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March 2014

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU bans imports from Belize, Cambodia and Guinea; non-cooperating countries
2. EU sets TAC for sandeel and blue whiting for 2014
3. The EU, Faroe Islands and Norway (but not Iceland) agree on sharing of mackerel
4. EU and Faroe Islands renew quotas swaps and mutual access after a four year gap
5. EU and Norway agree TACs and quota swaps; 5% increase in the North Sea
6. Denmark launches WTO action over Faroe Islands' EU herring & mackerel bans
7. Commission publishes study on discard mitigation in Baltic Sea cod fishery
8. DG MARE hosts conference on fishing capacity management
9. Commissioner Damanaki urges Southern Europeans to stop eating juvenile fish
10. European Parliament supports changes to bluefin tuna measures
11. Commission derogates Slovenian "volantina" trawlers from inshore fishing controls
12. EU Parliament seeks to exclude fish from EU Thailand Free Trade Agreement
13. EU import study; imports contributed just over 64 % of EU market
14. EU Parliament supports autonomous import tariff quotas for Canary Islands
15. EU Council lifts ban on the import of bigeye tuna from Bolivia and Georgia
16. Commission publishes guidelines on production and marketing plans
17. EU Market Observatory focuses on frozen breaded fish portions
18. EU and Senegal hold second round of talks on new fisheries agreement
19. EU and Mauritius finalise FPA and Protocol for 86 tuna and shark fishing vessels
20. EU and Greenland ratify new protocol to Fisheries Partnership Agreement
21. DG MARE publishes study on EU - Madagascar FPA; cost benefit ratio of 7.4
22. Commission publishes common rules on structural funding including fisheries
23. Commissioner Damanaki discusses implementation of CFP reforms with NGOs
24. European Fisheries Control Agency adopts annual report for 2013
25. European Fisheries Control Agency organises technical workshop on bluefin tuna monitoring
26. New Mediterranean control plans published for bluefin, swordfish, sardine and anchovy
27. Commission publishes a list of EU Member State fishery inspectors
28. Maritime Spatial Planning directive gets green light from informal trilogue
29. Commission adopts communication on EU maritime security strategy
30. Environment Commissioner speaks at Healthy Oceans - Productive Ecosystems conference
31. Commission publishes revised proposals on de minimis state aids

Fish hygiene

32. During March 2014; 46 rapid alert notifications for fishery products.
33. DG SANCO reports on fishery products in Spain; numerous serious deficiencies
34. DG SANCO reports on scallops exported by China; laboratory deficiencies undermine controls
35. DG SANCO reports on fishery products exported by China; only minor shortcomings
36. DG SANCO reports on fishery products exported by Ecuador; weak HACCP controls
37. Commission keeps Japanese fish import controls following Fukushima accident
38. Commission extends funding for RASFF and other food safety data systems
39. Commission discusses dioxins in fish oil and cadmium in fish meal
40. Commission and Member States discuss irradiated animal feed
41. The ECsafeSEAFOOD project publishes a video on contaminants in seafood
42. Commission publishes clarifications on new rules regarding organic farming

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Following a Commission proposal, the Council of Ministers, sitting on the 24th March, 2014 confirmed Belize, Cambodia and Guinea-Conakry as non-cooperating countries with regard to controlling illegal fishing by vessels carrying their flags and established a ban on imports into the EU of any fisheries products from these countries or caught by vessels flagged by them. EU vessels will not be allowed to fish in these countries' waters. The measure will come into effect from the date of publication in the Official Journal. These are the first countries to suffer trade sanctions under the EUs IUU regulation 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, although several others are subject to a "yellow card", including Ghana, Korea and Curação. Any decision to remove a country from the list shall take into consideration whether Belize, Cambodia or Guinea has taken concrete measures capable of achieving a lasting improvement of the situation. European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries made a statement welcoming the "historic" decision.

2. The EU's Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers meeting on 24th March also established a total allowable catch (TAC) for sandeel and blue whiting for 2014 and welcomed the outcome of the coastal States consultations between the EU, Norway and the Faeroe Islands on mackerel stocks in the North-East Atlantic but regretted that Iceland was not part of the agreement.

3. The EU, Faroe Islands and Norway reached a final agreement on the sharing of the mackerel stock and signed an agreement in London on 12 March, 2014. The Agreement provides a reserve for Iceland to join at a later stage. The Agreement will run until 2018. The EU quota for mackerel in 2014 will be 611,205 tonnes.

4. Following the conclusion of the new Coastal State mackerel agreement, signed on 12 March, 2014, agreement was reached on 13 March between the EU and the Faroe Islands on reciprocal exchanges of fishing opportunities in each other's waters for 2014. This agreement follows a period of four years, during which time the Parties had not concluded arrangements, due to the long-standing mackerel dispute. The new agreement involves the exchange of a number of important quotas, including cod, haddock, saithe and redfish for the European Union, with Norway pout and blue whiting for the Faroe Islands. The Parties have also agreed reciprocal access to each other's waters for mackerel and blue whiting.

5. Following the agreement of coastal states on mackerel quotas, the EU and Norway also concluded their agreements on setting total allowable catches and sharing of migratory and straddling stocks and mutual access arrangements to each other's fisheries zones for 2014. A key feature is an increase of 5% in the TAC for North Sea cod (to 28,000 tonnes) and 15% for North Sea plaice compared to 2013. However, the TACs for North Sea haddock, saithe and whiting have been reduced by 15% with the herring TAC in the same area being reduced by 2%.

6. On behalf of the Faroe Islands, Denmark launched a complaint against the EU at the WTO. This is in respect of the economic measures applied by the Commission which ban the import from the Faroes Islands of Atlanto-Scandian herring and Northeast Atlantic mackerel, due to the establishment of unilateral quotas. The Faroe Islands claims that the EU measures are inconsistent with the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade 1994. A dispute settlement panel has been appointed by the WTO.

7. The Commission published a study assessing the impact of different technical approaches to mitigate the discards of cod in the Baltic Sea. The study, undertaken by a consortium led by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, worked with fishermen in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Poland to identify discard hotspots and assess the economical and biological effects of some more selective gears (e.g. T90 codend, modified Bacoma etc.).

8. The European Commission for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, hosted an international conference on sustainable fishing capacity management held under the auspices of the Greek Presidency in Thessaloniki, Greece. The aim was to share best practice and find long term policy solutions to excess fishing capacity. Mrs. Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries gave a speech emphasising the need for a carefully designed mix of structural and conservation tools, like rights-based systems, tighter controls and incentives for diversification, and above all, political will. The conference concluded with the signing of a Joint Statement on capacity management by the EU and like-minded countries such as the United States, Colombia, Indonesia and Japan.

9. Commissioner Damanaki hosted an event at the above conference with a wide range of stakeholders: fishermen, scientists, chefs, fishmongers, teachers, students, consumer and civil society organisations. The event aimed at finding ways to stop Southern European consumers eating juvenile fish.

10. The European Economic and Social Committee of the European Parliament published its opinion on the amendments to the recovery plan for bluefin tuna proposed in 2013. The Committee supports the proposals to adjust the fishing periods for each of the types of fishing vessels authorised to catch bluefin tuna, in line with ICCAT advice.

11. The Commission passed a regulation derogating a fleet segment in Slovenia (of 12 small inshore "volantina" trawlers) from the requirement not to operate with towed gears within 3 nautical miles of the coast or within the 50m isobath as set out in EU legislation.

12. The European Parliament passed a resolution requesting that fishery products imported from Thailand, such as canned tuna, be excluded from the scope of the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Thailand, currently in negotiation. The Parliament claims that such products have the potential to disrupt the EU's production of, and market for, these products. It also considers that any decision concerning greater access for Thai canned and processed tuna should only be taken following rigorous impact assessments and in close consultation with EU industry. It also calls for the Agreement to make specific reference to compliance with ILO and IUU requirements in respect of fishery products exported to the EU.

13. A.I.P.C.E.-C.E.P, the EU Fish Processors and Traders Association published its annual study on the supplies of fish to the EU market for 2013. Supplies to the EU market were 13.7 million tonnes in 2013, down 3 % on the previous year. Imports contributed just over 64 % (8.8 million tonnes).

14. The European Economic and Social Committee published its opinion (of September 2013) endorsing the proposed autonomous tariff quotas which allow the Canary Islands to import fishery products for its domestic market, free of import duties.

15. The EU Council passed a regulation lifting the ban on the import of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) originating from Bolivia and Georgia. These countries' vessels had previously been identified as being engaged in the illegal unregulated and unrecorded fishing of this species in contravention of ICCAT Rules. Bans on the import of this species from Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Equatorial Guinea were lifted previously in 2004.

16. The Commission published a formal recommendation regarding the content of, and arrangements for, production and marketing plans which must be submitted by fisheries and aquaculture producer organisations to the Competent Authorities of Member States. The Commission makes recommendations as to the format and structure of production and marketing plans, and time limits and procedures for annual reporting. It also provides examples of the different measures that producer organisations can take to contribute to their objectives.

17. The Commission published the latest edition of the EU Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture. It reports first sales data for Denmark, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, UK, Germany and Norway. A special feature looks at "fish fingers" frozen breaded fish portions, made mostly from imported fillet blocks of Alaskan Pollack.

18. The Commission announced the second round of negotiations for the establishment of a new Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Senegal, held in Brussels in March. The parties report "an excellent spirit of cooperation" and a further round of meetings will be held in Dakar this year, in April.

19. The EU published a notice that both parties have now ratified the protocol to the EU - Mauritius Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which accordingly entered into force on 28 January, 2014. The Agreement and Protocol were published. The EU will gain access to Mauritius fishing zone for a period of three years for 41 tuna seiners, and 45 surface long liners. The total financial contribution shall be EUR1.98 million, corresponding to a equivalent to a reference tonnage of 5,500 tonnes per year, and a supplementary amount of EUR302,500 per year for implementation of a maritime and fisheries sector support programme.

20. The EU published a notice that both parties have now ratified the protocol to the EU Greenland Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which accordingly entered into force on 29 January, 2014.

21. DG MARE of the European Commission published a study of the impacts of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Madagascar. The main findings are that the rate of utilisation of the fishing opportunities was 70% of the reference tonnage in 2013, and delivered catches worth EUR17 million. The agreement delivered a cost benefit ratio of 7.4 considering the benefits derived by the EU, Madagascar and other ACP beneficiaries (Seychelles and Mauritius). The study also recommends the implementation of an observer programme on board EU surface longliners operating under the Agreement.

22. The Commission published a common framework and implementing rules regarding the EU's structural and investment funds, including the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The rules are designed to ensure coherence in the methodologies applied within the EU's different funding instruments. They cover the determination of milestones and performance targets as well as the nomenclature of categories of intervention. The Regulation also sets out how the support measures for climate change impacts are to be calculated within the frame of the Member States' Operational programmes (including EMFF), based on a system of weighting and coefficients.

23. Representatives from WWF, Greenpeace, Oceana, PEW, Ocean2012 and Birdlife met with Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Damanaki to discuss implementation of MSY targets and landing obligations in the fishery sector, as well as the elimination of IUU fishing.

24. The European Fisheries Control Agency adopted its annual report for 2013. Much of the year was taken up in preparation for the entry into force of the new basic regulation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and in particular in establishing controls to meet the requirements of the new no discards policy. It also continued to build control capacities, including the development of a new data management system incorporating electronic control tools, and prepared the core curricula for a course "Inspection at Sea" (including handbook and manual), for use by the Member States and the European Commission.

25. The European Fisheries Control Agency organised a technical workshop on monitoring and control of the Eastern bluefin tuna fishery in the ICCAT area (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna). The workshop was held on the 25-26 March 2014 in Vigo, Spain and attended by representatives from EU countries and other ICCAT contracting parties such as Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Turkey. The workshop focused on control measures both at sea and in farms, including the issue of transfer and caging operations, and the use of stereoscopic cameras or alternative systems to assess the numbers and weight of fish being transferred. The EU also advocated the establishment of joint inspection teams on a voluntary basis for increased effectiveness of controls.

26. The European Commission published a decision requiring Member States to implement a specific control and inspection programme aimed at checking on compliance with measures to protect bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, swordfish in the Mediterranean and for fisheries exploiting stocks of sardine and anchovy in the Northern Adriatic Sea. The specific control and inspection programme should be established for the period from 16 March, 2014 until 15 March, 2018 and should be implemented by Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain. Reporting requirements are also set out.

27. The Commission published the list of EU Member State inspectors authorised for implementation of the community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy ("Union inspectors). They may carry out inspections in Union waters and on any Union fishing vessels outside Union waters

28. The Commission's draft for a Framework Directive for Maritime Spatial Planning received a positive response from the informal trilogue conducted by the Council, Commission and EU Parliament. The Directive will require Member States to develop a Maritime Spatial Plan, cooperate more closely over cross-border sea areas, and take account of land-sea interactions. The Commission welcomed the agreement. The proposal can move to the formal process for adoption.

29. The European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security adopted a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council "For an open and secure global maritime domain: elements for a European Union maritime security strategy". This presents a vision of the Union's maritime security interests and threats, and proposes the areas in which cooperation between various maritime players can be enhanced. The EU maritime security strategy will aim to prevent conflicts, protect critical infrastructure, exercise effective control of external borders, protect the global trade support chain, and prevent illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. The strategy will impact on EU waters and vessels flagged under EU Member States.

30. Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for Environment gave the opening address to 'HOPE' (Healthy Oceans - Productive Ecosystems) marine conference. In a speech entitled "Together we can save our seas" he set out some of the environmental issues facing the EU's seas giving examples of marine litter and deepsea mining. He reviewed progress with implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, with much work left to do during the six years remaining before the target date for "good environmental status". For example in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, nearly 9 in every 10 species are overfished, oxygen depletion continues in the Black Sea, and levels of nutrients and certain hazardous substances remain above safe levels in some regions. He set out some of the steps required, such as recycling of materials which end up as marine litter and called for greater cooperation across Regional Sea Basins. He also announced European Beach Clean-Up Day which will take place on 10 May.

31. The Commission published its second draft of the proposals to modify the rules regarding de minimis state aids. The second draft maintains the current ceiling of EUR30,000 and cumulative amount for each Member State at the level of 2,5 % of the annual catching, processing and aquaculture turnover. Above these limits, Member States are obliged to notify the Commission of their interventions, which may thus be subject to a ruling on their compliance with the EU Treaty. Interested parties are called on to submit comments by 23rd May 2014.

Fish hygiene

32. During March 2014, there were 46 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 14 alerts for bivalve molluscs, 5 alerts for cephalopods, 2 alerts for crustaceans and 25 alerts for other fish and fish products. These included 4 consignments of frozen cooked clams from Vietnam and 4 consignments of frozen mako shark from Spain.

33. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO of the European Commission reported on a mission to Spain conducted in May 2013, to evaluate the national food safety controls on fishery products, and to follow up on a previous mission in 2008. The mission found that the organisation of the competent authorities visited, the standards set and their operational procedures, could in principle provide an acceptable system of official controls of fishery products. However, the mission found that there were deficiencies in relation to the supervision and audit of official controls by regional authorities, shortcomings in the implementation of approvals of establishments and freezer vessels (7 vessels were found to be operating without approval for at least two years). In addition sanitary controls on fishing vessels and landings were not always effective, there were deficiencies in the evaluation of HACCP plans (which in some establishments were non-existent). Fish was imported via a third country without a health certificate. Monitoring arrangements for dioxins, PCBs and PAH were not implemented in all regions. The two Ministries who share Competent Authority functions (the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality) were required to submit a plan of corrective actions subsequently accepted by the Commission.

34. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO of the European Commission reported on a mission to China conducted in November 2013, to evaluate the national food safety controls on scallops from the Zhangzidao production area to be exported to the EU. The mission found that although several of the recommendations from a previous mission in 2009 had been addressed, there were outstanding weaknesses in the sanitary and phytoplankton monitoring system for the classification of production areas. Deficiencies in the testing laboratory undermined the reliability of test results for phytoplankton identification and biotoxin assays. The Central Competent Authority, the General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine, was required to submit a plan of corrective actions for the consideration of DG SANCO.

35. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO of the European Commission reported on a mission to Ecuador conducted in December 2013, to evaluate the national food safety controls on fishery products exported to the EU, and following up on a previous mission in 2010. The mission found that in principle official controls provided a guarantee that the conditions of production of fishery products were equivalent to the EU. However there were a number of deficiencies identified, in particular concerning knowledge of inspectors regarding HACCP assessment, non-EU listed facilities participating in the EU export production chain, the supervision of establishments, and controls on the eligibility of raw materials imported from foreign flagged vessels entering products exported to the EU. Some establishments handling products exported to the EU were not subject to approval, and some approved establishments were in a poor state of repair, did not possess temperature-recording devices and had not implemented HACCP effectively. The Competent Authority, the Instituto Nacional de Pesca, was required to submit a plan of corrective actions for the consideration of DG SANCO.

36. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO of the European Commission reported on a mission to China conducted in November 2013, to evaluate the national food safety controls on fishery products exported to the EU. The mission found that is an efficient official control system in place for the production of fishery products for export to the EU, which offers sufficient guarantees of equivalence with EU requirements. Minor shortcomings were identified regarding the number of samples selected for histamine testing and the listing data for one establishment, which were addressed in a subsequent action plan submitted by the Competent Authority, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

37. The Commission modified the requirements for the control of radionuclide levels in certain food products imported from Japan following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station on 11 March 2011. Although a number of feed and food products originating in the Prefecture of Fukushima products are removed from specific controls some food and feed from Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Miyagi, Saitama, Iwate and Chiba Prefectures shall remain subject to routine monitoring. These include fish and fishery products which should be subject to sampling and analysis for the presence of caesium 134 and caesium-137. However the Commission decided that it is appropriate to reduce the frequency of controls at import. The new measures will remain in place until the end of March 2015.

38. The Commission allocated the funding for continued operation of a range of database functions required by law in relation to food safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health, including the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), register of food contact materials, genetically modified food and feed (GMOs), novel foods, flavourings, enzymes and nutrition and health claims. The decision also provides budget for the hosting, management and maintenance of the integrated computerised veterinary system TRACES (Trade Control and Expert System) operated by the European Commission. For 2014 the total amount allocated is EUR11.2 million.

39. The Commission discussed a number of RASFF notifications with Member States, including dioxins in fish oil from Lithuania and cadmium in fish meal from Spain.

40. The Commission and Member States discussed the legal status of irradiated animal feed, which is not regulated by the EU. In the absence of EU measures, such products are permitted providing they comply with any national measures in place in the Member State in which they are sold.

41. The ECsafeSEAFOOD project, under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, published its findings in a video about the food safety of fishery products. The project, led by the Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera surveyed levels of different contaminants and evaluated their impact on public health.

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