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October 2007

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Commission proposes certification scheme to restrict trade in IUU fish
2. Commission proposes restrictions on destructive fishing practices.
3. Council of Fisheries Ministers sets fishing opportunities for 2008 in the Baltic Sea.
4. South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation agrees to a strengthening of measures against IUU fishing
5. New convention agreed for the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO)
6. Corals protected by fishing bans in four areas off the Atlantic coast of Ireland
7. ICES reports on the state of North Sea fish stocks; Commission claims recovery plans are working
8. Commissioner Borg announces European Maritime Day
9. Commission modifies fleet reference levels for the outermost regions of the European Union
10. Commission amends entry-exit scheme for fishing fleets from Bulgaria and Romania
11. Stop fishing notices published for many fleet segments.

Fish hygiene

12. Forty eight rapid alerts for fishery products notified to the Commission
13. The FVO of DG SANCO reports on a mission to Kazakhstan; substantial non-compliance, but no ban
14. Safeguard measures applied to fishery products from Albania; importers to pay for histamine testing
15. The FVO of DG SANCO reports on a mission to Australia; some significant deficiencies noted
16. Commission clarifies procedures and equivalence of EC-US systems for food safety conditions for fishery products.
17. EUROSTAT creates a EU Food Safety Database
18. Commission considers eliminating food safety hazards monitoring requirements on small fishing vessels
19. Commission extends deadline for compliance of third countries with requirements for fish oil for human consumption
20. Commission will run a RASFF training workshop for Chinese officials
21. France proposes parasite exemption for aquaculture products
22. DG SANCO publishes EU-ASEAN guide on hygiene practices and HACCP
23. DG SANCO republishes guidance document on the import of fishery products into the European Union.

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The European Commission unveiled a policy initiative in the form of a Communication and a draft Regulation, aimed at eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities. The proposed measures will allow access to the EU market only to fisheries products that have been certified as legally caught by the flag state, or the exporting state concerned. A European black list of IUU vessels and of states which turn a blind eye to IUU activities would be set up as a deterrent, and trade sanctions would be taken against them. The measures will also take direct action against IUU activities in EU waters and against EU operators engaged in IUU activities anywhere in the world, irrespective of flag of vessel. Therefore in future, all fisheries products imported into the EU, whether fresh, frozen, or processed, would have to receive prior certification from the flag state (country where the vessel which caught them is registered) that the products are caught legally, and that the vessel concerned holds the necessary licences or permits and quotas. Access to EU port facilities for third country vessels will be limited to a list of designated ports drawn up by each Member State. The validated catch certificates provided by the flag state would have to accompany the fisheries products throughout the market chain. This will make it easy to verify that fish products have been caught legally, even if they pass through a number of territories before arriving in the EU market, including possible processing along the way. Under the proposals, transhipment at sea between third-country vessels and EU vessels would be also banned, and could only be carried out in designated ports.

2. The European Commission has made proposals for a strategy to protect vulnerable deep sea ecosystems from destructive fishing practices. This includes a ban on the use of harmful bottom gear in the high sea areas covered by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). For high sea areas not yet covered by RFMOs, the Commission proposes a new scheme that will require fishermen to obtain authorisation of their Member State to operate in a defined area prior to starting their fishing campaign. These fishing permits may be issued only if it has been ascertained that the planned fishing activities will not have significant adverse impact on fragile habitats. In addition, all fishing at depths of more than 1,000 metres would also be prohibited to EU vessels. This initiative is fully in line with the recommendations issued by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006.

3. The Council of Fisheries Ministers meeting in Luxembourg agreed on the fishing opportunities for 2008 in the Baltic Sea. Regarding the two key cod stocks, which have been in poor biological condition for many years, Ministers agreed a combination of cuts in total allowable catches (TACs) and days at sea (fishing effort) which they hope will ensure both more sustainable fisheries and better application of the rules.

4. The South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO), at its annual meeting last week in Windhoek, Namibia agreed to a strengthening of measures against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing through a reinforced port state control system, including enhanced procedures for in-port inspection of vessels fishing, and adoption of a blacklist of vessels. The Decision was welcomed by the European Commission.

5. At the annual meeting of the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO), in Lisbon, Portugal, the parties decided on the text of a new Convention, which will simplify the organisation's structure, strengthen its decision-making processes and give it a clear mandate to manage its fishery resources in an integrated and sustainable manner. The meeting also set fishing possibilities for the main fish stocks which NAFO manages, including Greenland halibut. NAFO decided to close an area to all fishing (straddling both the high seas and the Canadian Exclusive Economic Zone) in order to protect concentrations of corals.

6. Following a request from the Irish government, the European Commission adopted a proposal to protect coral reefs by banning fishing with both active and passive gears in four areas off the Atlantic coast of Ireland. These include an area of around 2,500 km2 in the region of the Belgica Mound, the Hovland Mound, and Northwest and Southwest Porcupine.

7. ICES gave a preliminary report on the state of North Sea fish stocks, suggesting that cod, herring and Norway pout are showing signs of recovery. The Commission claimed that this demonstrated that the recovery plans were working, but cautioned against a premature increase in quotas and fishing effort.

8. President of the Commission, Mr.Barroso, presented the EC's new Maritime Policy at a press launch in Brussels. The policy is intended to realize the full growth potential of a maritime and coastal economy. Commissioner Borg announced that an annual European Maritime Day will be held, as part of a week of activities including a maritime conference, awards, an annual report, specific awareness campaigns and networking between maritime heritage organisations, museums and aquaria. The Commission supported the launch with a press release outlining why the EU needs a new maritime policy.

9. The Commission has passed a regulation specifying new fleet reference levels to be applied in the development plans and structural adjustment of fishing fleets operating in the outermost regions of the European Community (Canary Islands, Guadaloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Réunion and the Azores).

10. The Commission has amended the Community provisions regarding the entry-exit scheme for new fleet capacity applying to the fishing fleets of recent new Member States, Bulgaria and Romania. The Amendment provides for greater flexibility in the period allowed for structural adjustment.

11. Due to exhaustion of quota, stop fishing notices were published for Portuguese vessels fishing for Greenland halibut, anglerfish and redfish; Spanish vessels fishing for alfonsinos, cod and redfish, Swedish vessels fishing for ling, saithe, cod and common sole, Finnish vessels fishing for plaice and cod in the Baltic Sea, French vessels fishing for orange roughy, UK vessels fishing for herring, German vessels fishing for great silver smelt, herring, witch and lemon sole, Belgian vessels fishing for megrims, and Latvian vessels fishing for redfish. All community vessels were prohibited from fishing for black scabbardfish, common sole and blue whiting effective 7 October 2007.

Fish hygiene

12. Rapid alerts were notified to the Commission for failure to comply with health conditions for 48 consignments of fishery products, including smoked baltic herring, smoked sprats from Latvia, whole prawns from Australia, cod liver from Poland, fresh cod loins from Denmark, and spiny dogfish from the USA.

13. The Food and Veterinary office of DG SANCO published a report on a mission to Kazakhstan regarding the health conditions for the export of fishery products to the EU, which took place in April 2007. The mission found that despite claimed legal powers of the Veterinary Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, the EC and Kazakhi veterinary inspectors were refused access to parts of one establishment. Non-compliant establishments remained on the list of approved exporters, the central Competent Authority did not participate in inspections and was not aware of non-compliances, inspectors had not received specific training in EC requirements; there were no written procedures for inspection; no inspection reports were available; no list of designated landing sites was provided; there were no inspections of fishing vessels; important deficiencies were noted in approved establishments; there was no follow up of non-compliances observed; HACCP plans were not properly evaluated; there was no sampling or testing of fishery products for important residues; despite laboratories being accredited, they stored unlabelled samples, had no reference standards, and used expired media and the national reference laboratory had conducted no tests on fishery products. Although the CA initially rejected the Commission's conclusions, it subsequently submitted an action plan of corrective actions, accepted by the Commission, and a modified list of approved establishments.

14. Following a recent Community inspection by the Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO in Albania, it was revealed that the Albanian Competent Authority only had limited capacity to carry out the necessary checks, in particular to detect histamine in fish and fishery products. As a result the Commission has decided to ban the import of relevant fishery products from this country unless they are subject to a certificate of analysis, either at the point of origin or on entry to the Community. The testing is to be at the cost of the exporter or consignee.

15. The Food and Veterinary office of DG SANCO published a report on a mission to Australia regarding the health conditions for the export of aquaculture products and live bivalve molluscs to the EU, which took place in March 2007. The mission found that, despite having a well documented control system, there were significant deficiencies, particularly during production and processing in establishments. The control system for bivalve molluscs was in place, but there were some weaknesses in relation to sampling frequency and laboratory testing. The mission found that the level of supervision was inadequate in relation to fishing vessel, landing sites and auctions. The mission considered that many of the establishments were unlikely to meet the necessary standards required by the EU. DG SANCO subsequently sought guarantees from the Competent Authority that these deficiencies would be addressed.

16. In the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, the European Commission gave an update on the status of the long running dispute between the EC - US regarding the equivalence determination exercise for fishery products. Currently US exports of fishery products to the EC must only be accompanied by a public health certification which states that the fishery products comply with US public health standards, which have been recognised as equivalent to the EC standards. The US asked that the Commission further simplify the administrative procedures for US exports to the EC, as regards all fishery products, except live bivalve molluscs. In reply, the Commission is going to propose to the Food and Drug Administration the use of a traceability document to replace the health certificate. Furthermore, the use of the TRACES system in which the US authorities are to register all relevant information would clearly show the origin of the product. Concerning audits by the EU of US exports, the standards used will be the US standards for exports from the US to the EC, and vice versa. The US will be asked to accept the EU production standards as equivalent to their import requirements, which should also lead to a simplification of the US administrative procedures.

17. EUROSTAT has informed the Commission that is has created a Food safety Database to provide a framework for the quantitative evaluation of data on the safety of products. Since 2005, EUROSTAT receives a copy of the control data sent by Member States to DG SANCO in six fields: TSE monitoring, monitoring of pesticide residues, monitoring of residues in live animals and products of animal origin, monitoring of selected zoonoses, official food controls and official controls in animal nutrition. This allows for the development of an internal Controls database, a centralised location for all information on control activities which is at the moment scattered in different DG SANCO services. The controls database with (restricted) on-line access was made available from mid-July 2007.

18. The Commission has received expressions of concern that the requirements under Regulation (EC) No 853/2004, which require that fishing vessels make and retain records relating to measures for the control of food safety hazards, may create an additional administrative burden for small-scale coastal fishers. The Commission proposed to grant a derogation from these provisions for small scale vessels, but some Member States have suggested that this should be first subject to a risk assessment. More discussions will take place in a Working Group.

19. The Commission has noted that third countries are unable at present to comply with the hygiene and requirements for fish oil for human consumption laid down in Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 by the deadline of 31 October 2007. As a result it has passed a regulation extending the deadline for the transitional period to 31 October 2008. It does not consider that there is any associated risk to health.

20. The European Commission announced that it will run a training workshop on the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) in November 2007, in Beijing, China. The workshop will be under the DG SANCO's Better Training for Safer Food initiative and around 80 participants are expected to attend.

21. France has proposed to the Commission that aquaculture products be exempt from the requirement to inspect fishery products for anasakis parasites.

22. The EU ASEAN Economic Cooperation programme on Standards, Quality and Conformity Assessment, Food Sub-Programme has published a handbook to guide the assessment of hygiene practices and HACCP systems, which is available via the DG SANCO website.

23. The European Commission has updated and republished its Guidance Document on the requirements for the import of fishery products into the European Union.

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