FishFiles Lite Newsletter
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February 2009

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Commission announces CFP to be reformed in 2012; may include relative stability
2. EU Plan of Action on sharks adopted; new measures planned
3. European Commission acts on ICCAT measures for Eastern bluefin tuna
4. Scottish Fishermen win case against European Commission over days at sea dispute
5. Commission repeals obsolete Community fisheries legislation
6. Cod fishing effort limits removed from some areas of Baltic Sea
7. EU Commissioner Dr. Borg visits Normandy, and speaks to Peripheral Regions

Fish hygiene

8. During February 2009, fifty rapid alerts notified for unsafe fishery products.
9. New rules for fish oils for human consumption come into force in May 2009.
10. Commission reveals Cameroon refused FVO visit in 2008; imports banned
11. FVO report on Malaysia; substantial non-compliance; some imports suspended
12. FVO report on Ghana; standards "not always" equivalent
13. FVO report on Turkey; clear and systematic controls, except in some areas
14. Commission considers changes to MRLs for mercury in animal feeds
15. Commission comments on CODEX standards for abalone and smoked fish
16. EFSA considers the sentient fish

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Dr. Joe Borg, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries announced the Commission's proposal to publish a Green Paper, as a prelude to reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2012. He made the announcement in a speech to the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament on 10 February 2009. The intention is to ensure better international governance of seas and oceans, fight illegal fishing, improve cooperation with partners and adopt a more consistent regional approach by introducing a) simpler and more effective systems; b) greater ownership of the policy for the industry and stakeholders; c) a deeper regional dimension for the CFP; and d) changes to management of EC fishing activities beyond EU waters. Dr. Borg announced that "we should not shy away from revisiting even the most deeply enshrined elements of our policy, such as relative stability".

2. The European Commission adopted an EU Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (including skates and rays). It includes measures to improve data collection and scientific advice, strengthen management and technical measures, and to reinforce controls of the shark finning ban, which came into force in EU waters, and for all EU vessels wherever they fish, in 2003.

3. The European Commission adopted a proposal to transpose into Community law the revised multi-annual recovery plan for Eastern bluefin tuna. This was adopted by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) at its annual meeting in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2008 and includes shorter purse seine season, freeze on fishing and farming capacity at 2007/2008 levels, 100% observer coverage for vessels >24m and individual quotas.

4. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) won a case taken to the EU Ombudsman on behalf of Scottish fishermen against the European Commission. The Ombudsman found that in 2007 the Commission had made an administrative error which reduced the amount of days they could spend at sea as part of the cod recovery plan, from 280 to 250.

5. The Commission passed a regulation repealing obsolete Community fisheries legislation for reasons of "legal security"; repeals include measures on compensation for tuna fishermen, minimum sizes for crab, and private storage aid for squid amongst others.

6. The EC passed a Regulation excluding certain areas of the Baltic Sea from the fishing effort limits and catch recording obligations required under the cod recovery plan, by reason of catches in 2008 being below a minimum threshold level.

7. Dr. Borg, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries visited Normandy and met with fishers at the port of Barfleur, followed by a speech to the Conference of Maritime Peripheral Regions and a tour of Europe's largest mollusc hatchery at Gatteville.

Fish hygiene

8. During February 2009, fifty rapid alerts were notified to the Commission in respect of consignments of fishery products which failed to comply with food safety conditions. These included consignments from France (chilled red gurnard, brown seaweed capsules, chilled monkfish tails, crab), Portugal (canned tuna fillets, frozen swordfish), Denmark (chilled cod fillets, hake, frozen cooked shelled shrimps), Spain (chilled hake, cooked prawn tails in brine, frozen boneless skinless swordfish loins), Netherlands (frozen slices of swordfish), Italy (live clams), Latvia (canned sprats in oil), United Kingdom (frozen Norway lobster) and Ireland (frozen Norway lobster).

9. The Commission published an information note on the application to third countries of the hygiene conditions for the production of fish oils for human consumption, clarifying the legal requirements which will come into force after the expiry of the derogation for hygiene approval under Regulation 854/2004 after 30 April 2009.

10. The Commission removed the derogation for Cameroon from Regulation 854/2004, which requires that third countries meet sanitary conditions at least equivalent to those in the Regulation. Cameroon has not informed the Commission of progress in meeting the conditions since serious shortcomings were identified by the Food and Veterinary Office in 2003, and subsequently declined a further inspection in 2008. Cameroon therefore may not supply fishery products to any EC country, under community or bilateral arrangements.

11. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Malaysia in April 2008, following up a previous mission in 2005 regarding health conditions for the imports by the EC of fish and fishery products, including live fish and ornamental fish. The mission found no documented control systems for animal health conditions on ornamental fish farms; no requirement for record keeping and not all farms were subject to inspection. There was no active surveillance of fish diseases. In relation to sanitary conditions two thirds of vessels and establishments were found to be non-compliant; testing laboratories were accredited but a wide range of official controls were not carried out in equivalence with EC regulations. Most of the recommendations from previous missions had not been addressed. The Commission suspended imports of live fish and required the submission of an action plan to address the deficient sanitary controls.

12. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Ghana in October 2008, following up a previous mission in 2005, regarding health conditions for the imports by the EC of fish and fishery products. Several shortcomings were identified, and there was no significant improvement in official controls since 2005. Several approved establishments were found to be non-compliant in terms of hygiene conditions, but had not been refused export certification. Non-equivalent test methods were used for histamine testing. Laboratories were not accredited. The mission concluded that standards could not always be considered equivalent, and the Commission required the submission of an action plan to address the deficiencies identified.

13. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Turkey in October 2008, regarding health conditions for the imports by the EC of fishery and aquaculture products. The mission found a system of clear and systematic controls with regular checks and follow ups, and establishments in overall satisfactory conditions. However there was a lack of adequate controls on histamine, no inspection of vessels and checks on HACCP systems were weak. The CA was asked to address the deficiencies through an action plan to be submitted to the Commission.

14. Following an EFSA risk assessment on heavy metal contaminants, the Commission has considered reducing the current maximum level of mercury in feeding stuffs produced by the processing of fish or other marine animals from 0.5 mg/kg to 0.3 mg/kgm, and increasing the current maximum levels in feed for fish from 0.1 mg/kg to 0.15 mg/kg .

15. The Commission commented on the draft CODEX standard for Abalone and the draft CODEX Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products (including Smoked Fish). With regard to the latter, the Commission commented on differences in structure and definitions when compared with the Draft CODEX standards on smoked fish.

16. Following the request from the European Commission to deliver a Scientific Opinion on the animal welfare aspects of husbandry systems for farmed fish EFSA has now adopted a scientific opinion on the general approach to fish welfare and to the concept of sentience in fish. This concluded that there is scientific evidence to support the assumption that some fish species have brain structures potentially capable of experiencing pain and fear. It recommended that a range of welfare indicators be adopted for fish species, as well as emphasising the need for more research.

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