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May 2012

Common Fisheries Policy

1. High level discussions on coordination of EU/US international fisheries policies
2. EU Fisheries Ministers discuss CFP reform; reservations on MSY timing
3. EU Fisheries Ministers discuss retaining subsidies for fishing vessels
4. EU conference on future of aquaculture; Commission wants to cut out red tape
5. Commissioner Damanaki seeks regional cooperation "not Brussels micro-management"
6. Commission hosts first meeting of 15 RFMOs from around the world
7. Commission amends infraction reporting requirements for bluefin tuna controls
8. Commission commits to applying rules on bluefin; closes purse seine fishery early
9. Commission amends control regime for Baltic cod
10. Commission extends control and inspection programme for cod for one year
11. Spanish and Portuguese surface long line sector oppose ban on shark finning
12. Stop fishing notices published for Swedish, French, Portuguese and Dutch vessels
13. General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean considers Black Sea fisheries
14. Commission amends port state controls on EU vessels operating in NEAFC zone
15. EU agrees to implement ILO Convention on "Work in the fishing sector"
16. Commission orders Spain to revise responsibility for complying with fishing vessel law
17. EU publishes two studies on Icelandic Fisheries; including rights based management
18. Commission grants EUR10.2 million for collection of fisheries data
19. Commission extends derogation on rules of origin for canned fish from Cape Verde
20. European Maritime Day 2012 held on May 20; conference in Gothenburg, Sweden

Fish hygiene

21. Rapid Alerts notified for 45 consignments of fishery products.
22. FVO finds Spanish authorities fail to close toxic bivalve fisheries
23. FVO finds sizeable quantities of dioxin contaminated fish placed on Estonian market
24. FVO reports on Panama; significant deficiencies in vessels and establishments
25. FVO reports on South Africa; no tests for dioxin or histamine in fresh tuna
26. Commission approves 222 permitted health claims to be applied to foods
27. DG SANCO hosts conference on food fraud; reports 5 tonnes of illicit seafood per week
28. Commission discusses proposed EU regulation on permitted
29. EFSA reports on management of food and feed safety crises
30. Commission modifies list of approved food irradiation facilities in third countries
31. Commission expresses concerns over OIE Draft Aquatic Animal Health Code
32. EFSA publishes data dictionaries on food-borne outbreaks and antimicrobial resistance
33. Commission concerned over increasing oyster mortality due to ostreid herpesvirus

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Dr Jane Lubchenco, US Under-Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere visited the European Union, and was hosted by Mrs.Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. They participated in a European Parliament hearing on EU/US cooperation to promote sustainable fisheries management in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and other international fora. Mrs.Damanaki gave a speech " Oceans and Seas: our common future" which emphasised the importance of a joint EU/US approach in the fight against unsustainable fishing. Mrs.Damanaki announced that she intends to sign another Joint Statement on behalf of the EU with Japan in July. After the meeting the two representatives issued a joint statement setting out the continued commitment of the parties to improved coordination and strengthen monitoring and enforcement in the field of fisheries, and to seek the adoption of stronger science-based management measures by the various regional fishery management organisations responsible for managing internationally shared fisheries.

2. EU Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers discussed the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and held two public debates. The first discussion focused on achieving environmental sustainability through maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The EU has an international obligation to meet this requirement by 2015. However some Member States are seeking to extend the deadline, to allow for a slower recovery and avoiding any excessively adjustments in the fishing industry capacity. The Council also expressed concern at the difficulty in implementing the MSY approach in mixed and multi-species fisheries (since taking the most vulnerable species as a reference for a mixed fishery might not be the best way to achieve the desired outcome). Commissioner Damanaki has claimed that the bringing of 20 EU fish stocks to the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) level, has in an additional income of EUR 135 million/year for fishermen in the North and the Baltic seas.

3. The second debate held by EU Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers explored further the Commission's proposal for a regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), replacing the existing European Fisheries Fund. Whilst all MS wish to maintain EU funding for implementing reforms in the fishery sector, views differed on whether to maintain funding for modernising and scrapping fishing boats. The Commission's proposal is to discontinue this funding. A final debate on the approach to reform of the CFP will be organised by the Presidency in June.

4. The European Commission and the Government of Austria supported a high-level conference on the future of aquaculture held in Salzburg on 11 May 2012. The aim was to discuss how to unlock the potential for further development of aquaculture, in particular freshwater aquaculture in Europe. Mrs.Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries gave a speech "Unlocking the potential of European Aquaculture". The speech emphasised the role of aquaculture in the CFP reform package as a means of easing fishing pressure on capture fisheries, but indicated that although Europe is at the forefront of aquaculture technology viewpoint, its industry is stagnating. She announced the start of a consultation process on aquaculture, and set out some of the ideas being considered by the Commission, such as cutting red tape to encourage investments, how to better site aquaculture in water and on land, and co-locate with other activities, reinforcing Producers Organisations to make the aquaculture sectors more professional and improved information for consumers. The proposed European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will therefore give major prominence to aquaculture investments.

5. Mrs.Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, gave a speech on CFP reform and the Baltic Sea to the Estonian Parliament, Committee for Agriculture and Fisheries in Tallin. She said that she wished that other Parliaments and Member States were as clear and succinct in presenting their position as were the Estonians. She expressed the need for transferable fishing concessions (TFCs) and praised the TFC approach implemented by Estonia. She set out the lessons to be drawn from management of Baltic fisheries in recent years, stating "Regional cooperation is the way to go: no more micro-management from Brussels".

6. The Commission announced that on 1 June, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki was to host a meeting to discuss how Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) can manage fisheries in the most efficient and sustainable way across the world's oceans. The conference will be attended by, for the first time, representatives, chairs and executive secretaries from 15 RFMOs from around the world. The debate will focus on issues such as the need for better data and enhanced science, as well as how to improve compliance with agreed rules to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

7. The Commission amended the specific control and inspection programme for bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, following the agreements made at the 2011 Annual Meeting of ICCAT. It places a specific duty on Member States whose officials detect any infringement while carrying out an inspection in relation to fishing for or transhipment of bluefin tuna, to inform the Commission without delay of the date of inspection and the details of the infringement.

8. At the start of the bluefin tuna fishing season (16 May - 14 June) Commissioner Damanaki released a statement indicating that all necessary measures are being taken to ensure that the EU fishing fleet fully respects the rules. These include a strict control and inspection programme, a significant deployment of inspectors, patrol vessels and aircrafts, all coordinated by the Commission's European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the Member States concerned. The Commission subsequently announced the early closure (on 29th May) of the 2012 bluefin tuna purse seine season for France and Spain, due to exhaustion of quota allocations. The 6 Spanish and the 9 French purse seiners were operating in Joint Fishing Operations and both Member States recalled their vessels to port.

9. The Commission passed a decision amending the control regime for Baltic cod stocks. The control plan is extended for a further year, and the scope of activities is widened to include vessels which are engaged in the catching of salmon (following concerns regarding the possible misreporting of Baltic Sea salmon catches in the fisheries targeting cod).

10. The Commission decided to extend, for a further year, the specific control and inspection programme in support of the recovery of cod stocks in the Kattegat, the North Sea, the Skagerrak, the eastern Channel, the waters west of Scotland and the Irish Sea.

11. European Bureau for Conservation and Development published a press release outlining the debate on the Commission's proposals for the banning of the removal of shark fins at sea. The Spanish and Portuguese surface long line sector are strongly opposed to the proposals, claiming it would cost them EUR9.5 million per year to implement. MEP Maria do Ceu Patrão Neves (Portugal, EPP) who supports the surface longline sector, stated that there was no evidence of finning in Europe.

12. Stop fishing notices were published for Swedish vessels fishing for northern prawn, French vessels fishing for anglerfish, Portuguese vessels fishing for mackerel, and Dutch vessels fishing for hake.

13. The European Commission attended the meeting of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean in Morocco, Marrakesh from 14 to 19 May 2012. The parties considered fisheries management in the Black Sea, and the future work of the Task Force established in 2011 to modernise the GFCM, its institutional and legal framework and its approach to decision making.

14. The European Commission passed a decision replacing the existing detailed additional rules applied to EU fishing activities in the Area covered by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), and bring them into line with the general control and inspection regime established by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1085/2000. It therefore sets out the revised obligations of Member States in terms of port state controls on their vessels when operating in NEAFC zone.

15. Following the adoption at the EU level of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on "Work in the fishing sector", representatives of the European Union's employers and trade unions in the marine fisheries sector signed an agreement to ensure that fishermen have regulated working conditions on board fishing vessels, with regard to minimum requirements for conditions of service, accommodation and food, occupational safety and health protection, medical care, and social security.

16. The European Commission required Spain to amend its legislation on health and safety requirements on fishing vessels in order to comply with the requirements of EU legislation. In particular it requires Spain to clarify the definition of the term "owner" of a fishing vessel, so as to clearly determine who is responsible for complying with EU health and safety requirements on fishing vessels, especially in cases where the vessel is operated under a charter agreement.

17. The Directorate General for Internal Policies of the European Parliament published two studies on Icelandic fisheries. The first one, entitled "Icelandic Fisheries: a Review" provides a detailed analysis on the recent developments that are affecting Icelandic fisheries. The study provides context to Iceland's application for EU membership and implication of its participation to the Common Fisheries Policy. The second study, on "Right Based Fisheries Management in Iceland and Economic and Financial Crisis" gives an overview of the Icelandic Individual Transferable Quota system and explores implications of such systems which may be relevant to CFP reform.

18. The Commission passed a Decision setting out the financial grants to be provided by the EU to Member States to compensate them for the cost of providing data to the Commission, so that the Commission can make evidence based recommendations regarding the management of the fisheries. Ten Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia and Finland) will receive EUR10.2 million, being 50% of the eligible costs.

19. The Commission passed a decision extending the derogation from the rules of origin for certain fishery products in favour of Cape Verde. The derogation is in respect of yearly quantities of non-originating products comprising 2,500 tonnes of prepared or preserved mackerel fillets and 875 tonnes for prepared or preserved frigate tuna or frigate mackerel and is applied for a further three years, i.e. from 2012 until 2014, to support the revitalisation of the small scale fishery sector.

20. European Maritime Day 2012 was held on May 20, 2012, with events in several Member States. The main event was the European Maritime Day Conference held in Gothenburg, Sweden with almost 1,000 participants, and attended by Mrs.Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Fish hygiene

21. Rapid alerts were notified for failure to comply with health conditions for 45 consignments of fishery products, including 2 consignments of clams, from Greece, with raw material from Turkey, 3 consignments of squid from Argentina and 4 consignments of canned tuna from Thailand.

22. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Spain in October 2011, to assess the food safety control systems governing bivalve molluscs. The mission found that the control system implemented in Galicia, which produces 96% of the national production of bivalve molluscs, is in full compliance with EU legislation. However, the control system in Andalucia, with 56 production areas, was found to have significant non-compliances, and cannot guarantee the safety of bivalve molluscs intended for human consumption. In Andalusia the mission found that sampling points for microbiological testing were not representative, minimum sampling frequencies for phytoplankton and biotoxins were not respected. Also when biotoxins were detected, harvest of all bivalves was allowed to continue pending further tests. The central Competent Authority (Spanish Food Safety and Nutrition Agency - AESAN) was requested to submit a plan of corrective actions to address the deficiencies noted.

23. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to Estonia in January 2012, to assess the implementation of monitoring and control of dioxins, furans and PCBS in fish from the Baltic region. The mission found that older year classes of Baltic herring and sprat may contain levels of dioxins, dioxin-like-PCBs (dl-PCBs) and non-dioxin-like-PCBs (ndl-PCBs) in excess of the relevant EU Maximum Levels (MLs). However data also show that background levels of pollution are declining and the MLs have not been exceeded in samples taken from other species of fish. The mission concludes that control measures to restrict placing on the market of larger sizes of these species are limited in their effectiveness, due to cost and technical limitations and that sizeable quantities of potentially contaminated fish and fishery products are being placed on the market. However, the FVO recognises that information campaigns have allowed consumers to limit their exposure to these dangerous chemicals.

24. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO undertook a mission to Panama in January 2012, to assess the food safety control systems governing fishery products exported to the EU. The mission found that there have been significant improvements in the implementation of official control systems since the last FVO inspection visit in 2007. However, there were significant deficiencies in vessels and establishments ((e.g. unhygienic conditions and absence of temperature recording devices) some of which had not been identified by the Competent Authority, the Ministry of Health. Also some deficiencies had been identified in previous years, but not corrected. Official sampling and testing of fishery products was also deficient in terms of histamine tests, and there were no samples taken for dioxins or PAHs. The mission report concluded that once these deficiencies have been addressed the competent authority should be in a position to fully guarantee that the required sanitary conditions of fishery and aquaculture products for EU export are being met.

25. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO reported on a mission to South Africa in January 2012, to assess the food safety control systems governing fishery products exported to the EU. The mission found that there have been significant improvements in the implementation of official control systems since the last FVO inspection visit in 2008. However, the mission found that freezer vessels are still not required to apply HACCP principles. The mission also found that there were no tests for histamine performed on fresh tuna and that dioxins have not yet been analysed for. The mission concluded that the control system implemented offers sufficient guarantees concerning the sanitary conditions of fishery products for European Union export, but has asked the South African Competent Authority, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, to submit a plan of corrective actions to address the deficiencies found.

26. The European Commission approved a list of 222 permitted health claims which may be applied to foods. This list is based on sound scientific advice as assessed by the EFSA, and is in line with the Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods. The Commission has also set up an EU Register with an interactive database on the Commission's website, which lists permitted claims. Food manufacturers have a period of 6 months to adapt their practices to the new requirements. As from the beginning of December 2012 all claims that are not authorised and not under consideration shall be prohibited. For example a claim that a food is high in omega-3 fatty acids may only be made where the product contains at least 0,6g alpha-linolenic acid per 100g and per 100kcal, or at least 80mg of the sum of icosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid per 100g and per 100kcal.

27. The European Commission for Health & Consumer Policy (DG SANCO) hosted a high level conference in Brussels "Conference on Combating Food-Related Crime" which confronted the growing problem of food fraud. The conference, which has held under the auspices of the Better Training for Safer Food Programme, brought together policy makers, legal experts, police forces and food control authorities from across Europe. In the EU, confirmed cases of food fraud went up by 26% between 2007 and 2008. Commissioner John Dalli outlined some of the problems encountered by "Operation Opson", an investigation into food crime led by Europol in 2011 which discovered amongst other problems, 5 tonnes of substandard seafood in just one week. The Commission published the presentations on its website.

28. The Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health discussed proposed measure concerns the establishment of a European Union list of permitted flavourings and source materials. This list will harmonise, for the first time, the use of flavouring substances in and on food in the European Union. Flavouring substances are defined as chemical substances, and will include natural flavouring substances as well flavouring substances obtained by chemical synthesis or isolated from nature using chemical processes.

29. The EFSA Journal published an article on the food and feed safety crisis preparedness, setting out the EFSA approach to dealing with requests for urgent food safety risk assessment, emergency training exercises, and ex post assessments of emergency responses. Since its foundation in 2002, EFSA has received ten requests for urgent scientific or technical support. The article provides a detailed case study of the EFSA response to the outbreak of STEC O104:H4 in Germany and France in May-July 2011. The article (by lead author Head of EFSA's Emerging Risks Unit) concludes that EFSA has "a mature understanding" of crisis planning.

30. Following information received from Thailand the European Commission decided to modify the list of approved facilities in third countries for the irradiation of foods exported to the EU.

31. The European Commission published its comments on the OIE Draft Aquatic Animal Health Standards and the Draft OIE Diagnostic Testing Manual for Aquatic Animals. The Commission objects to the definition of "aquatic animal health professional", suggests that the text be harmonised with the Code for terrestrial animals, and suggests revisions dealing with electrical stunning (amongst other recommendations). It also has severe reservations regarding the text proposed for diagnosis of ISA (Infectious Salmon Anaemia) due to the perceived errors in the approach set out concerning the identification of different strains of the virus which causes ISA.

32. The European Food Safety Authority published data dictionaries on reporting on quantitative and qualitative antimicrobial resistance data in food, animals, and feed as well as on prevalence data on zoonoses and on food-borne outbreaks. The data dictionaries provide guidelines for the reporting of official data to the European Commission and EFSA, to ensure a standardised approach useful for risk assessment.

33. The Commission announced that there is an increasing level of mortality in Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) in some areas of Ireland, France, the Netherlands and the UK and new investigations suggested that a new strain of ostreid herpesvirus-1 - OsHV-1 µ?ar - is the cause. The Commission is considering a request by Ireland to change the geographical coverage of the surveillance programme.

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