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December 2014

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU fines corrupt Dutch and German shrimp traders EUR29 million for price fixing
2. EU Fisheries Ministers set 2015 fishing opportunities
3. EU and Norway agree on 2015 management of North Sea fish stocks
4. Economic report on EU fishery sector; profits doubled since 2008
5. Commission reminds fishery operators of introduction of landing obligation
6. Commission adopts derogations and exemptions to landing obligation
7. Commission issues IUU “yellow card” to St.Vincent and the Grenadines
8. Commission issues IUU “yellow card” to Solomon Islands
9. Commission issues IUU “yellow card” to St.Kitts and Nevis
10. Commission issues IUU “yellow card” to Tuvalu
11. Commission removes IUU “red card” issued to Belize
12. Commission updates status of IUU “yellow cards” issued to 11 countries
13. Four year Fisheries Protocol approved between the EU and Madagascar
14. Four year Fisheries Protocol approved between the EU and Cape Verde
15. Commission assesses potential for renewed access negotiations with Tanzania
16. South East Atlantic Fisheries conservation measures agreed
17. New measures agreed for tuna conservation in SW Pacific; but Commission disappointed
18. DG Fisheries and Maritime Affairs speaks on how stimulate aquaculture investment
19. Commission approves Fisheries Operational Programme for Latvia
20. Commission extends tariff quotas for canned fish imported from Cape Verde
21. Spain and France defer quotas for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay
22. Commission publishes 2014 quota deductions due to overfishing by Member States
23. Stop fishing notices published for Irish, Swedish and Portuguese vessels.
24. European Parliament supports prohibition of driftnet fisheries; calls for subsidies
25. Commission adjusts rules for amendment of fisheries operational plans under EMFF
26. Publication: European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products
27. UN General Assembly discusses Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
28. Commission seeks expert advice on EU fishing in Senegal, Morocco and Guinea Bissau.
29. Commission calls for proposals on inter-operability of maritime surveillance
30. EU Project SOCIOEC invites fishery stakeholders to symposium on Socio-Economic Impacts

Fish hygiene

31. During December 2014: 42 rapid alert notifications for fishery products
32. DG SANCO reports on a mission to Portugal; in line with EU requirements
33. DG SANCO reports on a mission to Nicaragua; deficiencies undermine guarantees
34. Commission lifts safeguard measures for mandatory testing of Myanmar shrimp
35. Commission extends ban on bivalve molluscs from Peru for a further year.
36. Commission raises maximum levels of PAH in traditional fishery products for 3 years
37. EU new food labelling rules enter into force; required indication of defrosted products
38. Commission publishes a pocket guide labelling requirements for fishery products
39. Commission revises rules for organic aquaculture production; wild fry allowed.

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The Commission published a summary of the findings of its enquiry into price fixing by a cartel of EU shrimp producers and traders. The Decision imposes fines on four traders of North Sea shrimps (Heiploeg, and Kok Seafood from the Netherlands and Stührk from Germany) for infringing Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, during the period 200 to 2009. Appeals based on the obtaining of evidence through recorded phone calls were thrown out. Fines of EUR29 million were levied on the guilty parties. A fourth guilty party Klaas Puul, which was the whistleblower, was not fined.

2. The European Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers met in Brussels. They agreed on the 2015 fishing opportunities in the Black Sea, concerning two fish stocks (turbot and sprat) and their quotas allocated to Bulgaria and Romania. Although the Commission recommended a cut to the annual EU Black Sea quota for turbot by 15%, to 74 tonnes (in line with the scientific advice), the 2014 level of 86.4 tonnes was retained for 2015. The EU quota for sprat remained unchanged at 11,475 tonnes. The Council of Ministers approved the regulation setting the TACS and quotas for the EU’s deep sea fish stocks for 2015. These include Black scabbardfish, Alfonsinos, Roundnose grenadier, Roughhead grenadier, Orange roughy, Red seabream, Greater Forkbeard and various species of deep sea sharks. The Ministers also agreed the provisional TACs and quotas for fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks in EU and non EU waters. The decision includes stocks which are subject to international negotiations or agreements and did not take account of the recent agreement between the EU and Norway. The opportunities will therefore need to be adjusted via a written procedure.

3. The EU and Norway agreed on the 2015 management of shared fish stocks in the North Sea, following negotiations in Clonakilty, Ireland. Decisions were made on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the shared stocks in the North Sea, along with the annual exchange of reciprocal fishing opportunities for certain key stocks. The arrangement sees increases in North Sea catch limits of 5% for cod, 7% for haddock and 15% for plaice compared to 2014. However, the TACs for saithe and whiting have been reduced by 15%, with a small reduction for herring in the same area. European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella welcomed the agreement.

4. The European Commission’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries published the Annual Economic Report on the fishery sector for 2012. Higher market prices and the recovery of some fish stocks helped the EU fishing fleet to again improve its profitability in 2012. Despite the economic crisis and less fish being landed, economic performance has more than doubled over the last 5 years, from 3.2% net profit in 2008 to 6.6% in 2012. Although generated revenue fell compared to 2011, costs decreased even more, making a €458 million net profit for the EU fleet, performing better than in 2011. However of 18 analysed Member States, three national fleets (Belgium, The Netherlands and Slovenia) made overall net losses and while the economic yield of the EU large-scale and distant water fleets generally improved over the period 2008-2012, that of the small-scale fleet declined from 13% in 2008 to 3.4% in 2012.

5. The European Commission reminded fishery sector operators that the landing obligation commences from the 1st January 2015. Only pelagic, industrial, and in the Baltic, salmon and cod fisheries fall under the landing obligation initially. For all other fisheries, there is no change in 2015, and all catches of undersized fish, over-quota or in excess of catch composition rules, must continue to be discarded. The Commission published a set of frequently asked questions.

6. The European Commission passed regulations adopting several discard plans for small pelagic fish in the Mediterranean Sea, south-western waters, North western waters, and the North Sea (including industrial fisheries) and the Baltic (for salmon and cod caught with trap-nets, creels/pots, fyke-nets and pound nets). The plans provide de minimis derogations (setting percentages of catch which may be discarded) and exemptions to the landing obligation where enforcing the obligation would involve disproportionate costs of handling unwanted catches, such as storing, labour and icing, or where unwanted fish may be safely discarded in live condition. The plans were submitted by EU Member States and agreed after consultation with the relevant Regional Advisory Council.

7. The European Commission gave notice that the Caribbean State of St.Vincent and the Grenadines is being considered as a potentially non-cooperating third country in terms of meeting requirements for fisheries relations with the EU, as set out by the EU’s IUU Fishing Regulation 1005/2008. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has not provided to the Commission any information or reply on how it will address the deficiencies in its fisheries management system which were identified during a visit by the Commission. It is not in a position to follow up the activities of its fishing fleet; its legal framework has not been properly enforced since its entry into force in 2001; the national VMS management system has been shut down since at least 2012; neither has it complied with all relevant ICCAT measures. The Commission concludes that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has failed to fulfil its obligations under the UNCLOS. The “yellow card” provides for St.Vincent and the Grenadines to implement a time bound action plan.

8. The European Commission has given notice that Solomon Islands is also being considered potentially as non-cooperating third country in terms the EU’s IUU Fishing Regulation 1005/2008. The Solomon Islands were not able to show that fishery products entering Solomon Islands-based processing plants do not stem from IUU fishing. It was established that all catches obtained in the Solomon Islands’ EEZ are considered as originating in the Solomon Islands, irrespective of the fishing vessel’s flag, contrary to the rules of origin rules existing in EU law. Solomon Islands authorities had not introduced any specific measure to control the provenance of the fish raw materials. Solomon Islands are considered to be in breach of the responsibilities under UNCLOS and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and proposed sanctions for contraventions of fisheries laws are considered to be inadequate. The “yellow card” provides for the EU and Solomon Islands to agree a time bound action plan, implementation of which will be a conditional for the EU not to subsequently list the Solomon Islands as non-cooperating.

9. The European Commission notified the Caribbean State of St.Kitts and Nevis is being considered as a potentially as non-cooperating third country. The Commission cited the recent registration under its registry of a fishing vessel previously involved in illegal transhipments under the flag of Panama, which rendered St.Kitts and Nevis in breach of its obligations under UNCLOS. It also notes that the traceability of products is hindered by a lack of transparency in national laws, registration and licensing systems, and that the country is not able to provide information on what species were caught by its high seas fishing fleet and what were the trade flows of the products caught. Neither did it have any management, conservation and monitoring, control and surveillance legal framework to rule fishing activities in high seas or third country waters. Although its fleet is targeting tuna and tuna-alike species in Western Africa coastal States’ jurisdictional waters, the country is neither a contracting party nor a cooperating non-contracting party to ICCAT.

10. The European Commission gave notice that Tuvalu is being considered as a potentially non-cooperating third country under Regulation 1005/2008. Tuvalu is reported to be reluctant to cooperate with the Commission in addressing the deficiencies in its fisheries management system identified during a visit by the Commission. Its legal framework lacks an explicit definition of IUU fishing activities and serious infringements. A number of important management measures under the West Central Pacific Fisheries Commission are not being applied. Tuvalu has not offered any commitment or concrete plan of action to solve these shortcomings and unless they are addressed, Tuvalu may be listed as a non-cooperating party, which will effectively ban its products from the EU market.

11. The Commission passed a decision formally removing Belize from the list of non-cooperating third countries. Belize has implemented a plan of actions to the satisfaction of the Commission. The measures applied have bought its legal system and application of controls over IUU fishing into line with its national and international commitments as flag, port, coastal and market state.

12. The European Commission issued a press release following the issuance of yellow cards to the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, warned: “the four countries need to step up their efforts in fighting illegal fishing.” The Commission also updated on the status of the previous yellow and red cards issued (to Korea, Ghana, and Curacao, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Panama and Togo).

13. The European Council approved the provisional application of the Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Madagascar. The 4 year protocol provides for fishing in Madagascan waters by 40 EU tuna seiners, 32 surface longliners with a tonnage greater than 100 GT, and 22 surface longliners with a tonnage less than or equal to 100 GT, with a reference quantity of 15,750 tonnes of all species per year, in return for a financial contribution of EUR 6.1 million over the period. EUR2.8 million of this is allocated for supporting and implementing Madagascar's sectoral fishery resources and fishing policy). The EU allocated the fishing opportunities for tuna seiners to Spain (20 vessels), France, (19 vessels) and Italy (1 vessel), and for surface longliners to Spain, France and Portugal. For the first time an agreement sets limits on the catching of sharks (Spain: 207 tonnes France: 34 tonnes and Portugal: 9 tonnes).

14. The European Council approved the provisional application of the Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Cape Verde. The 4 year protocol provides for fishing in Cape Verde waters by 28 EU tuna seiners, 13 pole and line vessels and 30 surface longliners, with a reference quantity of 5,000 tonnes of all species per year, in return for a financial contribution of EUR 3.3 million over the period. EUR1.05 million of this is allocated for supporting and implementing Cape Verde’s sectoral fishery resources and fishing policy. The parties also agree to improve data collection and analysis, with a view to drawing up a national action plan for the conservation and management of sharks in the Cape Verdean EEZ. The EU allocated the fishing opportunities for tuna seiners to Spain (16 vessels), France, (12 vessels), for pole and line vessels to Spain (7 vessels), France (4 vessels) and Portugal (2 vessels) and for surface longliners to Spain (23 vessels) and Portugal (7 vessels).

15. The European Commission has published and ex ante evaluation of a possible future Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Tanzania. Previous attempts to sign an agreement have failed. The mission found that a significant barrier to concluding an agreement is the low level of funds and human capacity allocated to fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) operations within the EEZ, resulting in limited deterrence from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Tanzania only has limited ability to effectively manage its fisheries sector or to enforce IOTC Resolutions. However Spanish purse seiners already operate in national waters under bilateral agreements and all target species were assessed by the IOTC as not being overfished or subject to overfishing. Overall the study recommends that an FPA would be in the mutual interest of the parties, to provide access for 22-40 EU purse seine vessels and around five EU longline vessels.

16. The 11th South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) Annual Meeting, held from 1-5 December 2014, in Windhoek, Namibia was attended by the European Commission. The meeting adopted several conservation measures in line with scientific advice and reinforced the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems for bottom fisheries. The measures adopted included the adoption of bi-annual catch limits for alfonsino, pelagic armourhead and orange roughy as well as harvest control rules. The EU offered to support the SEAFO secretariat to install a system allowing the transmission of data from the vessel monitoring systems of members.

17. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) held its 11th plenary session from 1 to 5 December 2014 in Apia, Samoa. A harvest control strategy was adopted for Albacore tuna, and some new measures for Bluefin tuna management were adopted. However the European Commission considered that there was a missed opportunity to apply the MSY concept to Bluefin tuna, as well as increasing protection of sharks and seabirds and strengthening the fight against IUU through the introduction of tougher port state control measures in the Western and Central Pacific.

18. Ms.Lowri Evans DG Fisheries and Maritime Affairs gave a keynote speech at the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers' Conference, “Aquaculture in Motion 2014” held in Brussels. She set out the agenda for the Juncker Commission and its mandate to promote blue growth and green growth with the objective of delivering more sustainable jobs in Europe. She spoke of the role of sustainable aquaculture and its substantial growth opportunities if the investment and marketing climate are well managed. She highlighted the importance of environmental management and the role of the national strategic plans for the aquaculture sector as a tool for improving economic performance underpinned by investment from the EMFF. New initiatives include setting targets for cutting the license waiting time, adopting a single aquaculture Law to simplify licensing procedures, and to establish a one-stop- shop for licencing. The role of Maritime Spatial Planning is also high on the agenda for many Member States and is expected to highlight the development of aquaculture by removing uncertainty about access to suitable space for marine aquaculture. Aquaculture that respects and contributes to the environment is also the theme of a set of new guidelines on aquaculture and the Marine Strategy Framework and Water Framework Directives that the Commission is aiming to promulgate 2015.

19. The European Commission approved the Fisheries Operational Programme for Latvia for the period 2014-2020. The total value of the package is EUR184 million, of which EU taxpayer will subsidise EUR140 million. The investments support will include measures related to environmentally sustainable, resource efficient, innovative, competitive and knowledge based fisheries, promoting aquaculture, implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy and marketing and processing.

20. The European Commission extended the derogation granted to Cape Verde in respect of the origin of fishery products used as raw material for production of canned fish consigned to the EU market. Annual quota tariffs of 2500 tonnes canned mackerel and 875 tonnes of canned frigate tuna from non-Cape Verde sources are allowed to be exported duty free to the EU until the end of 2016.

21. Following a request by Spain and France to defer the catch of the fishing quota for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay, the Commission adjusted the quotas for the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015, as set out in Regulation (EU) No 779/2014. That for France is increased by 359 tonnes and for Spain by 758 tonnes.

22. The Commission has published the deductions from 2014 quotas allocated to Member States due to overfishing of quotas in previous years. The deductions include some which are made to quotas for stocks others than those overfished by the relevant Member State, since quotas in the same stocks are not always available.

23. Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission for Irish vessels fishing for plaice, Swedish vessels fishing for cod and Portuguese vessels fishing for Greenland halibut.

24. The European Economic and Social Committee of the European Parliament provided an opinion on the Commission’s Proposal for a Regulation prohibiting driftnet fisheries. It supported a complete ban on driftnet fishing, in line with the proposal, but expressed concern about loss of employment and income by driftnet fishermen. It called for subsidies from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to support the transition to other fishing methods.

25. The European Commission adjusted the procedures for the future amendment of operational plans for structural adjustment of their fisheries sectors submitted by Member States. Operational plans set out the rationale and measures in each EU Member which will be supported by EU subsidies for the fisheries and maritime sectors under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The Commission also issued a number of corrections to the rules governing the operation of the common monitoring and evaluation system for the operations funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

26. The European Commission, DG Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries published the latest edition of the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products. Key articles cover first sale of sole and plaice in Belgium and crab and lobster in the UK; there is a special feature on EU shrimp imports.

27. The European Commission represented the EU at a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York which debated two resolutions relating to the Law of the Sea and sustainable fisheries. The EU underlined the importance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as key for stability, peace and progress, as well as for ebnsuring the sustainable development of the oceans and for creating jobs and growth in the blue economy.

28. The European Commission issued a call for independent experts to take part in the Joint Scientific Committee (JSC) of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) between the EU and respectively with Senegal, Morocco and Guinea Bissau. The deadline for applications is 30th January 2015.

29. The Commission’s DG Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries issued a call for proposals in relation to inter-operability improvements in Member States to enhance information sharing for maritime surveillance. The deadline for submission of proposals is 31/03/2015. It has also called for proposals for the provision of networking services in support of the European Fisheries Areas Network 2014-2020 - FARNET The deadline for submission of bids is 09/02/2015.

30. The EU Funded Project SOCIOEC invited all EU fishery stakeholders to attend a symposium on the Socio-Economic Impacts of Management Measures of the new Common Fisheries Policy. This will be held at the Royal Flemish Academy for Sciences and the Arts, Brussels on 17 and 18 February 2015 and will discuss Regionalisation of fisheries management and the impacts of the Landing Obligation.

Fish hygiene

31. During December 2014 there were 42 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 14 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 2 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 6 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 20 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 4 consignments of live mussels from Spain, 3 consignments of live clams from Italy, 3 consignments of smoked salmon from Poland and 3 consignments of pangasius fillets from Vietnam.

32. The Food and Veterinary Office of the Commission’s DG SANCO reported on a mission to Portugal to assess the food safety conditions for the production and marketing of fishery products, in line with the requirements of EU Regulations. The mission which took place in June 2014, found that the official control system was implemented in line with Regulation 882/2004 and that it was supported by one accredited laboratory and comprehensive instructions, procedures and harmonised checklists. However follow-up of deficiencies encountered on fishing vessels and establishments was not always carried out within the proposed deadlines; in some cases the frequency of inspections was inadequate. The Competent Authority was requested to address the deficiency.

33. The Food and Veterinary Office of the Commission’s DG SANCO reported on a mission to Nicaragua to assess the food safety conditions for the production and marketing of fishery products exported to the EU, in line with the requirements of EU Regulations and to follow up on a previous audit in 2010. The mission which took place in May 2014, found that there had been some improvements in the implementation of the official control system. However a number of outstanding deficiencies were identified, in particular in relation to legislation which did not require application of HACCP principles, temperature recording devices to be installed on freezer vessels nor set maximum permitted levels of additives in foodstuffs. There were weaknesses in documented inspection procedures for fishing vessels and landing operations, which undermine the eligibility of the raw material for EU export. The listing procedure for facilities providing raw material to export establishments, was also found to be deficient. Hygiene conditions of landing and fishing vessels were not fully implemented, and there were weaknesses in the implementation of HACCP procedures. No tests on dioxins are currently performed and the EU equivalent sampling procedures for Salmonella tests are not followed. Furthermore the official laboratories used for microbiological tests and some of the heavy metals tests are not accredited, and analytical methods are not yet validated. The Competent Authority was not able to prevent the export of fishery products from non-approved sources. The mission concluded that the deficiencies undermine the sanitary health attestations provided by the CA. A plan of corrective actions was agreed by the Commission, as a condition of retaining access to the EU market.

34. The Commission lifted the safeguard measures imposed on the importation of shrimp from Myanmar, which required mandatory testing for certain residues on import to the EU. The import of shrimps from aquaculture is not permitted and all uses of chloramphenicol and nitrofurans in fishery and aquaculture products are banned in Myanmar. No test by Member States on shrimps imported from Myanmar has had a non-satisfactory result since June 2009 and the measure can be repealed without risk to the EU consumer.

35. The Commission amended the emergency measures applied to the import of certain bivalve molluscs from Peru following an outbreak of Hepatitis A in humans related to the consumption of these products. The Commission had applied a ban on the import of bivalve molluscs (except scallops and heat treated products) pending the submission of monitoring programme results regarding their health status. The ban was due to expire in November 2014, but since no information has been supplied by the Peruvian Competent Authority, it has been extended for a further year.

36. The Commission has amended the maximum levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) permissible in certain traditionally smoked meat and fishery products produced in the EU, following recent evidence from Member States that, despite the application of good smoking practices, lower levels for PAHs are not achievable in some of these products. Such products are therefore provided with a derogation from the application of the lower maximum levels for PAHs as of 1 September 2014 for certain Member States for 3 years. The derogation allows Ireland, Latvia, Romania, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom to authorise the placing on their market of traditionally smoked fishery products, provided that those products comply with the maximum levels applicable before 1 September 2014.

37. The EU’s new food labelling rules came into force in 13 December 2014. The EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis said: "the new rules put the consumer first by providing clearer information, and in a way that is manageable for businesses." Key changes include minimum font size for mandatory information; harmonised presentation of allergens; mandatory allergen information for non-prepacked food, including in restaurants and cafes; clear indication of "formed meat" or "formed fish"; and clear indication of defrosted products.

38. The Commission published a pocket guide to the specific labelling requirements for fish and aquaculture products. It sets out the requirements form consumer labelling of production method, fishing gear, catch area, whether defrosted, best before/use by dates, labelling of allergens and additional requirements for pre-packaged products, notably added water. The format and presentation of voluntary information (where provided) is also defined.

39. Following a request from some operators and Member States the Commission has revised a number of its regulatory provisions relating to the substances, feed sources and techniques authorised to be used in organic aquaculture production. Following evaluation by the expert group for technical advice on organic production, several amendments are introduced which inter alia permit the collection of wild fry from sustainably managed fisheries for on-growing purposes, the use of whole fish as a source of feed for carnivorous animals, the use of histidine produced from fermentation as a feed supplement for salmonids, and increased amounts of fishmeal allowed in feed for shrimps.

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