Key developments in EU fisheries policy in September 2010

October 4, 2010 09:36

Within the framework of the common fisheries policy the following developments have taken place: 

Common Fisheries Policy

1.      EU "ready to act" on unilateral Icelandic and Faroes mackerel quotas
2.      Commission proposes TACs for Baltic fish stocks in 2011; more cod, less pelagics, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to Megapesca.com.
3.      NAFO sets precautionary TAC for Greenland halibut
4.      Commission publishes FAQs on EU TACs and quotas
5.      Portuguese vessels prohibited from fishing for bluefin tuna
6.      Community Fisheries Control Agency launches inspector training initiative with France
7.      Commission allocates EUR 50 million for implementation of Integrated Maritime Policy
8.      Commission allocates EUR 45 million for research on "The ocean of tomorrow"
9.      Commission to spend EUR 18.5 million/year on improving access to marine data
10.     Commission sets assessment criteria for "good environmental status" of marine waters
11.     OSPAR to establish network of Marine Protected Areas in North Atlantic
12.     EU-Morocco trade agreement set to provide access for EU fish to the Moroccan market
13.     EU extends origin rules derogation for tuna from Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar
14.     EU to negotiate renewal of Fishery Partnerships with Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.
15.     IATTC to consider new port state control measures to counter IUU fishing.
16.     Lithuania and Italy to introduce state aid schemes for SME fishery enterprises
17.     Commission reports on a French state aid scheme; finds that tax breaks are not state aid

Fish Hygiene

18.     In September 2010, SANCO issues 66 rapid alert notices for fishery products
19.     RASFF report 2009 published; 23% of alerts from 3rd countries were fishery products
20.     DG SANCO reports on mission to France; system of controls not in compliance
21.     DG SANCO reports on mission to Ecuador; sufficient guarantees but some reservations
22.     DG SANCO to admit Serbia to list of third countries suppliers of fishery products to EU
23.     DG SANCO requests Ghana to revise inspection of freezer vessels
24.     EFSA reports on parasites in fish; focus on Anisakis.
25.     DG SANCO reports on implementation of 2004 "food hygiene package"
26.     Commission considering new system for expressing toxic equivalency of dioxins
27.     Commission to change rules on fish fed to animals not used for human consumption
28.     Commission establishes web page linking to EU registries of all aquaculture businesses
29.     Commission considers disease free status of UK; now free of spring vireamia of carp

Common Fisheries Policy

1.      The European Commission has reacted following the announcements from Iceland and the Faroe Islands, that they are setting unilateral quotas for Atlantic mackerel in 2010 (of 30,000 tonnes and 85,000 tonnes) respectively. Commissioner Damanaki, in a speech to the EU's Agricultural and Fisheries Council, stated that these quotas were "nothing short of unacceptable" and "go way beyond what they have ever fished before". The Commission indicated that it would seek a balanced and fair solution in negotiations to be held in London in October, and that any agreement should take into account the migration of mackerel into more northern waters. However, she also indicated that if the EU is met "with continuing exaggerated quota expectations ... then the EU will to be ready to act, in particular, in relation to our annual fisheries arrangements with those countries". The Commission briefed the EU Council of Fisheries and requested guidance on the negotiations and was informed that the Council indicated that an Agreement should not be accepted at any cost. The question of the access provided to Iceland and Faroe Islands also raised strong reservations from some Member States.

2.      The European Commission set out its proposals for fishing possibilities for fish stocks in the Baltic Sea for 2011. These include increased fishing opportunities for Baltic cod, and sharp decreases for pelagic stocks (herring and sprat). The proposal will be discussed at the EU Fisheries Council in October.

3.      At its annual meeting held in Halifax, Canada, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) adopted new precautionary TACs for the conservation and management of Greenland halibut fish stocks. It closed the fishery for shrimp in the Flemish Cap, and significantly reduced the Grand Banks TAC for this species. It has maintained the TACs for the Flemish Cap cod and Grand Banks redfish (both re-opended at the beginning of 2010) indicating that the management measures are succeeding. The EU welcomed the decisions.

4.      The European Commission published some frequently asked questions regarding the allocation of fishing opportunities in the EU. Some of the questions are "What are TACs and Quotas?"; "How are TACs and quotas decided?" and "Who are the scientists who provide the Commission with advice?"

5.      Portuguese vessels exhausted their quota for bluefin tuna in Atlantic Ocean and were prohibited from fishing effective 26 September 2010.

6.      The Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) launched an initiative to strengthen the formal training of national fishery inspectors in EU fisheries controls. The CFCA and France (through its Direction des Affaires Maritimes and Direction des Pêches Maritimes et de l'Aquaculture) have signed an agreement to cooperate in the elaboration of a core curriculum and a web based training platform, which will promote remote cooperation between control experts. This is the first of several MoUs expected to be established with Member States covering the training of inspectors.

7.      The Commission issued a press release announcing the allocation of a further EUR 50 million to support implementation of the Integrated Maritime Policy during the period 2011 to 2013. The funds will go towards supporting an integrated approach to the management and governance of the oceans, seas and coasts, and to fostering interaction between sea-related policies in the EU.

8.      With a call for research proposals on the theme "The ocean of tomorrow", the Commission launched a EUR 45 million investment in research projects on maritime activities. The fund will support multidisciplinary research projects which investigate innovative, forward-looking and sustainable approaches to exploiting marine potential.

9.      The European Commission launched a new "Marine Knowledge 2020" initiative aiming to improve the availability and utility of data collected in relation to maritime affairs. Noting that the EU spends almost EUR 1 billion annually on collecting data on marine issues, but that professional have difficulty accessing and using this information, the initiative will provide and additional EUR 18.5 million/year and seek to assemble data sets on the basis of the EU's ocean basins.

10.     The Commission published detailed criteria to be used when assessing good environmental status of marine waters, in the context of Directive 2008/56/EC (the Marine Strategy Framework Directive). The Decision sets out and defines in detail eleven descriptors. The descriptor for fisheries states "Populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock".

11.     The Ministerial meeting of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North- East Atlantic (OSPAR) was held in Bergen. Amongst other measures, the Ministers adopted a declaration to establish the world's first high seas network of Marine Protected Areas beyond national jurisdiction. The measures will protect 433,000 km² of the Atlantic Ocean and were welcomed by the EC's Environment Commissioner.

12.     The European Commission adopted a draft decision on an EU-Morocco bilateral trade agreement for agri-food and fisheries products. The agreement will provide unrestricted access to the Moroccan market for EU processors of fishery products after 10 years.  The Agreement must be approved by the Council and the European Parliament.

13.     The European Commission has extended the terms of a derogation from the rules of origin (until the end of 2010) allowing Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar to export annual quotas of non-originating tuna (3,000 tonnes) and tuna loins (600 tonnes) to the EU at preferential duty rates. This will allow the continuation of this derogation pending the provisional introduction into force of the East and Southern Africa-EC Economic Partnership Agreement, expected later in 2010, under which new terms of trade in fishery products will be addressed.

14.     The EU Council of Fisheries Ministers authorised the Commission to open negotiations for the renewal of the protocols to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.

15.     The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) met in Guatemala to discuss sustainability of tuna fisheries in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. This was the first time that the European Union (represented by the Commission) has attended as a full member, since it only gained membership in August 2010). The EU has proposed the adoption of new port state control measures by IATTC, as a measure to counter IUU fishing.

16.     The Commission informed EU Member States regarding state aid schemes notified by Lithuania and Italy in support of small and medium-sized fishery enterprises. The aid is aimed at compensating aquaculture operators for maintaining good environmental conditions in water bodies (Lithuania) and "accompanying measures for structural assistance" (Italy).

17.     The Commission published its report on an investigation of the aid provided by France, in the form of a scheme of preferential tax allowances in favour of members of a fund "for the prevention of risks to fishing and fisheries undertakings" (FPAP). The Commission decided that the tax scheme could not be classified as a state aid to enterprises, since it is defined within the general tax code. The scheme should therefore be considered as lawful.

Fish Hygiene

18.     In September 2010, DG SANCO of the Commission issued rapid alert notices for failure to comply with health conditions in respect of 9 consignments of bivalve molluscs, 8 consignments of cephalopods, 9 consignments of crustacean, and 40 consignments of other fishery products. They included live clams and mussels from Italy, cuttlefish from Vietnam, crab from Ireland, and hake from Argentina.

19.     DG SANCO published its annual RASFF report for 2009. The number of notifications on products originating from outside the EU amounted to 2,372, which is 75 % of the total number of RASFF notifications. Out of this total, 54 were in relation to bivalve molluscs, 39 were cephalopods, 177 were crustacean and 467 other fishery products. Overall, fishery products accounted for 23% of the alerts regarding consignments from third countries. Heavy metals, veterinary drug residues, parasitic infections, microbial pathogens, and bio-contaminants were the most common food safety hazards identified in fishery products.

20.     The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to France in May 2010, with the objective of evaluating the control systems in place governing the production and placing on the market of fishery products. The mission found that the official controls undertaken by the Central Competent Authority, Direction Générale de l'Alimentation, in relation to aquaculture products were not undertaken on a regular or comprehensive basis. Checks on potable water, in collaboration with Direction Générale de la Santé were not well coordinated, resulting in gaps in controls. The mission also found an absence of official controls on fishing vessels, lack of checks on freezer vessels and use of unapproved establishments, including auction halls. Although conditions in most vessels and establishments were observed to be satisfactory, overall it was considered that the system of controls could not be considered to be in compliance with the EU regulations.

21.     The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Ecuador in June 2010, with the objective of evaluating the control systems in place governing the production and placing on the market of fishery products. The mission reviewed the official controls undertaken by the Central Competent Authority, the Instituto Nacional de Pesca under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries. In general the mission found that the system of official controls offers sufficient guarantees concerning the sanitary conditions of the production of fishery products for export to the European Union. However, the mission found that the CA did not require freezer vessels to be equipped with a temperature recording device, nor to have a HACCP plan. Conditions at discharge of fishery products and in some processing establishments were also found in some cases to be unsatisfactory. Appropriate recommendations were made to the Competent Authority.

22.     Following the findings of an FVO mission, together with the guarantees provided by the competent authority of Serbia, which indicated that the conditions applicable to all fishery products destined for the EU are equivalent to those provided for in European Union legislation, the Commission decided to add Serbia to Annex II to Decision 2006/766/EC as regards the list of third countries and territories from which imports of fishery products are permitted.

23.     The Commission reviewed sanitary conditions for fishery products from Ghana and found that inspection reports regarding some freezer vessels submitted by the Ghana Competent Authority were not satisfactory. The Commission requested Ghana to provide further information or de-list the vessels, pending the FVO inspection mission conducted in early September.

24.     The European Food Safety Authority Panel on Biological Hazards published the results of its risk assessment on parasites in fish. It found that freezing or heat treatments remain the most effective processes guaranteeing the killing of parasitic larvae. No sea fishing grounds can be considered free of A. simplex larvae. The risk of infection with larval anisakids is negligible in cage reared farmed salmon, but insufficient data is available to assess risks in other farmed species. The only parasite in fishery products that is implicated in an allergic reaction is Anisakis.

25.     DG SANCO published a report on the experiences with the implementation of the 2004 "food hygiene package". The study consulted with Competent Authorities in the Member States, representatives of the food business operator and consumer organisations. In general, the study found that the Member States have taken the necessary administrative and control steps to ensure compliance, but that there were still some gaps in implementation, for example with the implementation of HACCP-based procedures in small food businesses (especially in catering and retail establishments). There are claims of differences between member states in the assessment of HACCP based procedures. In most cases registration and approval systems have not caused any problems. Two Member States have required that all food businesses be approved. The study found that Member States and private stakeholders were clear that requirement for HACCP-based procedures should not be extended to food business operators carrying out primary production. Most Member States also considered that it was necessary to further harmonise the import rules for products of animal origin, to ensure uniform application of requirements at different border inspection posts.

26.     The Commission announced that it is still considering the impacts on food safety and EU legislation of using a different system of calculating the toxic equivalency factor for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in animal feeds.

27.     The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) considered some modifications to animal feed rules, in particular the use of bile acids/salts in feed for aquaculture, and relaxing the requirement that the EU directive on undesirable substances in feed, applies to the direct feeding of fresh fish to fur animals, pet animals, zoo and circus animals (i.e. animals which are not for human consumption).

28.     The European Commission established a web page linking to EU Member State registries of all aquaculture production businesses and authorised processing establishments. The Member State registers contain information on each farm, including information on the species kept, and the health status of the farms with regard to notifiable diseases affecting aquaculture species.

29.     The Commission received an application from the United Kingdom to consider its whole territory free of spring vireamia of carp, following information that it has now completed its fourth annual campaign of eradication measures of in previously affected areas.

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