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June 2013

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU Council and EU Parliament negotiators agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy
2. Harmonised fisheries controls introduced for the Baltic Sea
3. DG MARE audit identifies shortcomings in Latvian fisheries control system
4. Bluefin tuna fishery control plan for 2013 successfully implemented
5. Commission launches consultation on information sharing for maritime surveillance
6. Commission sets out intentions for fishing opportunities for 2014
7. Shark finning outlawed on EU vessels
8. Stop fishing notices were published for cod, alfonsinos, tusk and haddock fisheries
9. IATTC sets new controls for fish aggregating devices
10. EU Fisheries Commissioner Damanaki visits Iceland to discuss mackerel trade sanction threat
11. Commission's Market Observatory (EUMOFA) commences fish market data publications
12. EU operators seek tuna exclusion from EU free trade agreement with Thailand
13. EU, USA and Canada agree joint approach to Atlantic Ocean research
14. EU Council allocates fishing opportunities in Côte d'Ivoire zone to Spain, France and Portugal
15. EU adopts Blue Growth Agenda for development of marine and maritime economy
16. EU Ministers discuss proposed Maritime Spatial Planning and ICZM Directive

Fish hygiene

17. Thirty two Rapid Alerts notified to the Commission for non-compliant fishery products
18. DG SANCO publishes 2012 RASFF annual report; 539 notifications for fishery products
19. FVO reports on Ghana's fish export controls; numerous shortcomings identified
20. FVO reports on Maldives' fish export controls; numerous shortcomings identified
21. FVO reports on Danish bivalve controls; undermined by non-compliances
22. EU Council amends EU sanitary legislation to account for the EU accession of Croatia
23. Commission confirms sodium and potassium carbonate not permitted in fishery products
24. Commission proposes new dioxin limits for Chinese mitten crab
25. Commission and Member States reject changes to labelling of phosphates in wet salted fish
26. Use of extracts of rosemary and other additives extended in fishery products
27. Commission clarifies interpretation of term "obviously contaminated" with fish parasites
28. Commission proposes new histamine limits for fermented fish sauces, in line with Codex
29. Commission updates register of National Guides to Good Practice

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Negotiators from the Permanent Representatives Committee of EU Member States and the EU Parliament have agreed on the final shape of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). At a meeting on 14 June, the Member States and EU Parliament representatives agreed on compromise texts on the basic regulation on the CFP, and regulation on the common organisation of the markets (CMO) in fishery and aquaculture products. The Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) basis for setting fishing opportunities will be introduced where possible by 2015 and at the latest by 2020. A discard ban will be adopted progressively between 2015 and 2019, with some exemptions. Regional Advisory Councils will play a much greater role in fisheries management decisions. Member States will retain the right to restrict fishing in a zone within 12 nautical miles of the coastline. There will be new mandatory consumer information and labelling requirements. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs.Maria Damanaki, welcomed the agreement stated "We are going to change radically the way we fish in the future".

2. The Commission passed a decision aimed at harmonising the control and inspection of the fishing activities for herring, salmon and sprat in the Baltic Sea, as well as ensuring a uniform application of the multiannual plan for the stock of Baltic Sea cod. The approach, to be implemented jointly by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and competent authorities of Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland and Sweden, will set common rules for the control and inspection activities. These will include setting target benchmarks for control and inspection activities, allowing mutual access to relevant data and establishing joint inspection and surveillance programmes.

3. Following a recent audit of the Latvian fisheries control system by DG MARE of the European Commission, which identified a number of shortcomings, the European Commission has approved an Action Plan designed jointly with the Latvian authorities. This will strengthen the control system including improved administrative structures, IT systems for catch and effort registration and implementation of risk-based control activities.

4. The Commission and EU Member States fisheries control authorities implemented the 2013 control plan for the Bluefin tuna fishery, from 26 May to 24 June. The quotas for purse seiners accounted for 83% of the overall 2013 EU quota of 7,548 tonnes. Vessels from seven EU member states were active in the fishery (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus). All consumed their 2013 quotas for bluefin tuna and were required to return to port, in line with the reinforced ICCAT multi-annual recovery plan for Bluefin tuna adopted in November 2012. The Commission, in coordination with Member States, continues to monitor the small scale and trap fishing activities.

5. The European Commission launched a public consultation regarding the implementation of a Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) for the surveillance of the EU maritime domain. EU maritime and marine sector private stakeholders, citizens, NGOs, public authorities are invited to post comments regarding the Commission's proposals to create a political, organisational and legal environment to enable information sharing across the seven relevant sectors/user communities (transport, environmental protection, fisheries control, border control, general law enforcement, customs and defence). The consultation period is open until 14th September 2013.

6. In a consultation document, the European Commission set out its intentions and proposed fishing opportunities for 2014. Although there has been a decline in the proportion of overfished fish stocks in EU waters of the Northeast Atlantic (down to 39% in 2013 from 47% in 2012, and 95% in 2005) and profits in the fishery sector have increased by 40% on the previous year, there is still a need to maintain rigorous fishing limits to bring stocks into line the with maximum sustainable yield target. In particular the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea remain overfished, and for the 85 stocks for which data exists, 75 (88%) are not exploited sustainably.

7. The European Council adopted an amendment to the regulation concerning the removal of fins of sharks on board vessels, following a first reading agreement with the European Parliament. This amendment will eliminate existing derogations to the ban on "shark finning" which permit fins to be removed from sharks, providing that certain conditions are respected. In future sharks caught by EU vessels will have to be landed with fins attached. Commissioner Damanaki welcomed the amendment, saying "the practice of shark finning has been banned from the EU once and for all, and for good."

8. Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Swedish vessels fishing for cod, and Spanish vessels fishing for alfonsinos, tusk and haddock. A temporary prohibition notice has been published by the Commission for EU vessels fishing for redfish in the NAFO area 3M.

9. At the 85th meeting of the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) held between 10 and 15 June in Veracruz, Mexico, the IATTC decided to extend conservation measures for tuna for a period of 3 years, adopted an ambitious approach to fish aggregating devices (FADs) and proposed a measure for the protection of whale sharks. The IATTC also decided to review the implementation of the 2005 action plan on fleet fishing capacity management. The Commission welcomed the progress made on these measures, but regretted that proposals to protect sharks and set minimum standards for port inspection were not adopted. These will however be considered at the next IATTC annual meeting.

10. Commissioner Damanaki visited Reykjavik, Iceland on Thursday and met with the newly appointed Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson to discuss the ongoing dispute between the EU and Iceland with regard to the sharing of the mackerel stock, and the associated threat of EU sanctions against fish trade with Iceland.

11. DG MARE of the European Commission established a new monthly web-based publication of fisheries market data delivered by the EU market Observatory (EUMOFA). The first edition includes data on first sales prices and volumes in the EU, and an analysis if the price structure for haddock in the UK.

12. The EU has started negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Thailand, and has launched a public consultation which will cover in particular fish trade issues. The European tuna sector organisation EUROTHON has announced that it seeks the exclusion of tuna products from the Agreement, as well as requesting that the agreement requires Thai suppliers of fishery products to comply with EU sustainability, sanitary, IUU and traceability regulations.

13. The European Union, the United States and Canada have signed the "Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation", in which they agree to join forces on Atlantic Ocean research. Measures to align their ocean observation efforts will include sharing of data, increasing inter-operability and coordination of observing infrastructure, coordination of sustainable management of ocean resources, seabed and benthic habitat mapping and promoting researcher mobility and joint approaches to identifying future research priorities.

14. The European Council approved a regulation allocating the fishing opportunities under the Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Côte d'Ivoire. Spain receives 16 licences for freezer tuna seiners, and France 16. For surface longline vessels, which target shark and swordfish, Spain is allocated 7 licences, and Portugal 3.

15. The EU's Council of Ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, adopted a series of resolutions regarding the Blue Growth Agenda. The resolution encourages Member States and relevant authorities to support the development of marine and maritime activities as an important source of innovation, sustainable growth and employment, and endorses the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean area, adopted by the Commission on 13 May 2013. The Council also lends its support to the Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management. The European Parliament's Economic and Social Committee also welcomed the Commission's communication on Blue Growth, but warned against viewing the growth of the blue economy as an inexhaustible source of unexploited opportunities to resolve the problems faced by Europe's economy.

16. EU Environment Ministers meeting in Luxembourg, were joined by Commissioner Damanaki (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) and Commissioner Potocnik (Environment), to discuss the challenges ahead for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Commission's proposals for the Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management, both of which are expected to contribute to improved sustainable growth in coastal and marine areas.

Fish hygiene

17. Rapid Alerts were notified for failure to comply with health conditions for one consignment of bivalve molluscs, one consignment of cephalopods, 14 consignments of crustaceans and 16 consignments of fish and fish products. The alerts included 12 consignments of shrimp from Mozambique and 2 consignments of shark from Spain

18. DG SANCO of the European Commission published its annual report on EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed for 2012, detailing the Rapid Alerts notified for failure to comply with health conditions. In 2012, 3,516 notifications were issued through the RASFF, which gave rise to 5,281 follow-up notifications. There were 60 notifications for crustacea, 53 for bivalve molluscs, 373 for fish and fishery products and 53 for cephalopods. Italy and Spain were the top notifying countries for fishery products (concerning heavy metals and poor temperature control respectively). Tonio Borg, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, said that in future the Commission will "extend the scope of RASFF to the fight against food fraud".

19. The Food and Veterinary Office, an agency of DG SANCO of the European Commission has published its Final Report of an audit carried out in Ghana in February 2013, concerning the sanitary controls for Fishery Products intended for export to the European Union. The mission found that controls applied in primary production (vessels, and landing sites) presented deficiencies, particularly in relation to legal requirements for HACCP requirements for tuna freezer vessels, and lack of inspection of small and larger non-freezer vessel as well landings from this sector. One ice factory was not operated in line with EU rules and five processing establishments were found not to be operated in compliance with EU requirements for temperature controls and traceability. Three of the establishments had severe structural and equipment deficiencies, poor hygiene practices, and absence or defective own checks records and HACCP systems. There were no checks on the EU eligibility of imported fishery products. The mission also found that although testing laboratories were accredited, histamine testing in tuna products was not within the scope of accreditation, and there were delays of several months in obtaining testing results on samples submitted for official controls. The follow-up of RASFF notifications did not guarantee that causes of non-compliances were identified and addressed. There were material inconsistencies between production records and official documents, which undermined the validity of export certification. The mission concluded that Ghana has in place an official control system, but that this only partially covers the production chain of fishery products for EU export. Shortcomings in the implementation of controls means that the CA cannot provide guarantees that the fishery products exported to the EU are produced under conditions which are fully equivalent to the EU requirements. Nine recommendations are made to the Competent Authority, the Ghana Standards Authority, was requested to submit a plan of corrective actions to the Commission.

20. The Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission has published its Final Report of an audit carried out in Maldives in February 2013, concerning the sanitary controls for Fishery Products intended for export to the European Union. The mission found that there had been improvements in the implementation of official control since the previous audit. However one approved factory vessel did not have a satisfactory HACCP system in place, and a fish transport vessel had structural and hygiene deficiencies, and some establishments exhibited hygiene deficiencies not identified by the Competent Authority. Only two of the four establishments visited implemented and maintained satisfactory permanent procedures based on HACCP principles. Corrective actions were not taken by the Competent Authority over test results indicating microbiological contamination of the water supplies. There were no official controls in place for heavy metals, biotoxins or other contaminants. The analytical method used for histamine (fluorometric method based on AOAC 997-2005) is included in the scope of laboratory accreditation, but is not the EU reference method. The mission concluded that due to the deficiencies noted the Competent Authority cannot fully ensure that all fishery products exported to the EU respect the requirements mentioned in the model health certificate. The Competent Authority, the Maldives Food and Drug Authority, was requested to submit a plan of corrective actions for the consideration and approval of the Commission.

21. The Food and Veterinary Office published its Final Report of an audit carried out in Denmark in November 2012, concerning the sanitary controls for production of bivalve molluscs. The mission found that the system is undermined by a number of non-compliances identified in relation to classification and monitoring of microbiological quality and toxins. Production areas were classified/reclassified without sanitary surveys. Classification decisions were made based on inadequate monitoring data from sampling points that are not fixed. The sampling frequency for testing for paralytic shellfish toxins was insufficient. There was no testing of the end-products for E.coli and Salmonella. Official control laboratories showed some deficiencies with regards to accreditation, quality controls and proficiency testing. The sample preparation methods used in the biotoxin testing programme raised concern about the validity and reliability of results. The Competent Authority, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, was required to submit a plan of corrective actions for consideration by the Commission.

22. The EU Council amended a range of EU legislative instruments in the field of food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, to account for the accession of Croatia to the European Union, on 1st July, 2013. Member States are required to amend their relevant national legislation based on the Directives.

23. At a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health held in Brussels on 17April 2013, the Commission issued a statement regarding the use of the additives sodium carbonate (E 500) and potassium carbonate (E 501) in fresh fish and fisheries products. These additives are marketed by some commercial operators as processing aids for the treatment of fish fillets in a blend with citric acid (E 330) and sodium citrate (E 331), for the purpose of water retention and to protect the fillets against oxidation. The Commission has confirmed that this application is considered as an additive, and as these food additives are not permitted for use in fishery products, their use is in contravention of EU law.

24. DG SANCO of the Commission has proposed revisions to the permitted levels of dioxins and dioxin like PCBs in some food products, including the Chinese mitten crab.

25. The Commission and Member States held an exchange of views on changes to the law regulating the use of Diphosphates (E 450), Triphosphates (E 451) and Polyphosphates (E 452) in wet salted fish (Regulation (EC) No.1333/2008). A majority of the Member States did not support the proposal to require additional labelling "treated with polyphosphates". Denmark registered its disappointment to the withdrawal of the proposal.

26. The Commission and Member States also discussed a draft Commission Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 to allow the use of extracts of rosemary (E 392) as an antioxidant in inter alia low fat processed fish and fishery products including molluscs and crustaceans. The proposal will increase the maximum level of use of extracts of rosemary (E 392) to 15 mg/kg for processed fish and fishery products (including molluscs and crustaceans) with a fat content up to 10% and allow up to 150 mg/kg for the products with a fat content higher than 10%. The European Food Safety Authority has found extracts of rosemary to be safe when used as a food additive. The Commission and Member States also discussed amending Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 to Exchange to authorise the use of certain colours, sweeteners, antioxidants and stabilisers in seaweed based fish roe analogues.

27. The Commission and Member States also discussed problems caused by interpretation of the requirement set out in Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 which states that fish and fishery products cannot be placed on the market if they are 'obviously contaminated' with parasites. The Commission has proposed a modification of the guidance document with regard to the term 'obviously contaminated' to help clarify interpretation.

28. The Commission has proposed changes to the EU legislation on microbiological criteria for foodstuff regarding the food safety criterion for histamine in fish sauce made by fermentation, to bring it into line with the Codex Alimentarius standard 302-2011, and lay down the sampling plan.

29. The Commission announced that it has updated its register for National Guides to Good Practice, to make them available to Member States and food business operators. These supplement Community guidelines on bivalve molluscs, wholesale markets, packaged water, sausage casings and use of liquid, frozen and dried egg products. A new web page is established for National and Community Guides to Good Practice which may be used on a voluntary basis by food business operators.

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