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April 2013

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Fisheries Council discusses CFP reform; aims for agreement by summer
2. Fisheries Council discusses incidental catches of seabirds; Mauritania and Morocco FPAs
3. DG MARE publishes study on EU's Outermost Regions' fishery subsidies
4. European Parliament adopts ban on discarding in the Skagerrak; welcomed by Commission
5. European Fisheries Control Agency sets approach to regulatory compliance by fishers
6. Russia lodges WTO complaint against EU Fisheries Agreement with Mauritania
7. Commission completes FPA negotiations with Gabon; access for 35 EU vessels
8. Commission completes FPA renewal negotiations with the Seychelles
9. Commission launches public consultation EU fishing activities outside EU waters
10. DG MARE publishes evaluation of the EU Fisheries Data Collection Framework
11. Commissioner Damanaki launches European Market Observatory for Fishery Products
12. DG MARE publishes study on silver eel
13. UK and Portuguese vessels required to stop fishing for certain species
14. Commission notifies changes in IUU catch certification requirements for New Zealand
15. Commission publishes information on fishery subsidies in Italy and Latvia
16. DG Environment announces start of pilot project on marine litter; Commission gives speech
17. DG MARE to publish strategic guidelines for the promotion of aquaculture in the EU
18. EU, IMO and EIB support conference on the "Mediterranean blue economy"
19. Commissioner Damanaki speaks on protecting the EU's strategic maritime interests
20. Commissioner Damanaki proposes changes to UNCLOS to secure marine genetic resources.
21. European Commission present at the European Seafood Exposition held in Brussels
22. Commission publishes edition No.61 of "Fisheries and Aquaculture in Europe"

Fish hygiene

23. Thirty one Rapid Alerts notified to the Commission for non-compliant fishery products
24. DG SANCO mission to Denmark; some shortcomings in monitoring of organochlorines
25. DG SANCO mission to Canada; some shortcomings in aquatic animal health controls
26. DG SANCO mission to China; aquatic animal health controls deficient in several respects
27. Commission informs EU Member States that two Pakistani fishery establishments re-listed
28. Commission proposes changes to guidance on fish parasites
29. Commission discusses regulation to set histamine limits in fermented fish sauce
30. Commission proposed increase in EU limit for yessotoxin in live bivalve molluscs
31. EU comments on proposals for maximum levels for methyl mercury under Codex
32. Commission to review need for radiation testing of Japanese fishery products
33. Commission presents proposals phosphate additives in wet salted fish
34. Commission updates information on aquaculture businesses and disease free areas
35. Commission notified of several zones and compartments free of infectious fish diseases
36. Commission makes progress on diagnostic manual for aquaculture diseases.

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The EU Fisheries Council met in Luxembourg on 22nd April, where an exchange of views took place on the Common Fisheries Policy's Basic Regulation. Discussions centred on three questions put by the Irish Presidency to Ministers: (1) agreement on the time line to conclude negotiations with EP, with the aim to achieve political agreement by the summer; (2) margins for flexibility on key issues (MSY, discard ban, regionalization, fleet capacity management); (3) how to address the institutional issues related to multi-annual plans. The Ministers discussed progress with the trialogues under way between the European Parliament (EP), the Irish Presidency on behalf of the Council and the Commission. The next Council meeting in May is expected to assess the result of these negotiations with a view to reaching political agreement.

2. The European Council of Agriculture and Fisheries also discussed an action plan for reducing incidental catches of seabirds in fishing gears, presented by the Commission. Although many Member States agreed with the proposed actions, others indicated the need for scientific data before a regulations is adopted. Member states also expressed concerns about the current lack of progress regarding ongoing discussions regarding EU Fisheries Partnership Agreements with Mauritania and Morocco. Discussions are continuing regarding the implementation of the Protocol under the EU-Mauritania Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which is stalled pending recommendations of the Joint Scientific Committee on availability of cephalopod resources for EU vessels.

3. DG MARE of the European Commission published the summary of the report, by Consultants Oceanic Devéloppement, Megapesca Lda and University of Las Palmas, of the evaluation of the subsidies provided to fisheries operators in the Outermost regions of the EU (Canary Islands, Azores and Madeira and the French Overseas Departments of Reunion and Guyana). The subsidies ranged between EUR148 and EUR2027 per tonne of fishery products, In France DOM and Canary islands the products had to be transferred outside the outermost region to be eligible for the subsidy, but this was not the case for Portuguese Autonomous regions, where most products also qualified if sold on the local market. Overall, the cost of the scheme was EUR43.5 million over the 4 years evaluated. The numbers of beneficiaries totalled about 800, and ranged from 2 or 3 in La Reunion to c.700 in Azores. The subsidy accounted in some cases for up to 347% of the estimated additional costs sustained by the subsidized fishery operators due to their remoteness. Unlike previous schemes the design and administration of the 2007 to 2013 scheme was delegated by the Commission to the Member States (and their regions) concerned. The report recommended that, should the EU wish to retain the subsidies, the Commission should define and adjust the notion of additional cost, revise the financial envelopes, specify implementation modalities and improve the monitoring of the scheme.

4. The European Parliament adopted a ban on discarding in the Skagerrak (the strait running between Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). The measure will require fishing vessels to land all caught fish of 35 quota species. European Parliament negotiators will now discuss the proposal with the member states in order to reach an agreement on monitoring of compliance when the ban takes effect, starting in 2014. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs.Damanaki welcomed the decision saying that "Stopping the wasteful practice of discarding edible fish is one of the key elements of the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy".

5. The European Fisheries Control Agency hosted a hearing at the European Parliament entitled "Tools to improve a Culture of Compliance in European Fisheries - a EFCA contribution". The aim was to reflect on the current enforcement scheme and tools employed by the EFCA. The meeting, which was attended by representatives from the Irish Presidency, the fishing industry, NGOs and EFCA, was presented with details of the regulatory tools to be used to improve compliance by fishers, which included approaches to Regional Joint Deployment Plans, discard ban control strategies, focus groups to evaluate cost-effectiveness and compliance, development of a core curriculum for training of the fisheries inspectors, and the development of the EFCA ICT systems to complement individual Member State systems.

6. Russia has lodged a complaint in the World Trade Organisation regarding the EU Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Mauritania, alleging that the Agreement represents a subsidy of its fishing fleet in Africa . Commissioner Maria Damanaki said: "The European Union is transparent when it comes to its fisheries partnerships agreements" and criticised agreements made by other (unidentified) parties which were not based on principles of transparency, sustainability and good governance.

7. After more than one year of interrupted fishing activities due to the expiration of the previous protocol on 2nd December 2011, the Commission announced that it has successfully completed negotiations concerning the renewal of the Protocol and the Annex to their Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between the EU and Gabon. The new Protocol was initialled on 24 April 2013 and its duration will be 3 years. It will allow the European fleet to fish in the waters of Gabon with fishing opportunities for tuna and other highly migratory species for 27 purse seiners and 8 pole and line vessels, based on a reference tonnage of 20,000 tonnes per annum. In return, the EU will pay Gabon an annual compensation of EUR1.3 million out of which EUR450,000 is earmarked to support the fisheries policy of Gabon. European vessel owners's fees will be increased. Sectoral support has been significantly increased in relation to the previous Protocol, with the aim in particular of supporting the new Gabonese strategic plan ("Blue Gabon") for better fisheries governance, protection of resources and control in its waters. Despite the original objections of the Gabonese government, the Protocol includes a clause on the respect of human rights, in line with the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.

8. The Commission announced that it has successfully completed negotiations with the Seychelles to agree a new Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which expires in January 2014. The agreement will allow EU fishing activities to continue in the Seychelles EEZ "without interruption or detrimental impact on either the EU Fleet or local economy".

9. DG MARE of the European Commission has published the report, by Consultants led by MRAG of the evaluation of the EU Fisheries Data Collection Framework, under Council Regulation (EC) No. 199/2008, which provides for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector and support for scientific advice regarding the CFP for the period 2009 - 2013. The study found significant overlap with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in requirements for biological data, some survey parameters and marine ecosystems indicators, and with the EU Fisheries Control Regulation (in terms of fishing log book data). However most users considered that the DCF has produced data that enables the production of sound scientific advice and contributes to better fisheries policy making, although a key problem has been the application of "metiers" (to characterise the types and components of fishing operations), which were found to be difficult to apply as the basis for sampling strata within national sampling programmes. The report recommends the need to recognise human resource constraints in implementation, to address differential investment and technical capacities of Member States and align aggregation levels where the same data is required under different instruments. There is also a need to address the failures of several member states (Spain, Greece and some new Member States) to deliver good quality data socioeconomic data under the DCF.

10. The Commission announced the launch of a public consultation on proposals for the revision of Council Regulation (EC) No 1006/2008 concerning authorisations for fishing activities of Community fishing vessels outside Community waters and the access of third country vessels to Community waters. The main objective of the proposed changes are to strengthen and simplify the existing legal framework, to be consistent with control and IUU policies, and address key issues such as repetitive reflagging and regulating private fishing arrangements of the EU fleet outside EU waters. Comments by individuals, organisations and public authorities may be submitted on line.

11. Mrs.Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, attended the annual Brussels Seafood Exhibition on 24 April, where she launched the new online European Market Observatory for Fishery and Aquaculture Products. This new information service, which was developed by consultants led by Eastfish in Copenhagen, will foster "market transparency and economic democracy" by providing comprehensive data on fish and seafood production throughout each stage of the supply chain, as well as on imports, exports and consumption trends. The observatory is a web-based market information service which provides data and analysis (in the form of customised summary reports) on volumes and prices of fish entering the EU market from different sources.

12. DG MARE of the European Commission published the findings of a study of the different approaches towards assessing silver eel production and escapement, including the validity of different models used in stock assessment. The study showed that eel assessment models require a substantial knowledge of the local eel population if they are to provide good results, but that there are many regions where good data is not available. The work will support the implementation of Eel Management Plans which EU Member States are required to prepare and implement.

13. A stop fishing notice was published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by UK vessels fishing for herring in EU and international waters of I and II, and Portuguese vessels fishing for white marlin in the Atlantic Ocean.

14. The Commission gave notice of a change in the IUU catch certification requirements in relation to exports of fishery products from New Zealand to the EU (reflecting a change in the name of the Competent Authority from 1 March 2013).

15. The Commission published notice of State Aids announced by the Governments of Italy (EUR1 million/year subsidy for temporary cessation aid for vessels and financial incentives to vessel owners for good behaviour) and Latvia (LVL 25 million/year subsidy for investment in aquaculture undertakings).

16. The European Commission (DG Environment) announced the start of the Pilot Project: Removal of marine litter from Europe's four regional seas (MARELITT) a EUR1.0 million project to assist EU Member States in reaching the objective of achieving 'good environmental status' (GES) of all EU marine waters by 2020, in relation to Descriptor 10 (concerning marine litter) of the EU's the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC). Janez Potocnik European Commissioner for Environment, also gave a speech in Berlin, on the problems caused by marine litter. He stated that 80 % of marine litter is estimated to come from land-based sources and announced a quantitative target for litter reduction in European seas, along with regional action plans on marine litter.

17. Lowri Evans, Director General at DG MARE of the European Commission, gave a speech at the European Parliament Workshop on the "Blue economy in freshwater aquaculture - Diversification of aquaculture sites, including environmental services, ecotourism and sportfishing". She pointed out that European aquaculture offers potential to create up to 4,000 jobs for each 1% share, of the EU fish market it can capture, and announced that the Commission will shortly publish new Strategic Guidelines for the promotion of aquaculture, setting out the EU strategy for aquaculture development. Member States will be asked to prepare national aquaculture plans, taking into consideration the specific starting conditions, challenges and potential in each country. The speech also outlined the strategic need to reduce the administrative burden for aquaculture producers, to facilitate access to space and water, increase competitiveness and to exploit EU aquaculture's competitive advantages, as well as proposing to establish an Aquaculture Advisory Council to become the reference point for exchanging good practice and formulating recommendations.

18. The European Commission, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and the European Investment Bank supported the 12th FEMIP Conference - "Mediterranean blue economy: enhancing marine and maritime cooperation". The conference was held in Athens under the banner of the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership and discussed maritime clusters and promotion of networking across training institutes, bridging the gaps towards effective safety and surveillance and addressing synergies across projects and opportunities for development and investments in the marine economy. Commissioner Damanaki gave a speech "Reviving the Mediterranean blue economy through Cooperation" in which she spoke of the need to coordinate policy areas such as the energy, transport, environment, fisheries, research and adapt them to the specificities of each sea basin, in order to maximize the economic benefits from Europe's marine resources.

19. At the Seminar "Challenges and opportunities in maritime security and surveillance for effective governance and innovation in the EU's maritime domain" held in Dublin, Mrs. Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries gave a speech entitled "Maritime Security: an EU approach". She argued for a need to safeguard and protect the EU's strategic maritime interests against threats from terrorism, crime, illegal migration, human trafficking, piracy and armed robbery, sea, natural disaster, environmental degradation and destruction, IUU fishing and climate change. She called for a coherent approach, and for national civilian administrations and military agencies to improve coordination across borders and sectors.

20. At the Conference "The High Seas, our Future" held in Paris, Mrs. Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries gave a speech entitled "A European Vision for the sustainable management of the Oceans". She emphasised the need for research to provide a better understanding of our Oceans and Seas, and for more effective policy responses to address the complexity of human interactions with ocean systems (covering energy, transport, environment, and fisheries). She raised the question of conservation of marine genetic resources, and called for strengthened international cooperation in the form of a new multilateral implementing agreement within the UNCLOS framework, which considers, amongst other issues the question of access rights to marine genetic resources.

21. The European Commission was present with a stand at the European Seafood Exposition held in Brussels on 23, 24 and 25 April 2013. Key events were the launch of the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture products (EUMOFA), a presentation of Fisheries Partnership Agreements, and a conference "What's new in DG Health and Consumers, developments and plans" providing an overview on the latest initiatives taken by Directorate-General Health and Consumers in the domain of hygiene of bivalve molluscs.

22. The Commission published edition No.61 of its Magazine "Fisheries and Aquaculture in Europe", which contains articles on the organisation of the common market in fishery products, a profile of Valetta in Malta, and the Commission's review of the effectiveness of fisheries subsidies.

Fish hygiene

23. Rapid Alerts were notified for failure to comply with health conditions for seven consignments of bivalve molluscs, one consignment of cephalopods, two consignments of crustaceans, 21 consignments of fish and fish products and 1 consignment of gastropods. The alerts included 2 consignments of mussels and 8 consignments of swordfish from Spain.

24. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO, reported on a mission to Denmark in November 2012, in order to assess the performance of the competent authorities involved in the monitoring of organochlorinated contaminants in fisheries products from the Baltic Sea. The mission concluded that the official dioxin and PCB monitoring programmes generally satisfy the requirements set out in Commission Regulation (EC) No.1881/2007 in respect of herring and salmon from the Baltic Sea which are placed on the EU market. However it was noted that there was a lack of evidence of controls on herring, and some shortcomings in the inspection of operators' HACCP systems in relation to presence of dioxins and PCBs. The report makes a number of recommendations to the Danish competent authorities, aimed at rectifying the shortcomings identified.

25. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO, reported on a mission to Canada in June 2012, in order to assess animal health controls in place for live aquaculture animals and products thereof destined for export to the European Union. The mission found that there is a functional national aquatic animal health programme, but that full implementation is undermined by lack of agreement on cooperation with provincial authorities, lack of implementation by industry of bio-security and disease surveillance measures and insufficient delimitation of responsibilities concerning laboratory testing. Whilst arrangements for export certification to the EU can be considered satisfactory, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was recommended to rectify the shortcomings identified.

26. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO, reported on a mission to China in October 2012, in order to assess animal health controls in place for live aquaculture animals and products thereof destined for export to the European Union. The mission found that exporting farms are covered by an extensive disease surveillance program, but that the control system for authorisation and control of the exporting farms is not equivalent to relevant animal health requirements set out in EU legislation. Specific concerns were lack of mortality records, inconsistent targeting of surveillance, no evidence that OIE listed diseases are notifiable under law, and that pre-export inspections were not carried out within 72 hours of dispatch. Significant deficiencies in testing laboratories also undermined the technical validity of the analytical results. The Competent Authority, General Administration of Quality Supervision, was recommended to rectify the shortcomings identified.

27. The Commission informed EU Member States that the Commission has accepted the listing of two Pakistani establishments for fishery products. Pakistan may thus resume exports of fishery products to the EU.

28. The Commission and the Member States discussed a modification of the Guidance document relating to inspection of fishery products, regarding interpretation of the term 'obviously contaminated' and its application to visible parasites.

29. The Commission and the EU Member States discussed the draft Commission Regulation amending Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 on microbiological criteria, as regards histamine in fishery products, which will set new regulatory limits for histamine levels in fermented fish sauce

30. The Commission and the Member States also discussed an amendment to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 as regard the limit of certain marine biotoxins in live bivalve molluscs, following the publication of scientific opinion by EFSA. The view was that the EU limit for yessotoxins is too low. This was confirmed during the last Codex meeting on fish and fishery products in October 2012, and the draft proposal therefore increases the limit for these toxins from 1 mg/kg to 3.75 mg/kg.

31. Following the preparation and circulation of a Codex discussion paper by Norway and Japan, regarding the review of the guideline level for methyl-mercury in fish and predatory fish, the European Commission has given its comments. The Commission agrees that data collection on methylmercury in different fish species should aim at grouping fish species at the global level (including a predatory fish group). The Commission believes that the working group should explore the possibility of converting the guideline levels to maximum levels under a Codex Alimentarius standard. The Commission indicated that the European Food Safety Authority is currently working on an opinion on the risks and benefits of fish consumption, as regards methylmercury.

32. The Commission announced that it will wait until 2014 to review Commission Regulation (EU) N° 996/2012 regarding controls on the contamination of food products from Japan following the Fukushima nuclear incident in 2012. However in the meanwhile, the Commission will perform an intermediate review by 31 March 2013 to assess the necessity of keeping the requirement for testing prior to export consignments of fish and fishery products. Consultations are being held between the Commission and the Japanese authorities.

33. The Commission presented its proposals for an amendment to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 as regards the use of diphosphates (E 450), triphosphates (E 451) and polyphosphates (E 452) in wet salted fish. There were a number of concerns expressed by Member States regarding lack of an EU reference method to analyse for the presence of added phosphates in wet salted fish, conflicts with current labelling requirements and implications of the use of these additives for subsequent drying of the product.

34. The Commission updated its website with links to the lists of registered of aquaculture production businesses and authorised processing establishments, published by EU Member States Competent Authorities. It also updated with regard to the health status of zones and spatial compartments as far as aquatic animal diseases are concerned. The site gives links to data on disease free areas and surveillance programmes implemented by Member States.

35. A number of zones and compartments free of infectious fish diseases were declared in Germany, United Kingdom, Norway and Iceland. A declaration for Iceland with regard to infectious salmon anaemia was withdrawn on 26th March 2013, and Norway subsequently notified the Commission of recent outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) in one of the zones previously declared disease free.

36. The Commission announced that working in collaboration with EU Member States, it is making progress on the preparation of an aquatic diagnostic manual for aquaculture diseases.

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