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FISHERIES POLICY AND FISH HYGIENE
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April 2009

Common Fisheries Policy



1. Commission launches Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Paper
2. Commission publishes Communication on the status and future of aquaculture in the EU
3. Council passes Regulation setting out the multi-annual recovery plan for bluefin tuna
4. Commission announces Specific Control and Inspection Programme for bluefin tuna conservation measures
5. EU Parliament resolves to adopt Commission's proposals for reform of the fisheries control system in the EC
6. General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean adopts raft of new conservation measures
7. IOTC advances observer programme, but rejects stricter conservation measures for shark, tunas and swordfish
8. Commission adopts Pelagic Regional Advisory Council proposals for long-term management plan for horse mackerel
9. Commission expresses concern regarding Iceland's unilateral declaration of a North Atlantic mackerel quota
10. NEAFC establishes list of vulnerable marine ecosystems to be no-trawl areas
11. Commission decides Cyprus, Malta, Austria, Romania and Slovakia do not require eel management plans
12. Bulgarian vessels to stop fishing for turbot in the Black Sea
13. Council decides frozen backbones of salmon to be excluded from anti-dumping duties
14. Agriculture and Fisheries Council adopts an Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks
15. Commission repeals obsolete Decisions on fishing capacity adjustment
16. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries visits European Seafood 2009 Exhibition
17. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries discusses fish quotas with French fishermen

Fish hygiene


18. Forty rapid alerts notified in April to the European Commission in respect of non-compliant consignments of fishery products
19. The FVO of DG SANCO published its programme of inspections for 2009; 26 third countries to be inspected for fishery products
20. The FVO of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; control system compliant but not implemented
21. The FVO of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Algeria; official controls showed significant non-compliances
22. The FVO of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Bangladesh; confidence in the residue status of consignments exported to the EC
23. The FVO of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Barbados; substantive non-compliance in many aspects of control system
24. EFSA reported on stunning and slaughter methods for eel, seabass and seabream, salmon and trout; significant concerns
25. EFSA reported on dietary exposure and toxicity assessment methods and models for smoke flavouring products
26. EFSA reported on the safety of three smoke concentrates; two raise food safety concerns
27. EFSA reported on saxitoxins in bivalve shellfish and the analytical methods used for its detection
28. EFSA reported on the operator safety aspects of a bacterial feed additive; considered to be non-irritant
29. Commission discusses possibility of reducing mercury limits in fish meal and animal feeds
30. Commission discusses authorisation of oil rich in DHA derived micro-algae as a food supplement
31. Commission comments on proposed Codex procedures for adding a species to existing Codex Standard
32. Commission announces EUR10 million for 2 year programme in Africa under "Better Training for Safer Food"

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The Commission has launched the much heralded Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Paper, just 7 years after the previous CFP reform in 2002. Like its predecessor, the paper addresses the limited impact of fisheries management measures in restoring fish stocks to sustainable levels. The paper recognises that the problems arise from a continuing over-capacity in fishing, and suggests that a once and for all approach to capacity reduction should be implemented. It speaks of the need for greater regional and local management decision making, and even questions the long established principle of relative stability, which guarantees fixed shares of fishery resources for EC Member States. In several speeches on the subject, Commissioner Borg stated that "there must be no such thing as a no-go area in the debate on the future of the CFP".

2. The Commission published a Communication on the status and future of aquaculture in the European Union. Despite the progress in building a sustainable sector, aquaculture production in the EU has remained at a relatively low level. The Communication considers ways to improve the sector's competitiveness, sustainability and governance and proposes more support for research and technological development, and enhancement of the sector's image and its governance.

3. The EC passed a Council Regulation setting out the multi-annual recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the E.Atlantic and Mediterranean, implementing in Community law the decisions of the 16th Special Meeting the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in November 2008. The new measures include individual quotas for vessel >24m, the requirement for individual fishing plans, the requirement for EC Member States to prepare individual management plans for fishing capacity for the period up to 2013, a longer closed fishing season, continuing bans on spotter planes and a minimum fish size of 30 kg or 115cm.

4. The Commission also announced a Specific Control and Inspection Programme to monitor the implementation and enforcement of bluefin tuna conservation measures. The programme will be implemented by the European Commission, the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA), and the Member States involved in the fishery and will involve 12 large patrol vessels, 17 coastal patrol vessels and 12 aircraft. There will be 274 days of control campaign at sea, 242 days on land and 70 using aerial surveillance.

5. The EU Parliament passed a resolution adopting most of the Commission's proposals (made in November 2008) for a major revision of the fisheries control system in the EC. Amongst new measures, the proposal adopts a definition of "recreational fisheries" and foresees that where such fisheries have a significant impact, catches could count against the quota. The proposal also foresees a cross-compliance system, to enable the Commission to ensure that all Member States implement CFP rules equally.

6. The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean adopted a number of new measures, including the setting up of a GFCM fishing fleet register and on a minimum mesh size of at least 40 mm in trawl fisheries. In addition the Parties agreed on the mandatory equipping of all vessels measuring >15m overall length with a satellite-based monitoring system. An overall reduction by at least 10% of the fishing effort all over the Mediterranean was also agreed.

7. At a meeting in Bali, Indonesia from 30 March to 3 April 2009, the IOTC advanced proposals for the EC-backed observer programme and called on the international community to give its full support to fighting piracy in the region. However, the IOTC failed to agree on stricter catch limits on tropical tunas and swordfish, and on measures to improve data reporting in relation to shark catches and shark-finning practices, causing the Commission to express its disappointment.

8. Following proposals from the Pelagic Regional Advisory Council, the European Commission adopted a long-term plan for the sustainable management of horse mackerel (average catch of some 140,000 tonnes) across the eastern Atlantic from the Iberian Peninsula to the northern North Sea. The plan provides rules for setting fishing opportunities based on a biological indicator rather than on full scientific stock assessment (in this case the number of eggs produced by the stock) thus simplifying data requirements for management decision making.

9. The European Commission expressed concern regarding Iceland's declaration of a unilateral North Atlantic mackerel quota for Iceland of 112,000 tonnes for 2009, saying that the decision undermines the multilateral management of the stock by the EC, Norway and the Faroe Islands since 1999.

10. The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission considered a proposal to establish a list of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) to be closed to bottom-gear fishing activities. In the event a list was established, but did not include as many locations as proposed by the EC.

11. The Commission passed a Decision derogating Cyprus, Malta, Austria, Romania and Slovakia from the requirements to prepare an eel management plan, by reason that they are not territories which are the natural habitat of this species.

12. A stop fishing notice was published establishing a prohibition of fishing for turbot by Bulgarian vessels in the Black Sea, effective from 26 April 2008.

13. The European Council passed a regulation which re-defines the scope of anti-dumping duties on salmon products originating from Norway. After considering the matter, the EC has decided that frozen backbones of salmon do not share the same basic physical characteristics as salmon, and that they do not have the same basic end-uses. The Regulation therefore excludes these products from the anti-dumping measures.

14. The Agriculture and Fisheries Council adopted an Action Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks at its meeting of 23/24 April. The resolution endorsed the approach proposed by the Commission, and invited a more detailed timetable of specific measures. The Council also considered preliminary reactions to the Green Paper on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and discussed the Commission's Communication on Sustainable Aquaculture.

15. The Commission repealed a number of obsolete decisions regarding the structural adjustment of fishing capacity in a number of Member States.

16. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Dr. Joe Borg, visited the European Seafood 2009 Exhibition in Brussels. He also met with the Russian authorities and signed an Agreement between the EU and the Russian Federation on cooperation in fisheries and the conservation of the living marine resources in the Baltic Sea.

17. Dr.Joe Borg also met with the French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and a delegation of French fishermen, regarding artisanal fisheries, arrangements governing fishing quotas and reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. Commissioner Borg pointed out the immutability of annual fish quotas once they were agreed by Member States.


Fish hygiene

18. Forty rapid alerts were notified to the European Commission in respect of consignments of fishery products which did not comply with EC food safety requirements. These included consignments from Vietnam (frozen albacore steaks), Russian Federation(frozen pike perch and frozen ungutted rudd), United States (salmon and sole fillets), China (frozen mackerel) and Sweden (frozen baked Baltic herring fillets).

19. The Food and veterinary Office of DG SANCO has published its programme of inspections for 2009. Inspection missions in relation to fishery products will be conducted in Algeria, Benin, Cape Verde, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Gabon, Guinea, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Albania, Japan, Morocco, and Peru. In relation to live bivalve molluscs missions will be undertaken to Canada, Greenland, United States, Uruguay, and Vietnam.

20. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on its mission to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2008, following up a previous mission in 2000 regarding health conditions for the imports by the EC of fish and fishery products. The mission found significant progress with improvements in legislation and organisation of the competent authority. However, the control system was not being implemented at the time of the mission and its effectiveness could not be evaluated. As a result, St. Vincent and Grenadines cannot be considered for inclusion in the countries listed under Commission Decision 2006/766. Recommendations were made regarding training of inspection staff, HACCP implementation and hygiene standards for fishery products.

21. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on its mission to Algeria in January 2009, following up a previous mission in 2003 regarding health conditions for the imports by the EC of fish and fishery products. The mission found that the structures of the shore based establishments was satisfactory, but the system of official controls showed significant non-compliances. These included lack of a legal requirement for HACCP, lack of histamine controls, no inspection or control of supplying vessels, non-conformities in processing and ice plants and laboratories not accredited to ISO 17025. The FVO made recommendations to be addressed in an action plan to be submitted by the Competent Authority.

22. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on its mission to Bangladesh in November 2008, following up previous missions in 2005 and 2007 regarding health conditions for the imports by the EC of fish and fishery products and residues in aquaculture products. The mission found that the national residue monitoring system has been significantly strengthened, but that several important parameters were still not subject to monitoring, and inappropriate marker residues were analysed in some cases. Causes of violative residue levels were not determined and there was no legal power to take corrective actions if required. Despite the efforts of the Competent Authority, chloramphenicol and nitrofuran residues were still prevalent in the samples analysed. However, with some caveats, the mission considered that the pre-export testing programme for residues gives confidence in the residue status of consignments exported to the EC. The mission found that in general the public health controls applied to the fishery sector were largely equivalent to EC requirements, although some deficiencies were notified to the Competent Authority and recommendations made for their correction.

23. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on its mission to Barbados in November 2008 regarding health conditions for the imports by the EC of fish and fishery products. The mission found that the legislation in place could not be regarded as equivalent to EC requirements, and that no records were kept of inspections for approval of establishments, nor of any follow up activities. There was only limited evidence of any analytical checks being carried out, and no tests were conducted on ciguatera toxins or on water quality. Numerous deficiencies were noted in processing establishments and not all had a HACCP system in place. The Commission concluded that Barbados is not able to provide the guarantees and asked for corrective measures to be addressed through an action plan before making a decision regarding inclusion of Barbados on the list under Commission Decision 2006/766.

24. At the request of the Commission, the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare reported on animal welfare aspects of stunning and slaughter of eel, seabass and seabream, salmon and trout. Different stunning methods were reviewed. No methods are available to effectively stun eels, but electrical stunning was found to be optimal. Percussive and electrical stunning of salmon and trout were found to optimise welfare conditions, although both are subject to variables which reduce their effectiveness. The study expressed concern over some methods of slaughter; salt and ice, asphyxiation and CO2 asphyxiation were found to cause severe distress. The report recommends that standard codes of practice should be introduced governing welfare aspects of slaughter of these species, along with robust indicators of welfare. There is also a need to develop a satisfactory stunning method for seabass and bream, as none of the present commercial methods are considered to provide good welfare conditions.

25. At the request of the Commission, the EFSA Panel on Food Contact Material, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids has reported on dietary exposure and toxicity assessment methods for smoke flavouring products. This sets out a methodology for assessing the safety of different smoke flavourings, based on tests which assess the toxicity of different levels of 15 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) using two models; the Smoke Flavouring Theoretical Added Maximum Daily Intake (SMK-TAMDI) model and the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition model (SMK-EPIC) model.

26. At the request of the Commission, the EFSA Panel on Food Contact Material, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids has reported on the safety of three smoke concentrates derived from oak, hickory and beech. It concluded that these flavourings are genotoxic in vitro, but there is no evidence of genotoxicity in vivo. Based on an exposure assessment, one of the additives (Smoke Concentrate 8090451) was considered not to raise any food safety concerns, but two others (Unismoke and Zesti) raised concerns regarding their safety, given the absence of long term toxicity studies and the relative low margin of safety based on toxicity studies in rats.

27. At the request of the Commission, the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain gave a scientific opinion on the safety aspects of saxitoxin group of marine biotoxins in bivalve shellfish, which causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans. The panel proposes different toxicity equivalency factors for different toxins. Although assessment of acute toxicity should be based on portion size rather than a long-term average consumption, the study found that it was not possible to obtain a reliable and representative estimation of dietary exposure to STX-group toxins. It also considered that both the mouse bioassay (MBA) and the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) HPLC method (so-called Lawrence method) of testing should continue to be used for official testing, but that the LC-MS-MS method also had potential once validated.

28. The EFSA Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed also gave a scientific opinion on the operator safety aspects of a bacterial feed additive (Bactocell). The product is considered to be non-irritant to the skin and eyes of users, but that there is a risk of respiratory sensitisation.

29. The Commission discussed the current provisions with regard to mercury levels in fish meal and animal feeds, with a view to revising the limits. A new regime is proposed, with a maximum limit of 0.5 mg/kg for feedingstuffs produced from fish or other marine animals, and a general limit of 0.1 mg/kg for compound feeds (except for feeds for fish, dogs, cats and fur animals, for which higher limits are proposed).

30. The Commission discussed the possible authorisation of oil rich in DHA (docohexaenoic acid, and omega-3 fatty acid) from derived micro-algae (Schizochytrium spp. and possibly Ulkenia spp.) being used as food supplement. The Commission is concerned regarding excessive omega 3 fatty acid intakes by consumers. Member States agreed that the use of this material was not likely to add to DHA intakes.

31. The Commission commented on the draft proposals for a procedure to include additional species within an existing Codex Standard. The procedure will require the submission of an evidential dossier containing information about the species, its distribution, processing and marketing, and comparison with existing species covered by the standard.

32. The Commission has announced a new series of activities under the Better Training for Safer Food Programme, under which it has allocated EUR10million for capacity building activities in Africa over the next 2 years. The activities target the public and private sector operators playing a role in the SPS systems at national, regional and continental levels, with the objective of transferring technical expertise and policy advice in areas of food safety and quality across Africa.


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