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June 2014

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU warning for non-cooperation on IUU fishing by Philippines and Papua New Guinea
2. Commission sets out breakdown of EUR5.7 billion subsidy fund (2014-2020); 20% to Spain
3. EU and Faroe Islands agree on sharing of the Atlanto-Scandian herring; relations to be normalised
4. EU and Seychelles agree on access for Seychelles flagged vessels to EU waters around Mayotte
5. Transitional arrangements under consideration for CFP landing obligation
6. Commissioner Damanaki; reformed CFP will address heavy overfishing in Mediterranean
7. Fleet segments in southern France derogated from ban on certain fishing gears in inshore zone
8. Commission gets power to amend rules on acoustic deterrent devices
9. DG MARE publishes report on deep shark bycatches in Portuguese scabbard fishery
10. Danish vessels stop fishing for sandeel.
11. DG MARE audit finds French fisheries controls weak on cross-checks and communication
12. DG MARE reports on status of 2014 bluefin tuna control measures
13. EU's Bluefin tuna rules changed on cameras in caging operations
14. DG MARE considers agreement for EU shark and tuna fishing in Tanzanian and Kenyan waters
15. Report published on conference on external dimension of the CFP Common Fisheries Policy
16. EU Council adopts fisheries protocol with São Tomé and Príncipe; EUR2.8 million over four years
17. EU Council also approves new 4 year-fisheries protocols with Madagascar and Comoros
18. Commissioner Damanaki concerned over forced labour in Thailand's prawn industry
19. DG MARE participates in launch of the Pan-African Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy
20. EU welcomes FAO guidelines on flag state performance criteria
21. Commissioner Damanaki attends "Our Oceans" Conference in Washington DC
22. Commissioner Maria Damanaki co-hosts Global Ocean Commission conference on ocean governance
23. EU Council supports Blue Growth Strategy for development of the marine and maritime economy

Fish hygiene

24. During June 2014; 49 rapid alert notifications for fishery products
25. EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed celebrates 35 years in operation
26. DG SANCO reports on sanitary controls on fish exports to EU from Singapore
27. Traditional smoked fish products to be allowed higher levels of smoke carcinogens
28. New sampling requirements and guidance for testing for dioxins and PCBs in larger fish
29. EFSA finds astaxanthin feed additive to be safe for animals and humans
30. Food and Veterinary Office to review animal welfare in fish farming missions to EU states

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The European Commission has issued "yellow card" warnings to the Philippines and Papua New Guinea indicating they risk being identified as countries which are considered to fail to "discharge the duties incumbent upon (them) under international law as a flag, port, coastal or market State" and be regarded as non-cooperative in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The Decision identifies concrete shortcomings, such as lack of system of sanctions to deter IUU activities and lack of actions to address deficiencies in monitoring, controlling and surveillance of fisheries. Unless both countries respond with the implementation of a concrete action plan of corrective measures, the decision may lead to trade sanctions of imports of fishery products from these countries.

2. Following the adoption of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the European Commission has set out the breakdown of the EUR5.7 billion subsidy fund by priority and Member State for the period 2014-2020. The EMFF provides the subsidies to help deliver the objectives of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and will fund projects to help boost growth and jobs in the European maritime economy. Of the total, almost EUR1.2 billion is allocated to Spain. France, Italy and Poland will also be major beneficiaries, with more than EUR0.5 billion each.

3. The European Commission and the Faroe Islands reached a political agreement on the sharing of the Atlanto-Scandian herring in the North-East Atlantic. The Faroe Islands has agreed to withdraw their unilateral quotas and the EU will lift the restrictions on trade and access to EU ports that have been applied against the Faroe Islands since August 2013. The Faroe Islands will also close the proceedings launched against the EU at the World Trade Organization over the EU's right to apply trade sanctions. The Agreement paves the way for the resumption of the annual bilateral exchanges of fishing rights between the parties.

4. The EU published the text of the Fisheries agreement between the EU and Seychelles, providing access for Seychelles flagged vessels to EU waters around the Island of Mayotte in the SW Indian Ocean (which ceded from Comoros and became an overseas department of France in 2011).

5. The European Commission launched its draft of the "Omnibus regulation" setting out the arrangements for aligning the technical and control rules for fishing to the new Common Fisheries Policy and notably to the landing obligation which shall apply from 1 January 2015. The transitional legislation will remove management measures and controls that run contrary to the landing obligation and oblige fishermen to discard fish. However the Commission stated that it will not support derogations that would allow the consumption of undersized fish. Detailed negotiations with the European Parliament will now be undertaken. The Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers discussed the key issues, such as de minimis exemptions. The Commission also presented a review of new discard plans submitted by Member States setting out the approach to implementation of the landing obligation.

6. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Mrs.Maria Damanaki presented the Commission's report on the state of fish stocks in 2014 and the preparation of setting next years' fishery conservation measures and quotas. The report calls for stronger management measures in the Mediterranean, where over 96% of assessed stocks of bottom-living fish stocks are overfished in the Mediterranean, and 100% in the Black Sea. Of the pelagic stocks in mid-water, more than 50% are overfished, and 33% of pelagic stocks in the Black Sea are overfished. Overall, Mrs.Damanaki said fish stocks in the North and West of Europe are recovering, but "the time of denial is over: the Mediterranean Sea is heavily overfished". The Commission promises a new approach under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy to address the issue.

7. Following assessment by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) the Commission has passed a regulation derogating a number of vessels in southern France from the prohibition on the use of towed gears and shore seine nets within 3 nautical miles of the coast. The measure will have only a limited impact on important seagrass beds.

8. The European Council has delegated powers to the Commission to amend technical measures in respect of acoustic deterrent devices required to avoid the incidental catch of cetaceans with certain fishing gears.

9. DG MARE of the European Commission has published the findings and recommendations of a study on the "Reduction of the deep-sea shark's by-catches in the Portuguese long-line black scabbard fishery". The study was based on observer data and found that bycatch of deep sea sharks in 2012 in the Portuguese mainland black scabbard fishery was 687 tonnes, corresponding to 154,188 specimens. The study recommends that effective management measures for by-catch reduction should be introduced, shark discards should be eliminated and vessels should have independent observer coverage on board.

10. A stop fishing notice was issued by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Danish vessels fishing for sandeel.

11. DG MARE of the European Commission conducted an audit of the French fisheries control system which identified a number of concerns regarding administrative complexity, lack of cross-checks and insufficient communication with other Member States. The Commission has however accepted a plan of corrective actions proposed by the Government of France. This will adapt the French fisheries control system to comply with the requirements of the EU's fisheries Control Regulation which entered into force in 2010.

12. The Commission's DG MARE issued a press release setting out the status of the control measures being applied during the 2014 bluefin tuna catching season to ensure adherence to the stock recovery plan. For the first time, the Croatian purse seine vessels were fully part of the EU fleet and covered by the control and monitoring system applied within the EU. Spanish vessels exhausted their quotas within 2 days.

13. In line with the latest ICCAT resolutions, the EU has modified the EU's Bluefin tuna management arrangements with regard to the use of stereoscopic camera systems in caging operations and the possible setting of a different starting date for the fishing seasons for bait-boats and trolling boats in the eastern Atlantic.

14. The European Commission published a report by consultants analysing the tuna fisheries of the Western Indian Ocean, with particular reference to the role of EU vessels, and possible future Fisheries Partnership Agreements with both Tanzania and Kenya. Tuna catches in the region accounted for 12% of the global total of 4.6 million tonnes in 2011. The report also confirms that the Spanish, UK and Portuguese surface longline vessels in the region primarily target shark and swordfish. The report concludes that a Fisheries Partnership Agreements with both Kenya and Tanzania could potentially be of interest to the EU but that improvements in research, fisheries management, MCS and the functioning of regional institutions are all required.

15. The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management published its Report Global Trends in Fisheries Governance, based on a conference held on this theme in January 2014, with the aim of analysing the external dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy. The meeting was attended by representatives of the European Commission and Parliament, as well as scientists and NGOs from the EU and third countries.

16. The European Council authorised the signature of the new Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and São Tomé and Príncipe. This provides for Tuna seine opportunities for 28 vessels) and surface longline opportunities for 6 vessels. For the four year Protocol, the financial contribution shall be EUR2.8 million. Tuna seine opportunities are allocated to Spain and France (12 vessels) and surface longline opportunities to Spain and Portugal. The new Protocol will apply provisionally, pending completion of the formal procedures.

17. The European Council also approved a new 4 year-Protocols under Fisheries Partnership Agreements between the EU and Madagascar and the EU and Comoros. The Commission is empowered to approve, on behalf of the European Union, modifications to the Protocols in the Joint Committees.

18. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs. Maria Damanaki commented on recent evidence provided by media and by NGOs on the human rights situation in Thailand's prawn industry. She stated that the evidence presented on the use forced labour raised "raise grave questions". She indicated that the Commission may intensify its investigations of Thailand from the perspective of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries.

19. Director General Lowri Evans of DG MARE, European Commission, gave a speech at the EU/AU Ministerial Dialogue on Fisheries and Aquaculture held in Addis Ababa on 30 April 2014 to mark the launch of the Pan-African Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy framework and Reform Strategy. She congratulated the AU Member States NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) and the AU-IBAR (Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources of the AU Commission) on the initial steps taken. The EU has identified fisheries and aquaculture as priority areas for future regional multi-annual programming for the period 2014-2020, and has committed to support the implementation of the AU fisheries programme, with a contribution of EUR11 million. Ms.Evans outlined some of the policy priorities, such as the need to eliminate IUU fishing, strengthening RFMOs, improving science for fisheries management decisions, building MCS capacity, and accelerating the development of aquaculture.

20. The European Commission welcomed the outcome of the FAO-Committee on Fisheries which met in Rome from 9 to 13 June 2014. The session was attended by 116 Members and 73 intergovernmental and international NGOs. The meeting adopted voluntary guidelines on securing sustainable small scale fisheries, and endorsed the voluntary guidelines on flag state performance criteria.

21. Commissioner Damanaki attended the "Our Oceans" Conference in Washington DC organised by US Secretary of State John Kerry, where she called for increased international cooperation in ocean protection to meet the challenges of sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification. The event was also attended by business executives, scientists, and environmental activists.

22. Commissioner Maria Damanaki attended a launch event of the Global Ocean Commission (GOC) report and recommendations on ocean governance. She expressed the intention to continue the global approach to addressing ocean challenges. Later in the month she co-hosted a Conference in Brussels with the Global Ocean Commission on how to restore ocean health and sustainable productivity. The event discussed the main challenges and threats to the high seas. Mrs. Damanaki gave a speech on "Re-energising the Oceans" in which she outlined the need for new regulatory approaches to ensure sustainable exploitation of deep sea waters, in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and especially in relation to IUU fishing, fisheries management by RFMOs marine litter and mineral extraction.

23. The EU's General Affairs Council (which coordinates the agenda for the European Council meetings) expressed support for the Commission's proposals for the delivery of the EU's Blue Growth Strategy, which aims at creating sustainable economic growth and employment in the marine and maritime economy. Commissioner Damanaki stated that the objective was to raise the number of EU jobs in the maritime sector from 5.4 million to 7 million by 2020 in areas such as marine renewable energy, aquaculture, coastal tourism, blue biotechnology, and sea bed mining.

Fish hygiene

24. During June 2014, there were 49 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 11 alerts for bivalve molluscs, 8 alerts for crustaceans and 30 alerts for other fish and fish products. These included 4 consignments of clams and 5 consignments of frozen shrimp from Vietnam, 2 consignments of tuna from Ecuador, 2 consignments of smoked salmon from Denmark and 2 consignments of chilled great Amberjack from Tunisia.

25. On the 35th anniversary of the launch of the EU Commission's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, DG Health and Consumer Protection published a set of Questions and Answers about the system, which provides up to do date information about consignments of food and feed which represent a risk to consumer and animal health.

26. DG SANCO of the European Commission published the report of a mission by the Food and Veterinary Office to assess the sanitary conditions applicable to fishery products imported by the EU from Singapore. The mission found that there have been improvements in relation to the traceability of raw materials, frequencies of inspections and analytical methods used. However there was a lack of follow-up in one establishment with serious persistent hygiene problems. In addition fishery products were analysed for lead contamination, and declarations on health certificates were sometimes incorrect. The mission concluded that overall the structure and standards set and their documented operational procedures provide for an acceptable official control system for fishery products, which is implemented to an acceptable standard. The Competent Authority, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore was requested to address the issues identified.

27. The Commission and the Member States discussed the forthcoming significant reduction the maximum levels of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) permitted in smoked meat and fishery products (with the end of the transition period due on 1st September 2014). Since the introduction of the amendment, some 11 Member States have submitted evidence that 9 traditionally smoked meat and 3 smoked fish products (in addition to sprat, which is already derogated) will not be able to comply with these stricter requirements. Most EU Member States are in favour of derogation for these products, and the Commission was requested to consult on this possibility.

28. The European Commission passed a regulation which amends the provisions concerning the sampling procedure and the methods of analysis to be applied for the official control of dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs in certain foodstuffs. The modifications now provide for the application of a screening method to identify the samples with significant levels of contamination which can then be subject to further analysis. In addition, a standardised sampling method for large fish is also specified in more detail, as well as ensuring a harmonised approach to minimise the effect of fish size on test results for contamination levels. New guidance notes are published on sampling of whole fishes of different size and/or weight.

29. Following a request from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed (FEEDAP) published a study on the risks to animal health of astaxanthin when used as feed additive for salmon and trout, other fish, ornamental fish, crustaceans and ornamental birds. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid food pigment which occurs naturally in plankton, crustaceans and fish. The Panel advises that synthetic astaxanthin is safe for salmonids at concentrations of up to 100 mg/kg of complete diet, and that this can be extrapolated to other fish and ornamental fish at the same dose. Dietary concentrations up to 100 mg astaxanthin/kg feed are safe for crustaceans. The Panel could not conclude on the safety of astaxanthin for ornamental birds. In a parallel study EFSA opined that the use of astaxanthin up to the maximum permitted dietary level for salmon and trout is of no concern for the safety of the consumer.

30. Following recent concerns expressed about animal welfare in fish farming, the European Commission issued a statement emphasising that the health and welfare of farmed fish is already addressed by EU legislation covering animal welfare during growing, transport, and slaughter. The Commission considers that only by ensuring that fish farmed are well treated throughout their life cycle can the quality of EU aquaculture produce be assured. The Food and Veterinary Office of the Commission's Health and Consumers Directorate General is planning a series of fact finding missions on aquaculture to a number of Member States in 2015 which will address fish welfare issues.

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