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July 2009

Common Fisheries Policy

1. 1. Commissioner Borg discusses individually tradable fishing rights for the EU
2. EU's Fisheries Control Agency plans more joint deployments
3. EU ratifies NEAFC amendments; includes precautionary approach
4. EU controls on bottom fishing and closed areas brought into line with NAFO
5. Commission hosts tuna RFMO meeting; regulations aligned but no fleet freeze
6. Commission updates list of IUU vessels in the North Atlantic
7. Commission adopts long-term management plan for Biscay anchovy
8. Commission hosts public seminar on research on EU fish stocks
9. Commission amends 2008 and 2009 multi-annual fish quotas
10. Stop fishing notices issued to Spanish and German vessels
11. Swedish EU Presidency sets programme; plans new fisheries control regulation
12. Commissioner Borg speaks to Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions

Fish hygiene

13. During July 2009, 45 consignments of fishery products subject to rapid alerts
14. DG SANCO celebrates 30 years of Rapid Alerts; new database launched
15. RASFF Annual report shows 260 notices for fishery products in 2008
16. FVO announces inspections for rest of 2009; 12 fishery product missions
17. Commission reports on implementation of food hygiene regulations and HACCP
18. DG SANCO updates food hygiene guidance, includes import guidance
19. FVO reports on controls for fishery products in Indonesia; mostly satisfactory
20. EFSA publishes first annual report on pesticide residues in food
21. EFSA Panel reports on food safety aspects of stunning and killing fish
22. EFSA panel publishes a scientific opinion on amnesic shellfish poisoning
23. Commission considers reducing mercury limits in animal feeds
24. Commission approves new food ingredient from Antarctic kill

Common Fisheries Policy

1. 1. At a plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee, held to discuss the fisheries programme of the Swedish presidency of the EU, Commissioner Borg gave a speech outlining the need for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, and discussed some of the issues and options raised in the Commissions Green Paper. He indicated that the approach of setting annual TACs and quotas, with effort restrictions as a complementary instrument, may no longer provide the most effective model for the management of Community fisheries. He discussed the possibility of a system of individually tradable rights, which could function within TAC limits, but use effort allowances (days at sea) as a means of limiting catches. The effort allocations could be based on current relative stability keys, and could allow vessels to land all they caught. He also pointed out the importance of the economic dimension of fisheries policy, and that future profitability will have to come from increased productivity, meaning smaller fleets and therefore the outstanding need to address over-capacity in the EC fleet. He indicated that the sector must brace itself for a probable loss of on-board jobs as a result of fleet adjustment.

2. The Community Fisheries Control Agency hosted a three day seminar in Vigo, attended by representatives of 20 Member States, the European Commission and the CFCA. The seminar was to discuss progress in the 2 years since its founding and the next steps. Discussion focused on the further strengthening of Joint Deployment Plans (fisheries controls undertaken by teams of inspectors from the CFCA and different Member States), control performance indicators, risk analysis in control, enforcement strategies, and best practices in coordination of JDPs. A similar annual assessment seminar will become a regular feature of the Agency's workplan.

3. The European Council ratified the amendments to the NEAFC Convention adopted by the NEAFC in 2004. These amendments bring sedentary species within the scope of the convention, and ensure that stocks are managed for the long-term, so as to provide sustainable economic, environmental and social benefits. In future NEAFC decisions will take into account the precautionary approach, the ecosystem approach, and the need to conserve marine biological diversity. The amendment also introduces a formal dispute settlement procedure.

4. Following decisions made by the contracting parties to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) at its 30th annual meeting held in September 2008, the European Council passed a regulation amending EC law relating to controls on bottom fishing, closed areas to ensure seamount protection, the definition of vulnerable marine ecosystems, labelling requirements and port state measures against IUU fishing.

5. The European Commission hosted a meeting in Spain of the five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). The parties gave a clear endorsement to the 'Kobe process' to improve and streamline international management of high-seas tuna fisheries, and agreed steps to align their regulations more closely according to current best practices. Whilst welcoming the developments the Commission regretted that the meeting was unable to reach consensus on an immediate freeze on the capacity of the global tuna fleet.

6. The Commission updated the list of vessels identified as being engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries in the North Atlantic. It now includes 21 vessels flagged by Cyprus, Sierra Leone, Panama, Guinea Conakry, Togo, Russia and Georgia.

7. The European Commission adopted a proposal for a long-term plan to manage the anchovy stock in the Bay of Biscay (which has been closed since 2005). The plan is based on a harvest control rule for setting annual fishing possibilities, to be calculated on the basis of stock surveys to be made just before the fishing season opens on 1 July each year. The rule will mean that whenever the spawning biomass falls below 24,000 tonnes this will trigger a fishery closure.

8. The European Commission hosted a one-day public seminar on the current state of fish stocks in European waters, held on 23 July in Brussels. The aim of the seminar was to discuss scientific research in EU fisheries, and how it should be applied in practice.

9. The Commission approved a regulation amending a number of fish quotas allocated to EC Member States for 2008 and 2009, according to a multi-annual approach, applicable where quota was over-or under-caught in 2008.

10. Due to exhaustion of quota, stop fishing notices were published for Spanish vessels fishing for mackerel and blue ling, and German vessels fishing for anglerfish.

11. The Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers met in Brussels on 13th July and received a presentation on the work programme of the Swedish Presidency in relation to fisheries. In the autumn, the Presidency aims to conclude negotiations on a new fisheries control regulation, which is currently being negotiated in the Council working group. Sweden will also chair the annual negotiations on the TAC and Quotas Regulation in December, and intends to keep all current recovery and management plans.

12. Commissioner Borg gave a speech at the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions, held in the Azores, at which he discussed the role of an integrated maritime policy in the development of maritime regional economies. He outlined the need for further work in the implementation of the Maritime Safety Package and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Fish hygiene

13. During July 2009, rapid alerts were notified by Member States for failure to comply with health conditions for 45 consignments of fishery products, including canned bivalve molluscs from Chile, mussels from Denmark, Ireland and Spain, frozen squid from Falkland Islands, frozen whole shrimp from Madagascar, lobster from Cuba and frozen pangasius fillets from Vietnam.

14. DG SANCO of the European Commission held the conference "Keeping an eye on your food", to celebrate 30 years of the operation of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). The conference was attended by representatives from 80 countries, Member States' and third countries' officials, and representatives of consumer organisations and food and feed business operators' associations. The Commission presented a new searchable online database of RASFF notifications, and a commemorative booklet on the RASFF.

15. DG SANCO published the RASFF Annual report for 2008, setting out the number and types of rapid alerts received. Fish, crustaceans and molluscs accounted for 20% of the alert notices in 2008 and 11% of the border rejections of food consignments. Out of a total of 3,162 notifications, fishery products accounted for 260, 90 of which were due to heavy metal contamination, 37 due to parasites and 37 due to "biocontamination". Just four alerts in fishery products were due to illegal or excessive veterinary medicinal products. China, Turkey, Iran and India were the countries of origin which accounted for most alerts overall.

16. The Food and Veterinary Office published its inspection programme for the second half of 2009. Missions to assess health conditions for fishery products will take place in Canada, China, Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Israel, Peru, Uruguay, Libya, Mauritius, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone.

17. The Commission submitted a report to the European Parliament and to the Council, reviewing the experience gained from the application of the 2004 revision of the EC's food hygiene regulations, and considering whether the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements should be extended to food business operators in the primary production area. The report finds a number of ongoing problems in the implementation of the hygiene package. In relation to fishery products, Member States face continuing difficulties with the listing and controls of third country vessels for which the responsibility for inspection has been delegated to a country other than the flag state. The extension of HACCP to primary production is generally considered to be impracticable. The report leaves the Commission to develop specific proposals in response to the findings.

18. DG SANCO has updated the guidance documents regarding the implementation of the 2004 food hygiene package. New guidelines are published on a) the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs; b) the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 on the hygiene of food of animal origin; c) the implementation of procedures based on the HACCP principles in certain food businesses; and d) key questions related to import requirements and the new rules on food hygiene and official food controls.

19. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO published its report on the control system for fishery products in Indonesia, following its mission in February 2009. The findings indicate that the Directorate General for Fishery Products Processing and Marketing (the Indonesian competent authority) and the Provincial Laboratories for Fish Inspection and Quality Control have implemented a system of official controls which is satisfactory in most respects. There was a notable reduction of the number of Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed notifications concerning Indonesian fishery products during the last years. The recommendations of the 2007 mission report can be considered to be generally addressed. However, shortcomings were noted in relation to hygiene controls on fishing vessels and in some listed establishments and the monitoring of chemical contaminants. The system cannot be considered yet to fully reach the standards required by Community legislation concerning third countries from which imports of fishery products are permitted.

20. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its first Annual Report on Pesticide Residues, which provides an overview on the pesticide residues in food, based on residue monitoring programmes implemented during 2007. More than 74,000 samples of nearly 350 different types of food were analysed for pesticide residues in 2007. The study does not include fishery products, but focuses on fruits and vegetables. The study shows that the majority of the samples complied with the legal maximum residue levels (MRLs) of pesticides.

21. The EFSA Scientific Panel has published an opinion regarding the food safety implications of different stunning and killing methods of farmed fish. This follows the adoption of a number of technical reports concerning the species-specific welfare aspects of the stunning and killing of farmed fish published by the Animal Health and Welfare Panel (AHAW), Although there is insufficient data to provide a definitive view, the panel concludes that measures intended to preserve fish welfare by avoiding stress during stunning and killing, and improving environmental conditions, are expected to have a positive impact on the safety of the food product.

22. The EFSA Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain has published a scientific opinion on domoic acid (a marine biotoxin which causes amnesic shellfish poisoning - ASP - in humans). Although the toxicological database is limited, the panel established an acute reference dose of 30 µg DA/kg of body weight. Based on current consumption and occurrence data, the panel estimated that there is a chance of about 1 % of exceeding the acute reference dose when consuming shellfish currently available on the European market (assuming a 400 g portion of shellfish). The implication is that the current limit of 20mg/kg is too high, and may need to be further reduced.

23. The Commission has discussed the possibility of amending the Annex to Directive 2002/32/EC on undesirable substances in animal feeds. The proposal is to reduce the level of mercury to a level of 0,1 mg/kg for compound feed, with the exception of compound feed for fish (0,2 mg/kg) and compound feed for dog, cat and fur animals (0,3 mg/kg).

24. The Commission approved a Decision authorising the placing on the market of a lipid extract from Antarctic Krill Euphausia superba as a novel food ingredient under Regulation (EC) N° 258/97 on Novel Foods. Some Member States had expressed concerns regarding allergenicity and the need for labelling.

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