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June 2015

Common Fisheries Policy

1. European Environment Agency publishes report on Europe’s seas; “poor status”
2. EU refuses extension of Greek fishery subsidies; open negotiations with Tanzania
3. Commission reports fish stocks in 2015; 93% of Mediterranean stocks overfished
4. Commission to cut fishery subsidies to countries breaking EU rules
5. EU categorises breach of landing obligation as a serious offence
6. Commission proposes upgrade to EU fisheries data collection framework
7. DG MARE publishes report on fisheries impacts on Black Sea cetaceans
8. Mediterranean fisheries council adopts new trawler limits
9. EU MAREA PROJECT identifies new distinct biological stock units
10. New NASCO regulatory measures for Faroese and Greenland salmon fisheries
11. Commission to force Greece to adopt national fisheries management plan
12. Bluefin Tuna purse seine season finishes without overfishing
13. EU and Liberia conclude Fisheries Agreement with access for 34 EU vessels
14. EU Market Observatory features sardine and hake in Portugal
15. EU project develops improved aquaculture research tools
16. Commission to simplify EU Structural Funds, including for fisheries
17. Commission adopts new transitional rules for EU fishery subsidies
18. Joint Research Centre reduces jellyfish threat level in Mediterranean
19. EU funds investment in remote monitoring of ocean temperature and salinity

Fish hygiene

20. Rapid alerts were notified for 47 consignments of fishery products
21. DG Santé reports on a mission to Greece; lack of instructions to regional units
22. DG Santé reports on a mission to Germany; gaps in HACCP training
23. DG Santé reports on aquaculture feeds in Spain; test methods not validated
24. DG Santé reports on a mission to Uruguay; concerns over eligibility of imports
25. DG Santé reports on a mission to Argentina; numerous deficiencies
26. Commission reduces maximum levels of lead in cephalopods
27. Commission adopts programme for the ‘Better Training for Safer Food’ in 2015
28. EFSA updates opinion on oyster mortality risks due to ostreid herpesvirus (OsHV-1)

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The European Environment Agency published a major report on the state of Europe’s seas, considering the healthiness of marine habitats, impacts on marine animal and plants, and the capacity of the seas to deliver sustainable ecosystem services. It finds that Europe's seas are in poor status, in spite of some improvements but that much data is still lacking. The preliminary assessments under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) show that 80% of the assessments of marine species and habitats are categorised as 'unknown', and only 4% were considered in 'good' status. The report finds that the EU and its Member States have responded to marine ecosystem change and broader marine environmental problems with a wide range of policies and initiatives, but that these are not always efficiently implemented. However some marine ecosystems are starting to respond positively. The report concludes by setting out the need for a transition towards sustainable use of our seas and the key role of ecosystem-based management. The report was welcomed by Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who stated that he was “committed to work intensively to define Europe's role in international ocean governance, for a sustainable blue economy and blue growth”.

2. At the EU Council of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministers were briefed on a Commission communication on fishing opportunities for 2016. The detailed proposal for fishing opportunities for 2016 as regards stocks in the Atlantic, the North Sea, the Antarctic and in other areas will be presented in October. Proposals for the Baltic and the Black Sea will be submitted to the Council in August and November, respectively. The Council was briefed by the Greek delegation on its request to extend the eligibility period of expenditure for the Operational Programme Fisheries 2007-2013, which has been turned down by the Commission since it is not in line with the rules regarding the EMFF. Member States were also briefed on the import restrictions imposed by the Russian Federation on all fish products originating from Estonia and Latvia as of 4 June 2015. This measure expands the pre-existing 2014 restrictions on a list of EU fisheries products, and in addition it affects imports of canned fish from Estonia and Latvia. The Council also authorised the Commission to open negotiations on a sustainable fisheries partnership agreement (FPA) with Tanzania.

3. The European Commission released its annual report on the state of fish stocks in 2015 in preparation for setting next years' fish quotas. Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, observed that North and West EU fisheries are progressing towards sustainability (with 32 out of 62 MSY-assessed stocks were at sustainable levels in 2014), but that in the Mediterranean Sea 93% of stocks remain seriously overfished. The report is available for public consultation on the Commission’s website. The European Commission announced a public consultation on the proposed fishing opportunities for 2016 and confirmed its commitment to bring all fisheries as soon as possible to levels that correspond to maximum sustainable yields (MSY).

4. The Commission set out the detailed procedural rules for interruption or suspension of payments to Member States under the Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) or in the application of a financial correction to EU financial assistance under the CFP. In particular the new regulation define the cases of non-compliance with CFP rules may trigger suspension of payments. Examples are failure to ensure that fishing opportunities are respected or that fishing capacity does not exceed the ceilings, and to meet international obligations on conservation. A failure to collect and manage biological, environmental, technical and socioeconomic data can also trigger penalties on Member States.

5. The EU passed a regulation bringing all remaining EU fisheries management regulations into line with the landing obligation adopted in the 2014 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and adopted in principle in Regulation. The regulation sets out exemptions, including diseased fish and fish damaged by predators. It also requires that infringements of the landing obligation should be categorised as serious offence, but that since this represents a fundamental change for operators, this re-classification will be deferred for 2 years. The regulation also replaces minimum landing sizes for marine organisms of species subject to the landing obligation with minimum conservation reference sizes and amends the provisions relating to an area closure for the protection of juvenile haddock.

6. The European Commission adopted a proposal for a new regulation, upgrading the EU framework for the collection, management and use of the data for fisheries. The regulation will in improve the range of data available for scientific advice necessary for the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Furthermore in the future, fisheries data will be available to anyone who needs it (rather than only upon request as at present).

7. DG MARE of the European Commission published a report on Adverse Fisheries Impacts on Cetacean Populations in the Black Sea, concerning bycatches of three species of dolphins. The study generated aerial and marine survey data to generate an overview of cetacean population densities/abundance and distribution throughout the Black Sea. It also quantifies incidental catches in fishing gear, and proposes mitigation measures for fisheries identified as having the highest adverse impacts or by-catch rates. The study concludes that there is too little spatially explicit information on by-catch rates to establish geographical ‘hot-spots’. However higher cetacean by-catches in the late spring and early summer, off Crimea, central Turkey and Romania, in the turbot gillnet fisheries suggest that these could be targeted for bycatch reduction.

8. The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean adopted new management measures for fisheries for shared stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. These include limits on the number of trawlers authorised to fish in the Strait of Sicily and stricter limits on the exploitation of turbot in the Adriatic Sea and Black Sea.

9. The MAREA PROJECT produced a report based on research on Mediterranean fish stocks (STOCKMED) which identifies new distinct biological units (stock units) for different fish and shellfish species for management purposes. The work was based on a comprehensive analysis of biological indicators estimated from scientific surveys, a review of scientific literature (e.g. growth, maturity, parasites), and data relating to the genetic structure of population, and the patterns of the environmental factors (e.g. habitats and currents). Data sets and outputs have been organised in a GIS database

10. The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO) held its 32nd Annual Meeting in Goose Bay, Canada. The parties adopted new regulatory measures for salmon fisheries in Faroese waters and at West Greenland. However, the European Union, Canada and the United States highlighted that more work remains to be done in order to achieve consensus on a total catch limit.

11. The European Commission requested Greece to comply with its obligation, under the Mediterranean Regulation, to adopt a national fisheries management plan, combining management of the fishing effort with specific technical measures, to ensure sustainable exploitation of fish resources. National management plans should also ensure the effectiveness of the prohibition to fish with boat seines in protected habitats. Greece has not yet adopted such a plan, and the Commission has submitted a reasoned opinion with which it should comply, which could lead to an action at the EU Court of Justice

12. The European Commission announced that the annual Bluefin Tuna purse seine season, came to an end on 24 June 2015, and EU vessels have therefore been called back to port. Fishing activities are still continued by Croatian small scale vessels, but only in the Adriatic Sea. The European Commission noted that there were no major issues identified, and that no overfishing or illegal fishing activities of Bluefin Tuna by EU vessels had been detected so far.

13. After a third round of negotiations, the EU and Liberia concluded a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement as well as an associated a 5-year Protocol. The Protocol provides the EU with fishing opportunities for 6,500 tonnes of tuna and other highly migratory species, for 28 purse seiners and 6 long-line vessels. In return, the EU will pay Liberia an annual compensation of EUR650,000, out of which 50% is earmarked to support the fisheries policy of Liberia.

14. The EU Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition, including features on sardine and hake in Portugal, and herring and sprat in Latvia. It also contains a case study on the market for haddock in the UK.

15. The EU funded AQUAEXCEL Project (Aquaculture infrastructures for excellence in European fish research) has published its fourth set of outputs on its website Some of the topics covered include remote access to highly specialised aquaculture research facilities; an inventory of aquaculture Research Infrastructure gaps in Europe; a report on the effect of biofilter scale on Total Ammonia Nitrogen (TAN) removal rate in closed aquaculture systems; and research into how reproductive hormone concentrations in the blood can be used as prospective candidate markers of maturation in male trout and in sea bass

16. The European Commission announced its intention to simplify access to the five European Structural and Investment Funds– the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. A high level group will assess and monitor the uptake of simplification opportunities. One of the main aims is to facilitate access to funding by SMEs.

17. The European Commission passed a regulation setting out the transitional provisions for the implementation of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, to ensure that ex-post evaluation results are available in time for the an impact assessment which will help prepare the new regulatory framework for the ESI Funds in the post-2020 period.

18. The Commission’s Joint Research Centre published an article indicating that according to latest data there should be only a minimal risk of an invasion of the dangerous Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish (Physalia physalis) in the Mediterranean basin in 2015.

19. The European Commission awarded a grant of almost EUR4 million to the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (hosted at the Brest campus of IFREMER) to set up an additional 150 Argo floats for remote monitoring of ocean temperature and salinity in Europe’s seas.

Fish hygiene

20. During June 2015 there were 47 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 4 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 4 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 5 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 33 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and 1 rapid alert notification for gastropod products. These included 9 consignments of swordfish and 3 consignments of tuna from Spain, 3 consignments of squid from India, 2 consignments of rose shrimps from Croatia, , and 2 consignments of chilled tuna from Ecuador.

21. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG Santé reported on a mission to Greece in November 2014 to assess compliance with EU requirements regarding sanitary controls on fishery products. The mission found that Greece has designated two Competent Authorities responsible for the implementation a coordinated system for the official controls of fishery products. The system is considered to be generally in line with the relevant provisions of EU legislation. However, there are insufficient staff allocated inspection and control on landing and first sale, at the ten approved landing and first sale sites and for vessels operating in international waters. There was a lack of official instructions to Regional Veterinary Units authorities. Fishing vessels operating in national waters were not registered with the Competent Authorities. HACCP plans were not available for an auction hall and the wholesale market visited by the mission team. The Directorate of Veterinary Audit and Control and the Hellenic Food Authority were requested to submit a plan of corrective actions to the Commission.

22. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG Santé reported on a mission to Germany in September 2014 to assess compliance with EU requirements regarding sanitary controls on fishery products. The mission concluded that there is an adequate and effective official control system in place, covering fishery products and their production chain. This control system provides, in general, adequate guarantees with regard to the food safety of fishery products. However a number of deficiencies were identified, concerning incomplete supervision of official controls over primary production, some gaps in training of staff in HACCP evaluation and sampling procedures. The Central Competent Authority, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture was requested to propose a plan of correction measures.

23. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG Santé reported on a mission to Spain in November 2014 to assess compliance with EU requirements regarding controls on processed animal protein (PAP) of non-ruminant origin used in aquaculture feeds. The mission found that there is an adequate and effective official control system in place to ensure that only non-ruminant PAP are used, but that laboratory tests used to confirm the effectiveness of the controls (using the polymerase chain reaction - PCR) did not use properly validated methods. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment was recommended to prepare a plan of corrective actions for submission to the EU Commission.

24. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG Santé reported on a mission to Uruguay in March 2015 to assess compliance with EU requirements regarding sanitary controls on fishery products exported to the EU. The mission concluded that there is an adequate and effective official control system in place, which offers adequate guarantees that fishery products for export to the European Union meet standards equivalent to those laid down in European Union legislation. However some concerns were expressed regarding the eligibility for the EU market of some imported fishery products, and some ingredients of animal origin used in fishery products. The report makes recommendations to the Competent Authority the National Directorate for Aquatic Resources, which was required to submit a plan of corrective actions.

25. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG Santé reported on a mission to Argentina in November 2014 to assess compliance with EU requirements regarding sanitary controls on fishery products exported to the EU, especially in relation to the controls on scallops and also to follow up on the findings of previous mission in 2010. The mission concluded that is an adequate official control system defined, but that its implementation showed significant deficiencies. There was an absence of central supervision of regional veterinarians responsible for inspection, HACCP plans were found to have major deficiencies, no official controls on landing sites visited by the mission team were carried out, and the CA did not control the used of additives in the shrimp sector, organoleptic checks were not documented, and no parasite checks were performed. Laboratories analysing biotoxins in scallops used pooled samples which meant that results could not considered to represent actual levels. The Mission team considered that the deficiencies identified undermine the effectiveness of the controls, and that the CA cannot therefore guarantee conditions at least equivalent to those set out in EU legislation. The National Service for Agrifood Health and Quality acknowledged the findings and undertook to submit a plan of corrective actions to the European Commission.

26. The Commission published a new Annex to Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting out revised maximum levels of lead in foodstuffs, taking account of new occurrence data. The maximum limits in fish and crustacea remain unchanged at 0.3 and 0.5 ppm respectively, but the limit for cephalopods is reduced to 0.3ppm.

27. The Commission adopted the budget and work programme of the ‘Better Training for Safer Food’ Programme in 2015. The programme will have a budget of EUR16.7 million and provide training to Member States in the field of food and feed safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health.

28. The EFSA Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare provided an update to its opinion on oyster mortality risks taking into account new research findings. The document addresses the role of ostreid herpesvirus (OsHV-1) in mortality and evidence for a role of Vibrio aestuarianus in mortality. It considers the feasibility, availability and effectiveness of the disease prevention and control measures, including the effectiveness of water treatment in inactivating OsHV-1 and V. aestuarianus.

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