FishFiles Lite Newsletter
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March 2006

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Commission says France still must pay EUR57million fine for breaking conservation rule.
2. Commission welcomes IUU report by OECD High Seas Task Force
3. Commission proposes a new approach to "Rescue and Restructuring Aid"
4. New management plan introduced for Biscay sole stocks
5. Polish vessels to stop fishing for northern prawn in NAFO
6. New interactive map published for 2006 fishing quotas
7. Regional Advisory Council for the Baltic Sea is now operational
8. Commissioner sets out EU's strategy on marine related research

Fish hygiene

9. Thirty seven rapid alerts were notified by Member States.
10. New EU regulation on microbiological criteria for foods
11. New EU regulations on parasites, TVB-N and marine biotoxins in fish
12. Commission puts imports from Indonesia on 100% testing
13. The Commission has published the findings of the FVO mission to Madagascar conducted in February and March 2005.
14. FVO criticises Sweden for allowing export of dioxin contaminated fish.
15. FVO finds health conditions for fish imports from Japan to be generally satisfactory
16. Commission decides to place USA on List 1 but no inspection mission report published.
17. Commission fails to get agreement on transparency for EU country food safety conditions
18. EFSA gave an opinion on the risk of seafood allergies
19. Commission prepares draft guidelines for the Community guides to good hygiene practices.
20. Updated lists of approved EU disease free zones and farms published.
21. The EU Parliament's says the new food hygiene packages impacts on small scale producers.
22. New list of Community Reference Laboratories to be published.

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The European Commission announced that France has not yet complied with the European Court ruling regarding infringement of fisheries conservation rules in the 1990s, and must still pay EUR57million fine. France failed to meet enforcement obligations related to measures designed to protect undersized fish (especially hake) and, where infringements were detected, the absence of deterrent sanctions. The fine must be paid by July 2006.

2. The European Commission welcomed the publication this month of the report "Closing the net" by the High Seas Task Force, set up under the auspices of the OECD's Round Table on Sustainable Development in December 2003, to examine the phenomenon of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing. The report quotes an estimated US$4 to 9 billion worth of IUU caught fish annually and recommends a global approach to monitoring IUU fishing and the vessels which pursue it.

3. The Commission published a Communication on proposals to help European fishing fleets regain economic viability. A new approach to "Rescue and Restructuring aid" is proposed. Although there will be no support for operational costs, member states can proposed support measures which will fund a change of fishing gear to less fuel-intensive fishing method, purchase of equipment to improve fuel efficiency, such as econometers, or replacement with less powerful engines in some circumstances. The Commission also announced that it may consider increasing the de minimis limit for state aid to enterprises (from its current EUR3,300) since "it does not appear adapted to the circumstances of the sector."

4. Following advice from ICES regarding the unsustainable level of exploitation of the Biscay sole stocks, the European Council has established a management plan based on new TACs and effort restrictions, and improved monitoring of catches.

5. Stop fishing notice was issued for Polish vessels targeting northern prawn in NAFO zone 3L effective 18 March 2006.

6. The Commission has published a new interactive map-based approach to presenting 2006 fishing quotas, by species, fishing zone or country to which they are allocated.

7. The European Commission passed a decision bringing into operation the Regional Advisory Council for the Baltic Sea.

8. Commissioner Jo Borg gave a speech at the World Maritime Technology Conference in London, outlining the EU's strategy to make the most of European marine related research, with focus on environment and working conditions.

Fish hygiene

9. Thirty seven rapid alerts were notified by Member States for failure to comply with health conditions for fishery products. Consignments included tuna and mussels from Spain, and three consignments of oysters from France

10. The Council has published revised and updated microbiological criteria for certain micro-organisms in foods, and the implementing rules to be complied with by food business operators when implementing the general and specific hygiene measures. Several of the standards relate to fishery products, including histamine requirements. There is a specific requirement that food business operators responsible for the manufacture of the product should conduct studies in order to investigate compliance with the criteria throughout the shelf-life.

11. The Council has passed detailed implementation requirements for Regulation 853/2004, setting out the detailed obligations of food business operators in different sectors, including fisheries. New measures are introduced regarding visual inspections required to detect parasites in fishery products, measurement of total volatile basic nitrogen (TVB-N) and detecting marine biotoxins.

12. Following frequent detection of histamine and heavy metals in fishery products imported from Indonesia, and serious shortcomings revealed by FVO inspection missions, the Commission has introduced stricter controls. Every consignment of fishery products imported from Indonesia shall be tested for heavy metals. Scombridae (including tunas) will be tested for histamine.

13. The Commission has published the findings of the FVO mission to Madagascar conducted in February and March 2005, full report in French, summary in English. The mission found that there were serious shortcomings in the inspection system, and that the Competent Authority, the Directorate General for Animal Health and Plant Health, could not be considered capable of providing the necessary health guarantees. It also recommended the submission of an action plan to address 11 main recommendations for the improvement of official controls by the Malagasy authorities. The summary also details how subsequently short term measures were introduced by the Competent Authority to withdraw approval from 3 establishments, suspend approval from 3 more, and prohibit the supply of fish for export to EU from 12 freezer vessels.

14. The FVO reported on a mission to Sweden to assess organochlorinated contaminants in fish caught from the Baltic Sea. The mission found that the National Food Administration had failed to enforce a ban on exports to the rest of Europe of fish contaminated with levels of dioxin in excess of the legal limits. There was a lack of coordination with local authority inspectors, and traceability systems were not fully implemented.

15. The FVO also reported on findings with regard to health conditions for the export of fishery products from Japan to the EU. The mission found that the Competent Authority (Inspection and Safety Division of the Department of Food Safety in the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) applies conditions which are generally equivalent, and that the conditions in establishments are adequate. Additional controls are however required on aquaculture production and increased frequency of inspection of fishing vessels.

16. The Commission decided to place the United of States of America onto List 1 of countries permitted to export fishery products to the EU, following the undertaking of an inspection mission to the USA, which has not yet been published on line. The Competent Authorities are the Food and Drugs Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Either may sign certificates. The Commission amended List 1 and List 2 of countries accordingly.

17. The Committee considered the publication of the EU member State Country Profiles prepared by the FVO, which present a consolidated description of the food safety systems and outstanding issues with regards to Food Safety, Animal Health and Welfare, feedstuffs, import controls etc. France Spain and Malta object to the publication citing the "dangers of too much transparency", whilst Sweden and the Commission think they should be published.

18. The European Food Safety Authority gave an opinion on the risk of seafood allergies in relation to the need for labeling. Mollusc allergies are attributed to the muscle protein tropomyosin and other allergens, and whilst this is also found in other materials and foods, it is widespread in fishery products.

19. The Commission presented a draft on practical guidelines for the development of Community guides to good practice in accordance with the provisions of Article 9 of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs. This is the first step to the development of sectoral guidelines by Member States. The Committee advised that the guidance documents on food hygiene and HACCP should be translated into all Community languages.

20. The Commission published updated lists of approved EU disease free zones and farms approved as disease free in relation to two diseases of fish grown in aquaculture systems.

21. The EU Parliament's Economic and Social Committee set out its views on the impacts of the new food hygiene packages on small scale producers. They point out that flexibility in interpretation can act against interests of small producers.

22. Following the launch, in July 2005, by the Commission for a call for selection and designation of new Community reference laboratories, the results of the evaluation of the applications were notified to the competent authorities concerned. The Committee discussed the amendments required to Annex VII to Regulation (EC) No 882/2004.

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