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April 2015

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU issues IUU yellow card to Thailand
2. EU lifts IUU yellow cards on Korea and Philippines
3. EU Parliament approves Omnibus Regulation; delays discard sanctions until 2017
4. EU ratifies new constitution for fisheries management body in Mediterranean
5. New multi-annual multi-species fisheries management plan for the Baltic
6. Commission release new publications on IUU fishing controls
7. Commission publishes FAQs on seabass management measures
8. EU Myfish project discusses MSY implementation models with stakeholders
9. EU Market Observatory features saithe, herring, shrimp and sprat
10. Commission publishes poster on EU trade in fishery products
11. Commission publishes guide on EU’s labelling rules for fisheries products.

Fish hygiene

12. Rapid alerts were notified for 39 consignments of fishery products
13. DG Santé reports on Kazakhstan; CA takes legal action on certification fraud
14. EU Food Fraud Network publishes 2014 report; fish cases second most frequent
15. Commission updates food safety and HACCP guides
16. Commission considers new measures for dioxins and PCBs in Baltic fish
17. Commission and Member States discuss new limits for PAHs in fishery products

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The European Commission decided to consider Thailand as a potential non-cooperating third country in the fight against IUU fishing. This follows discussions held since 2011, it is taking action against Thailand for the alleged breaches of international commitments against IUU fishing. The EU considers that Thailand has significant shortcomings in its fisheries monitoring, control and sanctioning systems and concludes that it is not doing enough to address them. The Commission has identified that at least 11 Thai vessels have been involved in IUU activities during the period 2010 to 2014; the fact that many Thai vessels are not carrying VMS onboard in breach of IOTC rules, lack of traceability for imported fishery products, and inconsistencies in the catch certificates issued by the Thai authorities (for example with final products found to be up to twice the amount of raw material) and product consigned from vessels not registered with RFMOs. Thailand had also failed to cooperate effectively with other states; the Department of Fisheries was unaware that 5 Thai vessels were arrested for fishing illegally in the PNG EEZ in October 2014.

2. The Commission issued a formal notice that it is terminating the procedure regarding the possibility of being identified as non-cooperating third countries, in respect of Republics of Korea and Philippines. The action follows progress by these countries in strengthening their controls on IUU fishing.

3. The European Parliament approved the proposal for the so-called Omnibus Regulation addressing the technical and control rules for implementation of the landing obligation under the new Common Fisheries Policy, which comes into force progressively between 2015 and 2019. The measures introduced by Parliament include a two year delay (until 2017) on the application of sanctions for non-compliance with the obligation. The requirement to stow under-sized fish separately was also removed. The Council of Ministers is expected to approve the changes, after which the new rules will become applicable.

4. The EU Council passed a Decision approving the amended agreement for the establishment of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, following the Extraordinary Sessions of its contracting parties in Greece and Rome in April and May 2014. The Agreement is substantially amended to broaden the objectives, general principles and functions of the GFCM to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources and their environment, strengthen the powers of the GFCM in dealing with lack of compliance by its members and other nations, and strengthen its institutional and financial operational autonomy.

5. The Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers endorsed a common approach to the multiannual fisheries management plan for the Baltic Sea, which was adopted by the European Commission in 2014. The plan sets targets and conservation reference points for two stocks of cod, three stocks of herring and sprat, and promotes regionalised decision making for fisheries in the Baltic. The European Parliament subsequently approved the plan, but with a substantial number of amendments. The plan will ensure that three interacting species (cod, herring and sprat) will now be managed through a single fisheries management plan based on the ecosystem approach. Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella said “Today's vote gives an important political signal for the future plans to come”.

6. The European Commission DG Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs published a poster setting out the EU’s approach to the resolving of the issue of illegal fishing. The poster indicates that thanks to the EU’s international cooperation on IUU fishing, more than 30 third countries have improved their systems to fight IUU fishing. The Commission also published some question and answers on the EU’s IUU measures.

7. The European Commission published a set of questions and answers regarding the management measures announced in March 2015 for the European stocks of seabass. The new common measures will prohibit pelagic trawling on spawning sea bass and set a bag limit of 3 fish per recreational angler, per day (since they account for an estimated 25% of sea bass catches). Further measures for commercial fisheries will be specified in a new regulation expected to be published in May 2015. The Commission expects the Council of Fisheries Ministers to adopt the proposal before summer 2015.

8. The EU FP7-funded project Myfish held a meeting in Palma de Mallorca, Spain from 24-26 March 2015 with external stakeholders to discuss findings and recommendations regarding an operational framework for the implementation of the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) concept in European waters. The meeting presented models and discussed the trade-offs required and the stakeholder preferences for different implementation approaches to MSY management.

9. The European Commission published the latest edition of the EU Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture products. It contains special features on first sale of saithe and herring in Denmark, and coldwater shrimp and sprat in Sweden. There is a case study on the supply of plaice in the Netherlands and articles studying the EU consumption of swordfish and sardine.

10. The European Commission published a poster describing the EU’s international trade in fishery products, and calculating apparent consumption. In 2012 the EU imported EUR21 billion worth of fishery products, accounting for 24% of total global trade.

11. The Commission published a pocket guide to the EU’s new fish and aquaculture consumer labels, setting out the labelling requirements for fisheries products. The guide reflects the combined requirements of EU legislation on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products, on required food information for consumers, on food additives and on specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin.

Fish hygiene

12. During April 2015 there were 39 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 10 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 3 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 3 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 23 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 3 consignments of mussels from Italy, 2 consignments of mussels from Ireland, 2 consignments of clams from Vietnam, and 3 consignments of tuna from Spain.

13. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG Santé reported on the outcome of an audit of official controls for fishery products from Kazakhstan and exported to the EU. The audit was carried out in October 2014 and followed up on a previous mission in 2010. National legal provisions were not considered to be equivalent with EU requirements since the competent authority only has limited legal powers to conduct official controls (only at the food business operators’ requests or in exceptional situations defined by law). The mission found that the Competent Authority had an inconsistent approach to official controls which only covered part of the production chain for export to the EU. There were notable sanitary deficiencies in infrastructures, and traceability and HACCP programmes were not always effectively implemented. There were serious deficiencies identified in export certification procedures and official staff from the Competent Authority (the Committee for Veterinary Control and Supervision) were found to have only limited knowledge and understanding of EU requirements. The FVO mission found strong evidence of fraudulent certification of around 3,000 tonnes of fishery products exported to the EU during the 2012 and 2013. The Kazakh authorities submitted their guarantees to address the deficiencies identified and indicate that they have instituted proceedings against the guilty party in the case of fraudulent certification.

14. The EU Food Fraud Network published its report for 2014, on fraudulent and deceptive practices in relation to cross border trade in food. There were sixty cross border cases dealt with by the network. Meat, fish and honey were the products most frequently implicated.

15. The European Commission updated its webpage on food safety guides to good practices, covering EU guidelines on hygiene and HACCP and those published by EU Member States.

16. The Commission considered once again the approach to the adoption of common risk management measures as regards the presence of dioxins and PCBs in fish from the Baltic region. However, no conclusions were drawn and the matter will be discussed again at a future meeting.

17. The Commission and the Member States exchanged views on an amendment to Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in Katsuobushi (a dried bonito product) and certain canned smoked Baltic herring. No decision was taken.

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