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August 2014

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Commission repeals fish trade sanctions against Faroe in mackerel dispute
2. Ten EU Member States declare catches in excess of 2013 fishing quotas
3. Commission re-allocates UK demersal fishing effort
4. DG MARE publishes EU study on small-scale driftnets in the Mediterranean
5. Myfish and SOCIOEC projects disseminate Baltic Sea management strategies
6. Stop fishing notices published for Bluefin tuna and sandeel
7. EU and Mauritania clarify expiry dates of Fisheries Protocol.
8. EU and Cape Verde conclude negotiations on renewal of Fisheries Protocol
9. DG MARE publishes evaluation of EU Greenland Fisheries Agreement
10. Fisheries protocols with Comores, Morocco and Seychelles now in force
11. Commission helps strengthen fisheries MCS in Senegal
12. Commission agrees structural funds framework with 14 Member States
13. Commission publishes draft regulation on State Aids in fishery sector
14. DG MARE publishes study on EU fisheries subsidies 2007 to 2013

Fish hygiene

15. During August 2014; 37 rapid alert notifications for fishery products
16. DG SANCO reports on audit of Germany controls on bivalve molluscs
17. DG SANCO reports on New Zealand's sanitary controls for fishery products
18. DG SANCO reports on United States' sanitary controls for fishery products
19. Commission extends safeguard measures on imports of Turkish bivalves
20. Commission publishes FVO audit programme for rest of 2014
21. Commission and EU Member States agree technical guidance on Listeria studies
22. Commission requests EFSA risk assessment on pre-packed fishery products.
23. ECsafeSEAFOOD announces studies on unregulated contaminants in fish
24. Denmark declares zones free of Marteilia refringens
25. Commission extends period for national measures to control Ostreid herpesvirus

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The Commission has repealed the trade sanctions adopted against the Faroe Islands in August 2013 following the declaration of a unilateral quota for Atlanto-Scandian herring. The decision comes after the parties agreed on a Faroese catch limit for herring in 2014 of 40,000t. According to the current scientific assessments, this does not put in jeopardy the sustainability of the stock. However the Commission cautions that 40,000t does not represent the legitimate share of the stock for the Faroe Islands and catch shares will have to be renegotiated in future among the five coastal States (Norway, the Russian Federation, Iceland, Faroe Islands and the EU) with fisheries interests in the stock. Commissioner Damanaki and the Faroe Islands Fisheries Minister subsequently declared the dispute over.

2. The European Commission announced that the ten Member States which declared catches in excess of fishing quotas in 2013 will face reduced fishing quotas for those stocks in 2014. Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and United Kingdom collectively overfished 45 fish stocks and will face reductions on the same stocks (or if not feasible, on alternative stocks in the same region). Compared to 2013, the quota adjustments have declined by 22%.

3. The European Commission has reallocated the fishing effort for demersal species for the United Kingdom, following a submission from the UK, regarding the under-utilisation of some fishing opportunities in certain areas.

4. The European Commission DG MARE has published a study by EU research institutions on the use of small-scale driftnets (<2.5km for species other than large pelagic fishes) by EU artisanal fleets operating in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite a lack of appropriate data held by Member States, the study found that most of the small scale driftnet fisheries in the Mediterranean (467 out of 480 operating vessels) were located in Italy, where small mesh sizes (from 20 to 40 mm) targeted mainly anchovy and sardine, and larger mesh sizes were used for demersal species such as seabream, amberjack, mackerels, Atlantic bonito and bullet tuna. In some countries (Greece in the EU and Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey outside), these gears are currently forbidden. Few catches of non-authorised species were recorded, and discards are reported to be low. Overall the study concluded that in spite of the low level impact on landings at national level, these fisheries provide a relevant contribution in terms of the annual income for the fishermen involved. They are generally highly selective on the target species, with an overall low impact on the environment.

5. Two EU funded research projects Myfish and SOCIOEC organized a one-day stakeholder workshop, entitled "How to determine long term targets for Baltic Sea multi annual multi species plans" held in Copenhagen. They discussed the findings of recent research and implications for best practices and management strategies for implementation of new EU fishery policies in the Baltic Sea region. Members of the Baltic Sea Regional Advisory Committee (BSRAC) attended the meeting. SOCIOEC and Myfish both aim to construct long-term sustainable fisheries management plans and to evaluate different management measures to ensure compliance and sustainability. Myfish is a FP7-funded project which aims to provide an operational framework for the implementation of the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) concept in European waters.

6. Stop fishing notice has been published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Italian, Portuguese and Spanish traps fishing for Bluefin tuna, and Croatian, French, Italia, Maltese and Spanish vessels fishing for bluefin tuna. German vessels have been stopped fishing for sandeel.

7. Following a differing interpretation of the expiry date of the current Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Mauritania, the two parties have reached an agreement which allows shrimps and small pelagic fleets to continue fishing until 15 December 2014, when the Protocol terminates. However demersal and tuna fleets were required to stop fishing from the 1st August 2014, on the expiry of the 24 month access period set by the Protocol.

8. The EU and Cape Verde concluded their negotiations on a new Protocol to their Fisheries Partnership. The four-year Protocol will replace the current Protocol which expires on 31 August 2014. It will allow 71 EU vessels to fish for tuna and other highly migratory species in Cape Verdean waters. In return, the Union will pay Cape Verde EUR550,000 per year for the first two years of application and EUR500 000 per year for the final two years of application. Half of the yearly financial contribution will be paid for access to the resource and the other half is earmarked for promoting sustainable management of fisheries in Cape Verde.

9. DG MARE of the European Commission has published the report of an evaluation study by consultants, considering the impacts of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Greenland. The Agreement permits EU vessels to fish for a range of species (cod, pelagic and demersal redfish, Greenland halibut in West and East Greenland waters, shrimp in West and East Greenland waters, Atlantic halibut in West and East Greenland waters, capelin, snow crab, and grenadier in West and East Greenland waters). Indicative annual fishing opportunities totalling 85,765 tonnes in return for an annual financial contribution of EUR15.1 million. The study found that between 2012 and 2014 Greenland was only able to provide less than half of the agreed quota due to the non-availability of capelin. As a result since the EU has not exchanged quota for Greenlandic fishing opportunities with Iceland, although quota exchanges with Norway and Faroe Islands could proceed. In 2013 the total quota for remaining EU Member States was 28 020 tonnes, (including 1400 tonnes for an experimental mackerel fishery since this species is now increasing its abundance in Greenland waters). The Agreement generated around EUR 10 million for the EU catching sector, and indirect value-added of EUR 6 million for upstream EU businesses and EUR 7 million for downstream businesses. Despite the benefits to the parties, the report identifies concerns regarding the variability of capelin quotas, management of cod bycatch in the redfish fishery, and quota allocations on some species in excess of those recommended by scientific advice.

10. Following signature of the protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreements with Comores, Morocco and Seychelles, the EU has announced that this protocol entered into force on 14 May 2014, 15 July 2014 and 25 June 2014 respectively.

11. The European Commission announced that, within the framework of the EU Senegal Fisheries Partnership Agreement concluded in April 2014, an EU delegation has visited Dakar (Senegal) between 4 and 6 August 2014, with a view to strengthening fisheries monitoring control and surveillance of the national authorities. The mission included a training course on control and inspection of fishing vessels.

12. The European Commission announced that it has adopted 14 Member State "Partnership Agreements" which set out the national authorities' plans on how to use funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) between 2014 and 2020. This includes the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund which helps tackle unemployment and boost competitiveness and economic growth through support to innovation, training and education in fishing, aquaculture and other marine related activities.

13. The Commission has published a draft regulation setting out certain types of State Aids to small and medium-sized fishery sector enterprises (SMEs) which do not contravene the EU Treaty in terms of distortion of the internal market. The proposal sets out subsidies which are permitted to be granted by EU Member States to enterprises engaged in the production, processing or marketing of fishery and aquaculture products. These include a requirement that subsidies comply with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy and aid which has an incentive effect. Aid may be granted inter alia for innovation, advisory services, partnership between scientists and fishermen, to promote human capital, job creation and social dialogue, to facilitate diversification and new forms of income, to start-up support for young fishermen and to improve health and safety. Member States are required to publish details of the state aids awarded on their website. Interested parties are invited to submit comments to DG MARE on the draft regulation on fisheries sector state aids by 30 September 2014.

14. DG MARE published a report by consultants on the implementation of the European Fisheries Fund during the 2007-2013 programming period with regard to Axis 4 (Sustainable Development of Fisheries Areas). The methodology assessed the impact of investment subsidies to Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) through a survey of 247 groups and 20 case studies, supported by focus group meetings and individual interviews in 15 Member States. Over 5.500 projects were supported, consuming 67% of the budget for Axis 4. The projects involved the creation of 220 new businesses and over 8.000 jobs, whilst nearly 12.500 posts were maintained. However, 39% of the projects financed were expected to close after the cessation of the subsidies. The study recommends that the EU should consider upfront subsidies for FLAGs rather than project by project support.

Fish hygiene

15. During August 2014, there were 37 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 6 alerts for bivalve molluscs, 2 alerts for cephalopods, 9 alerts for crustaceans and 20 alerts for other fish and fish products. These included 2 consignments of live mussels from the Netherlands, 6 consignments of frozen shrimps from India, 2 consignments of frozen shrimps from Peru and 3 consignments of swordfish from Spain,

16. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO of the European Commission has published a report on a mission undertaken in October 2013 to evaluate Germany's control systems for the sanitary condition governing the production of bivalve molluscs placed on the market. The mission found that whilst the Competent Authorities are well organised, the system was undermined by several deficiencies. These related to the lack of statistical validity in the selection of sampling points and frequency of monitoring of shellfish production areas. In some areas, monitoring for microbiology, phytoplankton and marine biotoxins had not been monitored at all during 2013. Some food business operators' own checks were not adequately monitored. In addition some of the phytoplankton monitoring conducted in water samples did not include all potentially relevant toxic species and the testing laboratory had not taken part in proficiency testing for PSP toxins. The German Competent Authorities (Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and appropriate regional bodies) were required to provide Commission services with an action plan of corrective measures.

17. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO of the European Commission has published a report on a mission undertaken in October 2013 to evaluate New Zealand's systems for the control of sanitary conditions of fishery products exported to the EU, following up on a previous audit in 2008. The mission found that the New Zealand competent authority delivers, in general, the recognised conditions of equivalence, in terms of sanitary standards applied to the production chain of fishery products intended for export to the EU. However, a number of deficiencies were noted in relation to enforcement of the requirements for sanitary conditions of landing areas. Some Fishery business operators did not conduct own checks and relied exclusively on the official controls. Some of the maximum permitted levels of contaminants set by NZ legislation were higher than the ones established in Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006, concerning dioxins, PCBs and lead. Some product categories such as crustaceans and cephalopods were not sampled for contaminants. The FVO required that the Competent Authority, the Ministry of Primary Industries, submit an action plan of corrective actions.

18. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANCO of the European Commission has published a report on a mission undertaken in September 2012 to evaluate the United States' systems for the sanitary control of fishery products exported to the EU. The mission found that the conditions set out in the equivalence agreement on "Sanitary measures to protect public and animal health in trade in live animals and animal products" signed by the parties in 1998, were in general complied with. However the mission found that fishery products coming from cold stores which were not approved and listed in FDA's "EU Export Certificate List" are exported to the EU, and that some processing plants that participate in the EU exports fishery products production chain had not been subject to the required inspections. A number of recommendations were made and guarantees sought that they would be addressed by the relevant US competent authorities, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

19. The European Commission extended the period of safeguard measures applied to imports of bivalve molluscs from Turkey. Deficiencies in the official food safety controls were identified by a previous mission from DG SANCO and despite receiving a number of guarantees from the Competent Authority, EU Member States have continued to identify microbiological non-compliance in Turkish bivalve molluscs presented for inspection. Additional checks on imports shall continue to be applied up to 4th August 2015.

20. DG SANCO of the European Commission has published the programme of Food and Veterinary Office missions to EU member States and third countries during the second half of 2014. Ireland and Croatia will receive missions regarding aquaculture, and missions will be undertaken in Germany and Greece regarding fishery products. Bivalve mollusc controls will also be assessed in Greece. In third countries, missions will be conducted in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Cuba (the latter combined with an audit on veterinary residue controls). Argentina and Vietnam will also receive audits of their bivalve mollusc controls.

21. The Commission and Member States discussed and endorsed the revised technical guidance document from the EU Reference Laboratory for Listeria, for conducting shelf-life studies on Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods.

22. The Commission announced that it has submitted a question to EFSA regarding temperature requirements for the storage and distribution of pre-packed fishery products.

23. The ECsafeSEAFOOD Project has published its first newsletter setting out some of the main activities so far. The Project, with the full title "Priority environmental contaminants in seafood: safety assessment, impact and public perception" is a EUR5 million project funded by the EU FP7 Programme, and managed by the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA). The project aims to assess the level of environmental contaminants in seafood with potential impact on human health, and focuses on some of the contaminants without maximum limits set by authorities, such as toxins from harmful algal blooms, marine litter, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceutical and personal care products, inorganic arsenic, organic Hg, and brominated flame retardants. Ultimately it aims to accurately quantify and minimise the related human health risks and will establish a database containing information about chemical contaminants that affect seafood safety.

24. The Commission received a declaration from Denmark as regards disease free status for Marteilia refringens in the South-western part of Kategat, the Belt Sea and the Isefjord area. The declaration follows a two year targeted surveillance programme with no detection of the pathogen.

25. The Commission and the Member States discussed a report from a Technical Working Group on evaluation of EU legislation as regards the effectiveness of the current controls on Ostreid herpesvirus (OsHV-1 µVar). It recommends that due to changes in scientific knowledge, regional spread of the disease and emergence of micro-variants, there is a need for a more comprehensive scientific evaluation, including a new scientific opinion from the European food Safety Authority. The Commission will introduce a regulation prolonging the period allowing Member States to take national measures with regard to OsHV-1 µVar until 30 April 2016.

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