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June 2010

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Commissioner Damanaki sets out CFP reform ideas to Parliament; effort based management for mixed fisheries and tradeable fishing rights are in; decommissioning and market withdrawal subsidies are out.
2. Commission grants EUR30 million towards Member States' fisheries control activities
3. Regulation on technical measures in the Mediterranean comes into force
4. Commission publishes on North Sea plaice box; no clear conservation benefit
5. UN Fish Stocks Agreement failing to meet objectives; new approaches discussed
6. EU and Seychelles agree new protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement.
7. EU and Chile agree on joint management for conservation of swordfish SE Pacific
8. EC member States to ratify the ILO "Work in Fishing Convention 2007
9. Commission proposes EU plan on seabirds mortality by fishing gears
10. Commission launches new fisheries publications page
11. EU Fisheries Ministers criticise Commissions quota proposals for 2011

Fish hygiene

12. Forty three rapid alerts announced for fishery products entering the EU market in June 2010
13. Amendments to requirements for fisheries products under Regulation 853/2004
14. DG SANCO publishes new guidance on import of fishery products
15. EFSA presents scientific opinion on ciguatoxin risks in EU caught fish
16. EFSA presents scientific opinion on toxic cyclic imines risks in EU caught fish
17. DG SANCO publishes 2009 report on "Better Training for Safer Food Programme"
18. EFSA publishes 2009 annual report; 636scientific outputs
19. Most of Norway declared free from IHN and VHS salmonid diseases.
20. New organic aquaculture standards and labelling implemented
21. Commission updates list of Community Reference laboratories for residue monitoring

Common Fisheries Policy

1. In two major speeches to the European Parliament on 1st and 7th June 2010, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki set out the Commission's views on the possible directions for CFP reform. The Commission argues that tradeable fishing rights would provide fishers who wish to retire from the fishery with a means to build alternative livelihoods. Average social retirement payments have been sufficient to create the incentive to leave the fishery, whilst public financed vessel scrappage schemes have proved to be an inefficient way to reduce capacity. It appears that the Commission will propose dropping subsidies for decommissioning of vessels. The principles of a future EU tradeable rights scheme are likely to be based on rights which a) are tradable only within a Member State b) are only user rights (not property rights in perpetuity) and will fall back to the Member States after a period and c) have limits in terms of their concentration of ownership. The Commission will propose affirmative action to support smaller vessels, although there is some resistance from some Member States. With regard to fisheries management, the Commissioner indicated that pelagic fisheries are likely to remain subject to TACs and quotas, whereas mixed fisheries should be managed by effort limitation, thus allowing for the implementation of a discard ban. The Commissioner was clear in the commitment to maintain the principle of relative stability in the allocation of fishing rights between Member States, albeit expressed in the allocation of effort rights, rather than quota rights. The Commission further strongly supports the devolution of fisheries management decision making to the Regional Advisory Councils, but indicates that there should be clear conditions on performance. CFP reform should also aim to remove price support for withdrawal and destruction of fish from the market (retaining only storage and processing support) and place greater responsibility on producer organisations. External policy reform will aim at enduring the same standards are applied in external waters, and Fishery Partnership Agreements in future are likely to include clauses on democracy, human rights and social issues.

2. The Commission announced its annual decision on the EU's contribution to Member States' fisheries control inspection and surveillance activities for 2010. Out of a total planned expenditure by Member States of EUR132 million, the EU will provide grants of EUR30 million. The Commission capped the eligible expenditure on fisheries patrol vessels and aircraft to EUR1 million per Member State. Ireland will spend the most on its control plans (EUR51 million), whilst at the other end of the scale, Belgium plans to spend EUR254,000.

3. The Commission reminded Member States that the "Regulation on technical Measures in the Mediterranean", which entered force in January 2007, becomes fully applicable from 1 June 2010. The Regulation applies to Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. The regulation establishes updated technical measures to protect sensitive habitats, prohibit the use of dangerous fishing practices, control types of gear to improve selectivity, sets limits on the minimum size of fish, and prohibits the use of professional fishing nets for recreational fishing. Member States are also required to draw up National Management Plans for the fisheries in their territorial waters. The Commission called for Member States to put all of the measures into full effect as soon as possible.

4. The Commission has published a study undertaken by the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem studies of Netherlands, regarding the effectiveness of the North Sea plaice box, a series of management measures which limit fishing effort (specifically by banning fishing by larger beam trawl vessels) in a specific zone of the North Sea. The study found that the fish stock biomass decreased during the period of study, undermining the credibility of closed areas as a fisheries management tool for this fishery. It concludes that it was very difficult to find any clear conservation benefit derived from the measure.

5. The European Commission participated in a conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, to assess the progress made in implementing the United Nations Convention on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. There is concern that the Convention is not fulfilling its aims, since the many shared fish stocks continue to suffer from overfishing. The delegates discussed new ways of strengthening the management of highly migratory and straddling fish stocks. Although the conference expressed support for the ecosystem approach to fisheries management, is was unable to agree on the need for Marine Protected Areas, nor on how to control the effects of pollution on fish stocks and habitats.

6. The European Commission and the Republic of Seychelles agreed on the content of a new protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the parties, for a 3-year period starting in January 201. The protocol provides for an annual financial contribution of EUR5.6 million from the EU in return for catch of up to 52,000 tonnes of tuna and related species by 60 EU flagged purse seiners long liners.

7. Following negotiations held between the European Commission and the Republic of Chile regarding the conservation of swordfish stocks in the South-Eastern Pacific Ocean, the parties reached agreement on a joint management for the stock. The Agreement recognises the EU/Chile Bilateral Scientific and Technical Committee as the point of contact in matters of common interest regarding conservation of swordfish. The Agreement requires all vessels to operate satellite VMS, but recognises that EC vessels shall not be bound by specific conservation measures prescribing a minimum length. It also sets up a designated ports scheme for EC vessels landing in Chile.

8. The European Council passed a Decision which authorises EC member States to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) "Work in Fishing Convention 2007 ("convention 188"), which aims to improve the working conditions of fishers on board fishing vessels. The Convention establishes minimum international standards for the fishing sector, such as the conditions of service, the right of repatriation, rules on accommodation and food, occupational health and safety, medical care and social security.

9. Following a study by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the European Commission has proposed a European Union action plan to limit the incidental catches of seabirds by fishing gears. The areas of main concern are the longliners and gill net fisheries in the Mediterranean, North and Baltic seas and off the southwest of Ireland. Bird species of concern are the Cory's, Balearic and Yelkouan shearwaters. The Commission announced the intention of proposing a number of potential actions, and to launch a public consultation.

10. The Commission announced the launch of its new publications page, with links to online EU fisheries publications, available for public download and order by mail.

11. The Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers discussed the Commission's proposals for fishing opportunities for 2011, criticising a lack of scientific evidence for some of the quota reductions proposed. Ministers also discussed the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, considering the options presented by the Commission. The Council also discussed low rate of disbursement of the European Fisheries Fund, and the ongoing tough negotiations on mackerel stocks with Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Fish hygiene

12. During June 2010, rapid alerts were notified by Member States for failure to comply with health conditions for 43 consignments of fishery products, including chilled tuna loins from Sri Lanka, fresh anchovy from Croatia,smoked mackerel in oil from Thailand, swordfish fillets and loins and frozen hake from Chile and frozen tuna, blue marlin, hake, sailfish, and kingklip from Namibia.

13. The Commission published amendments to the Annexes of Regulation 853/2004 (concerning the hygiene rules for food of animal origin) which modify the requirements for bivalve mollusc and fisheries products. The changes remove the requirement for classification of harvest areas of gastropod molluscs according to the microbiological quality of the water; require closure of all packages of bivalve molluscs leaving despatch centres, until presented to the final consumer; require marine gastropods to be subject to the same controls as Pectinidae when harvested outside classified production areas. The amendment also extends the requirements for handling fresh fishery products to thawed, unprocessed fishery products and fresh fishery products to which food additives have been added (both of which are excluded from the definition of fresh fishery products). It also removes the requirement that whole fish frozen in brine to be used subsequently for canning, be stored at a temperature of -18ºC. In future, it may stored at a temperature of -9ºC.

14. The European Commission DG SANCO published a new guidance document on requirements for the import into the EU of consignments of fishery products originating from third countries. The document is aimed at staff at EU Border Inspection Posts, and sets out the system for making documentary, integrity and physical checks for compliance with the EU's food safety and animal health rules. It also clarifies a number of important issues with regard to fishery products (e.g. certification requirements when the country of origin is not the country of despatch, and indirect import via transport vessels).

15. The EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain presented its scientific opinion regarding the risks of ciguatoxin (which originates from the benthic dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus toxicus) in fishery products consumed in Europe. Recently ciguatera toxins were identified in amberjack species caught in Canary Islands and Madeira. There are no toxicological studies which permit the setting of a tolerable daily intake, nor an acute reference dose. However, toxic equivalency factors (TEFs) for CTX-group toxins are proposed, as well as a safe level for sensitive individuals of 0.01 µg P-CTX-1 equivalents/kg fish. There are no regulatory limits at present, and the use of the live mouse bioassay as the reference test method remains a concern because of animal welfare issues.

16. EFSA panel on Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain presented its scientific opinion regarding the risks of the acutely toxic cyclic imines (spirolides, gymnodimines, pinnatoxins and pteriatoxins) a family of marine biotoxins present in shellfish, produced by marine dinoflagellates Alexandrium ostenfeldii, and Karenia selliformis. Spirolides and pinnatoxins have been reported in filter feeding shellfish harvested in European waters. The toxicological database for cyclic imines is limited, but they are know to bind and block acetylcholine receptors in the central nervous system. EFSA considers that, whilst the current estimated human exposure to cyclic imines does not raise concerns, there is a need to undertake more work to establish the acute reference dose and to validate methods of analysis other than the live mouse bioassay.

17. The DG SANCO "Better Training for Safer Food Programme" published its annual report for 2009. During the tear the programme supported 63 EU based training activities, 36 in Africa and 43 in other third countries. A total of 6,566 persons (including government officials and industry representatives) received training. In the fishery area, in the EU, the AETS consortium delivered 5 workshops on fishery products. For third country participants, four workshops were held; on fishery products in Myanmar; on requirements for fishing vessels in Chile; on requirements for live bivalve molluscs in Spain; and on marine biotoxins, also in Chile.

18. The European Food Safety Authority published its annual report for 2009. The total number of scientific outputs rose to 636, 68% of which were evaluations of products, substances and claims. Milestones included the first Annual Report on Pesticide Residues in Foods, advice on marine biotoxins and advice on safety of food colours.

19. The EFTA Surveillance Authority declared that Norway (with the exception of two areas) was an approved continental and coastal zone for fish, with regard to freedom from IHN and VHS salmonid diseases.

20. EU rules for organic aquaculture under Regulation 710/2009 came into force at the end of June 2010, setting the organic standards for fish welfare, spawning controls, organic feeds and ecological impacts. In 2008 an estimated 123 certified organic aquaculture operations were in operation in Europe, out of a total of 225 such farms worldwide. New EU rules were also announced on organic food labelling including the requirement to display the new "Euro-Leaf" organic logo (optional for non-packed and imported). The new measures come into force after 2 years.

21. The Commission updated the list of Community Reference laboratories for the analysis of residues of veterinary medicines and chemical elements in foods of animal origin.

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