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May 2014

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU Ministers adopts Regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
2. The European Ombudsman requires transparency from Commission on policy
3. Commission announces intention to ban all driftnets
4. EU mackerel quotas finalised following negotiations with Norway and the Faroe Islands
5. Commission claims improved sustainability of European fisheries
6. Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries to get stronger international management
7. Commission announces initiative for improved fisheries management for Black Sea.
8. DG MARE launches control measures for the 2014 Bluefin tuna fishing season
9. Commission publishes evaluation of EU- Mozambique Fisheries Agreement
10. EU Council approves EU-Seychelles fisheries protocol
11. EU Council approves the signing of EU - São Tomé fisheries protocol
12. European Market Observatory highlights consumption of fresh mackerel.
13. EU Ministers agree to apply CFP principles in IOTC and GFCM
14. Commissioner Damanaki attends Brussels Seafood Expo; promotes farmed fish
15. Commission sets rules on common management of EU subsidy schemes
16. Commissioner Damanaki speaks on the EU's Blue growth initiative
17. Commission publishes memo illustrating importance of EU-funded marine research
18. Commissioner Damanaki speaks on the European Maritime Security Strategy

Fish hygiene

19. During May 2014; 57 rapid alert notifications for fishery products
20. Food and Veterinary Office reports Moldova caviar hygiene
21. Commission sets new cadmium limits in fishery products
22. Commission to publish official method for glaze determination in fishery products
23. New guidelines on the food hygiene regulations for imports of animal products
24. FVO to assess status of HACCP implementation in the EU food industry
25. UK's Farm Animal Welfare Committee reviews welfare of farmed fish

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The EU's Council of Ministers adopted the regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) replacing the existing European fisheries fund. This is the last of the regulations comprising the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform "package" which consists also of a new basic regulation for the CFP and a new markets regulation. The EMFF will provide some EUR6.4 billion of financial support to the EU's fishery sector during the period 2014 to 2020. Measures will include investment support for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, data collection, support for outermost regions, engine replacement (under certain conditions), subsidies for temporary cessation of activity and for small scale coastal fisheries, and compensation for damage due to predators.

2. The European Ombudsman welcomed the Commission's decision to release internal papers, including draft versions of inter-service consultations and proposals for amendments concerning the new regulation on the Common Fisheries Policy. The Commission had previously only granted partial access, following the request of a German researcher in 2011, arguing that full disclosure would undermine its decision-making processes. Although the Commission released the papers after the conclusion of the CFP regulation in 2013, the Ombudsman expects the Commission to give immediate access to similar documents in future.

3. The Commission announced that it will seek to prohibit the use of any kind of driftnet for fishing in all EU waters as of 1 January 2015, due to incidental catching of marine mammals, sea turtles and sea birds. It also proposed to prohibit the keeping of driftnets on board of fishing vessels and refine the current definition of a driftnet. Current laws ban the use of all driftnets when intended for the capture of highly migratory species such as tuna and swordfish. In the Baltic Sea, the use of driftnets and the keeping on board of any kind of driftnets has been banned since 1 January 2008. In other regions the maximum size is limited. The ban is expected to affect fishers in Bulgaria, France (both mainland and DOM), Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the UK.

4. Following the conclusion of fisheries negotiations with Norway and the Faroe Islands as regards sharing of mackerel, and additional agreements regarding blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring, the EU Council passed regulations amending the 2014 fishing quotas in international and EU waters. Some reporting arrangements under the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission are also amended.

5. The European Commission published a snapshot of some of the main achievements delivered for citizens and businesses during the last five years. It has included improved sustainability of European fisheries amongst these, with a fall from 94% of Atlantic stocks overfished to 39% overfished, whilst recognising that much still needs to be done, especially in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

6. The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) at its Annual Session in Rome agreed to set new objectives for the conservation of fish stocks in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The agreement also provides the GFCM with new tools to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries and to ensure compliance. The GFCM will establish common standards, and rules, and will strengthen cooperation between GFCM Members for the sustainable management of shared stocks.

7. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki attended the GFCM meeting and gave a speech on the need for a significant push to improve fisheries management in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean to address the heavy overfishing of many stocks and ongoing unregulated fishing. All Mediterranean countries are members of the organization, including the EU. In the Black Sea, Russia, Georgia and Ukraine are observers. She spoke of the need for the GFCM to become more prominent in this respect. She promised that the EU will place more focus of conservation policies on these seas and seek to extend membership of GFCM. The Commission will launch three specific proposals later in 2014, aimed at setting a level playing field, achieving common standards and for improved management in the Black Sea.

8. DG MARE of the European Commission reiterated its commitment to strict implementation of the control measures for the 2014 Bluefin tuna fishing season, running from the 26 May to 24 June in the Mediterranean and the Eastern Atlantic. The short fishing season is part of the ICCAT recovery plan. This year for the first time, Croatia will be a full part of the EU fleet and the EU quota for 2014 has risen by 5% to 7,939 tonnes. The measures include new controls on tuna farming, introduced under ICCAT in 2013. The Commission published a data sheet on the 2014 bluefin tuna fishing season, and the control systems employed to ensure compliance with the stock recovery plan.

9. DG MARE of the European Commission has published an evaluation of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement and protocol between the EU and Mozambique. The current Protocol, worth EUR980,000 per year, expires in January 2015. EU catches in the Mozambique fishing zone represented between 1 and 2% of total EU catches in the Indian Ocean. According to information available, EU surface longliners fishing in the Mozambique zone do not generate any additional potential threats on target species and ecosystems. The evaluation found that utilisation of fishing possibilities was 43% of maximum number of vessels in 2012 and 27% in 2013. The cost of fishing opportunities negotiated was 6 times greater than the EUR100/tonne cost considered ex-ante. Nevertheless the Agreement shows a positive return for the EU. The sectoral support was found to contribute about 2% to the national fisheries budget, thus helping to achieve improved management of the fisheries sector.

10. The EU's Council of Ministers published its decision to approve the protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and the Seychelles, which was signed and applied on a provisional basis as from 18 January 2014. The Decision empowers the Commission, subject to specific conditions, to approve modifications to the fishing opportunities defined in the Protocol, under a simplified procedure and in accordance with the decisions of the Joint Committee.

11. The European Council approved the signing and the provisional application of the protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between EU and São Tomé and Príncipe.

12. DG MARE of the Commission published the latest edition of the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture. This month it highlights scallop and pollack in France, hake and red mullet in Greece, and provides a Global Supply Case study on gilthead seabream in Italy, as well as providing data on the consumption of fresh mackerel.

13. EU Agricultural and Fisheries Ministers met in Brussels and adopted a decision to seek to apply CFP principles in the EU's dealings with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. The EU will therefore apply the precautionary approach and the aims related to maximum sustainable yield in its proposals.

14. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki attended Seafood Expo Global 2014 in Brussels, where, alongside two cooks, Gianfranco Vissani from Italy and Kevin MacGillivray from the UK, she gave a speech promoting consumption of farmed fish as helping to conserve wild fish stocks, as well as being healthy menu option.

15. The European Commission passed a regulation setting out some of the detailed approaches to the common management of EU subsidy schemes, including the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The rules set out the framework for adjustments by the Commission of the amount of financial subsidies available to Member States, as well as the detailed financial framework for the management of payments.

16. Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries gave a speech on the EU's Blue growth initiative, which aims to seek greater economic contribution from Europe's seas. She spoke of the need for innovation at the European Maritime day celebrations held in Bremen on 19 May 2014. She gave some examples of news in which ocean resources are being exploited (wind farms, new medicines or enzymes based on the DNA of marine life, and the design, building and operating of offshore structures). She set out some of the EU's related initiatives which support blue growth, such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and the EU Maritime Security Strategy, and called for global governance of the oceans.

17. In support of the blue growth innovation initiative, DG MARE of the Commission published a memo outlining what it considers to provide good examples of EU-funded marine research. Amongst others, it describes projects such as Policy-oriented marine Environmental Research for the Southern European Seas (PERSEUS). The STAGES project which supports implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive by highlighting research that furthers the directive's goal of achieving good environmental status (GES) in Europe's waters. TASTE is an SME-driven project with the main goal of developing flavour ingredients from three edible brown seaweeds. The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) also undertakes research which includes trend analysis for climate change investigations, the assessment of the environmental status of marine waters and fish stocks, the provision of economic analysis of the fisheries sector and modelling approaches for sustainable fisheries. At an associated press conference on "Blue Innovation", Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries gave a talk on removing the bottlenecks for sustainable investment in Europe's seas. She argued that more and better information from research about the marine environment was required to stimulate increased investment in new marine-related economic activities. She called for closer cooperation between Member States, the need to assemble better marine data through for example mapping, and a focus on related technical and scientific skills. She also indicated that any blue growth that is not 100% sustainable would not be permitted.

18. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki gave a speech at the European Security Round Table (ESRT) conference on the implementation of the European Maritime Security Strategy. She justified the development of an integrated approach due to increased international organised crime depletion of national resources. The strategy seeks to improve data sharing, interoperability, and shared risk management and risk analysis. The Commission has identified 23 areas for action and will seek to incorporate the Strategy's principles in its forthcoming Work Programme.

Fish hygiene

19. During May 2014, there were 57 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 10 alerts for bivalve molluscs, 1 alert for cephalopods, 6 alerts for crustaceans and 39 alerts for other fish and fish products and 1 for gastropods. These included 4 consignments of clams and 3 consignments of frozen shrimps from Vietnam, 4 consignments of frozen blue shark from Portugal and 4 consignments of frozen surimi preparations from China.

20. DG SANCO's Food and Veterinary Office published a report of a mission carried out in January 2014 on the sanitary conditions for the export of fishery products from Moldova to the EU, following a request to be listed for export of fishery products (specifically caviar from aquaculture). In principle, the organisation and implementation of official controls can be considered as meeting requirements equivalent to those of the EU. However the mission found shortcomings concerning maximum levels of contaminants applied to fishery products, out of date listing of establishments, inadequate labelling and lack of official controls on dioxin residues in fishery products. The Competent Authority, the National Food Safety Agency, was requested to submit a plan of corrective actions for the approval of the Commission.

21. Following an updated risk assessment exercise on the health effects of dietary exposure of EU consumers to cadmium (which includes new food consumption data suggesting some sub-populations consume twice the tolerable weekly intake), the European Commission has sought to amend the maximum levels of this heavy metal in a wide range of foods, including fishery products. Special higher limits are removed for bonito, common two-banded seabream, eel, grey mullet, horse mackerel, louvar, sardinops and wedge sole, all of which revert to default maximum level for fish of 0,05 mg/kg. Maximum levels for bullet tuna, anchovy and swordfish are reduced, but are increased for sardines and bichique since occurrence data show that compliance with the existing maximum levels is difficult, as natural background levels can be higher.

22. The Commission announced that WELMEC, European Cooperation in Legal Metrology, has finalised a harmonised method for determining drained weight of glazed seafood products. This was presented to the Commission and Member States, who expressed their full support for its implementation. The Commission has indicated that the guide will be published on the SANCO website and inserted in the labelling legislation (Directive 2000/13) as the official method.

23. The Commission presented Member States with its updated public guidelines on the food hygiene regulations regarding imports of food of animal origin into the European Union. This will replace the previous guidance document drafted in 2005, and will extend its scope to import of food for which import rules are not yet fully harmonized. The new guidance document was endorsed by a qualified majority of Member States.

24. The FVO of the DGSANCO announced that it will launch the "HACCP PROJECT", an evaluation of the official controls of procedures based on the HACCP principles, which aims to obtain an overview of the state of implementation and control of HACCP across Member States, and identifying and exchanging good practices and common approaches to problems.

25. The UK's Farm Animal Welfare Committee issued a review of the welfare of farmed fish in the UK aquaculture industry, substantially updating the information published by the European Food safety Authority in 2009. The review recommends that governments should extend the regulatory requirements for welfare of terrestrial species to farmed aquatic animals (with suitable modifications), so that there is a clear legal basis for enforcement of basic requirements in all farmed fish species. This would include legal requirements for the management of farming enterprises, concerning the competence of staff, record keeping, inspection frequencies, construction of facilities and arrangements for maintenance and testing of automatic equipment.

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