FishFiles Lite Newsletter
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May 2008

Common Fisheries Policy

1. New approach by EU to setting of TAC and managing fishing effort
2. Commission claws back bluefin tuna quotas due to overfishing by France and Italy
3. New multi-annual plan proposed for the management of herring in West of Scotland
4. NAFO to introduce new measures on bottom fishing activities
5. Commission says no to calls for fuel subsidies
6. EC-Seychelles Fisheries Partnership Agreement ratified
7. Commissioner Borg explains actions under the new Integrated Maritime Policy
8. Commissioner Borg celebrates the first European Maritime Day

Fish hygiene

9. Thirty one rapid alerts notified for fishery products during May 2008
10. Fish imports from Fiji banned by the Commission
11. Commission finds Albania not compliant; action plan required
12. New actions under "Better Training for Safer Food" in Toulouse and Vigo
13. Commission revises MRLs for heavy metals in fishery products.
14. Commission sets MRLs for dioxins and PCBs in canned fish liver
15. Commission publishes "Community Strategy for Dioxins, Furans and PCBs"

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The Commission announced a new approach to setting of TACs, with general rules for setting TACs in relation to different advice from the STECF. The idea is to provide greater transparency and flexibility to enable both more effective recovery measures for over-exploited stocks, and greater benefit for fishers when stocks do recover. The Commission also proposes to shift to a kilowatt-day system for managing fishing effort. Member States and stakeholders are invited to present their views on the approach by 30 June.

2. The Commission passed a regulation adjusting the 2008 bluefin tuna quotas following overfishing by France and Italy in 2007, resulting in exhaustion of the EC share of ICCAT quotas before quotas to Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Malta and Portugal were consumed. The overfished quota will be deducted from France and Italy in 2008, and allocated to the other countries.

3. The European Commission proposed a multi-annual plan for the management of herring fisheries to the West of Scotland, with modified Total Allowable Catches (TACs) including closure of the fishery should the stock fall below the 50,000 tonne level. Member States will need to agree before the measure is implemented.

4. Following a proposal from the EC, NAFO decided to introduce new measures to prevent adverse environmental impacts resulting from bottom fishing activities. The decision will result in mapping of the NAFO fishing grounds and a detailed assessment of the impacts of fishing on the marine ecosystems. Similar measures are planned for NEAFC.

5. The Commission published a Communication in response to the difficulties currently faced by the European fisheries sector as a result of increased fuel costs by calling for a more rapid restructuring of the fleet to make it more efficient before it is too late. The Commission says that the current difficulties have their roots in a structural mismatch between the size of the fleet and the sustainable level of fishing possibilities. The Communication rules out the possibility of operating aid or fuel subsidies.

6. The European Council ratified the EC-Seychelles Fisheries Partnership Agreement which provides fishing opportunities for tuna purse seiners (France 17, Spain 22, and Italy 1 vessels) and surface longliners (Spain 2, France 5 and Portugal 5 vessels).

7. In a speech, Joe Borg, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner, explained some of the actions to be take under the new Integrated Maritime Policy of the EU. Ideas included a barrier-free European Maritime Transport Space, guidelines for the application of environmental legislation to port development, a European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research, and measures to promote ecosystem-based fisheries and eliminate destructive and pirate fishing practices.

8. Commissioner Borg gave another speech at the Maritime Day Stakeholder Conference, Brussels, 19 May 2008, to celebrate the first ever European Maritime Day. Looking at the oceans with a fresh outlook, he announced a Ministerial Conference on Maritime Policy in Brest, and Bio-Marine conferences in Marseille and Toulon, to be held under the forthcoming French Presidency.

Fish hygiene

9. Rapid alerts were notified for failure to comply with health conditions for 31 consignments of fishery products during May 2008. These included consignments from Turkey (smoked trout fillets), Vietnam (blue shark), Croatia (fresh mackerel), Thailand (frozen cuttlefish), United States (stewed monkfish liver) and Spain (frozen cooked shelled mussels, and frozen swordfish). Fraudulent health certificates were detected in association with a consignment of frozen whole fish from Thailand,

10. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Fiji in July 2007, with regard to meeting the conditions for supply of fishery products to the EU market, following a previous mission in March 2006 which found many deficiencies. Legislation was still non-compliant; a new act had not been implemented. Competent Authority officials had only limited knowledge of EC requirements. Fishing vessels were not registered with the Competent Authority and many vessels supplying products to the Community market were flagged by China, Vanuatu and Taiwan. There were no guarantees of compliance from China and Taiwan, and Vanuatu is not authorised to supply fishery products to the EC. HACCP plans were approved by the Competent Authority without written assessment and they demonstrated important deficiencies. There was no evidence of inspection of landing sites, and no official analysis of water, or monitoring of other hazards. One establishment was allowed to export to the EC without being listed, and health certificates were issued for unfit fishery products (excessive heavy metals). Out of 4 establishments visited, only one was considered compliant with EC requirements. Given the lack of controls over the whole production chain, and especially with regard to heavy metals and histamine checks in large pelagic fish (the main species exported), the FVO mission concluded that serious health risks to EC consumers were likely to occur. As a result of the findings of the mission, the Commission moved to ban imports from Fiji from 24th May 2008 by amending the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 2076/2005. A grace period of 6 weeks is permitted to allow import of products already consigned.

11. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Albania in June 2007 with regard to the health conditions for supply of fishery products and bivalve molluscs to the EU market, following a previous mission in March 2006 which found many deficiencies. Legislation is still considered to be insufficient, in terms of powers of the Competent Authority and the maximum residue levels of important contaminants, such as heavy metals. There was no evidence that inspectors had been trained on fishery product hygiene conditions, and no evidence of central supervision of regional inspectors. Documentation was poorly filed and controlled. The Competent Authority appeared to lack understanding of the EC requirement for bivalve mollusc controls. The nominated reference and testing laboratory could not demonstrate the commencement of accreditation steps. Non-reference testing methods were applied and sampling was insufficient. Although numerous samples had been taken for residue monitoring, they had not been tested due to lack of reagents. Key instruments had not been calibrated since 2004. Despite receiving HACCP training from FAO in 2006, only one out of 7 establishments visited had any HACCP documentation. No sanctions were applied to non-compliant establishments. The Competent Authority permitted live bivalve molluscs to be sent to market, even when excessive levels of faecal contamination were detected. Landing sites were not under the control of the Competent Authority. The Competent Authority was required to submit an action plan of corrective measures, and a six-monthly report on progress with implementation.

12. DG SANCO of the European Commission launched the latest programme under its "Better Training for Safer Food" initiative, on 12-16 May. One workshop on hygiene and controls for meat and meat products was held in Toulouse, France and another on hygiene and controls for fishery products and live bivalve molluscs was held in Vigo, Spain. Both workshops were directed at participants from EU Member States, candidate countries and third countries. A total of 15 five-day workshops will be held within this programme, with five workshops running within each module. Fishery products and live bivalve molluscs workshops will all be held in Vigo. The remaining sessions are scheduled for 23-27 June, 7-11 July, 22-26 September and 13-17 October.

13. The Commission proposed a draft regulation to amend the MRLs for heavy metals in food stuffs. The proposed amendments include a new MRL for cadmium in swordfish and anchovy (0.3mg/kg). New MRLs are also proposed for mercury in certain species of fish.

14. Following reports of high levels of dioxins and PCBs in canned fish liver, the Commission has discussed the possibility of amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs, with a view to establishing a maximum residue level. A MRL of 25 pg/g wet weight for the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs (WHO-PCDD/F - PCB- TEQ) was proposed, but Member States were divided as to whether this was too high, too low, or just right. After reconsideration of the matter, the Commission agreed on the proposal by a qualified majority.

15. The European Commission published a "Community Strategy for Dioxins, Furans and Polychlorinated Biphenyls". The document sets out the extent of the problem, describes the measures taken by the Community, and sets out plans for short and medium term actions to reduce and control human exposure.

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