , fresh silver scabbardfish, gilthead seabream , chilled fish , frozen sardines an d chilled sepia from Morocco.

17.     The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Uganda in May 2011, with regard to sanitary conditions for fishery products exported to the EU and following up on a previous mission in 2006. The mission found that the competent authority had addressed deficiencies in the legislation and that official controls of production and placing on the market of fishery products were satisfactorily implemented. However the mission found that the establishment from which official samples was drawn was required to bear the cost of analysis, but that from July 2011, the Competent Authority was to be authorised to pay for testing of official samples and samples were to be taken by authorised officers. The testing laboratory undertaking official analyses of fishery products was properly accredited against the ISO 17025 standard (both chemical and microbiological tests). The report concludes that the Ugandan authorities are in a position to comply with the public health requirements of EU legislation.

18.     The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Russia in May 2011, with regard to sanitary conditions for fishery products exported to the EU and to follow up on a previous mission in 2008. The mission found that adequate legislation was in place and staff were appropriately trained. However exports were certified for export to the EU when they did not originate from approved vessels and establishments. Sanitary controls on fishing vessels varied depending on the region; some fishing vessels had significant deficiencies and some vessels had never been inspected (due to "logistical constraints", according to the Competent Authority, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance. The mission also found that the import controls on fishery products for further processing and onward export to the EU were not carried out adequately. Despite the shortcomings the mission concluded that the control system offers sufficient guarantees concerning the sanitary conditions of fishery products to be exported to the European Union. However, controls with regard to aquaculture products and scallops were not in compliance with EU requirements, and these products will not be allowed to be imported at this stage. The Competent Authority was requested to submit a corrective action plan, for consideration by the Commission.

19.     The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Tanzania in June 2011, with regard to sanitary conditions for fishery products exported to the EU and to follow up on a previous mission in 2006. The mission found that legislation on histamine limits, water safety and fish temperatures was not in line with EU requirements, there was inadequate recording of vessel inspections at landing sites, and that some HACCP plans cited obsolete legislation. Several shortcomings were noted in processing establishments, including rusted equipment, no temperature recording device in a cold store, condensation dripping onto the process line, and lack of action with regard to reported non-compliant results of salmonella testing. Although testing laboratories were accredited to ISO17025, the scope of accreditation did not apply to all of the tests conducted. Analysis of lead was found to use a non-authorised method. The mission concluded that although the system of controls had improved since the previous FVO inspection visit, the deficiencies noted could undermine confidence in the system. The competent authority, the Fisheries Development Division, under the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development was requested to submit a plan of corrective actions for the consideration by the European Commission.

20.     The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Finland carried out in February 2011, to gather data on the production and official control of smoked fishery products with special regard to their contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The mission found that although sampling and analytical protocols were in place and followed EU requirements, in fact there was no programme of official sampling nor of own checks in establishments visited by the mission team. The mission therefore concluded that the conformity of smoked fishery products with EU permitted limits could not be guaranteed. The Central Competent Authority (the Finnish Food Safety Authority) intends to re-initiate official controls for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in smoked fishery products.

21.     The Commission considered a proposed amendment to Regulation 853/2004 which will require products which are not otherwise treated to kill parasites, to be subject to a temperature of (a) - 20 °C or lower for not less than 24 hours; or (b) - 35 °C or lower for not less than 15 hours. The measure follows a scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority published in April 2010 which indicated that some fishery products, including those meant to be eaten raw, marinated or cold smoked, etc. will not have been sufficiently treated to kill viable parasites that might be a risk to the health of the consumer. The Commission delayed consideration of a guidance text on viable parasites in fishery products due to the need to take account of a proposed amendment.

22.     The Commission passed a directive indicating that since there is insufficient information to define the risk of the use of Bacillus thuringiensis (a bacteria which can act as an insecticide and acaricide in food and feed). Member states must therefore consider the need to amend existing maximum residue levels (MRLs) and take any appropriate risk mitigation measures ensuring that the applicable MRLs are not exceeded.

23.     The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a report on the results of studies on the levels of furan found in food. Furan is an organic compound formed during heat treatment of food and has been shown to be carcinogenic in animal laboratory studies. The report includes exposure estimates for different populations based on EFSA's recently established Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database. Coffee, jarred baby foods and ready to eat soups were the main sources of human exposure.

24.     The Commission considered the animal health risks of the import of Artemia cysts (brine shrimp). It considered that the risks were low, and stated that it is up to each Member States to consider whether animal health requirements should be put in place.

25.     The Commission supported the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) Global Conference on Aquatic Animal Health Programmes held in Panama from 28 to 30 June 2011, at which it gave a presentation on the "Better Training for Safer Food" programme. The recommendations of the conference highlighted the need to strengthen aquatic animal health programmes around the world, including the Aquatic Animal Health Services, their capacity and level of competence.

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