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October 2015

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU Court of Auditors critically reviews management of Fisheries Partnership Agreements
2. EU agrees new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Cook Islands
3. EU concludes new FPA Protocols with Madagascar and Cape Verde
4. Joint Committee under EU-Morocco FPA meets in Brussels
5. Commission issues IUU yellow card to FPA Partner country, Comoros Islands
6. Commission issues IUU yellow card to Taiwan even if not bound by UN agreements
7. Commission lifts yellow cards from Ghana and Papua New Guinea
8. Commission adopts communication reviewing five year impact of IUU Regulation
9. European Parliament publishes study on impacts of the CFP Landing Obligation
10. EU Fisheries Ministers in Luxembourg fix TACs and quotas for Baltic Sea 2016
11. EU Fisheries Ministers briefed on EU-Norway annual consultations
12. DG MARE adopts North Sea discard plan in advance of landing obligation
13. DG MARE adopts two Atlantic discard plans in advance of landing obligation
14. Commission establishes new no-trawl zones in the Baltic Sea
15. Commission amends technical measures in cod recovery plan
16. Commission reduces 2015 fishing quotas due to historical overfishing
17. Commission sets rules for subsidy reductions in case on CFP non-compliance
18. EU approves subsidy regimes for Poland and Greece 2014 to 2020
19. Control regime for small pelagic fish adjusted to account for landing obligation
20. European Parliament holds workshop on Technical Measures in the CFP
21. Stop fishing notices issued for Belgian vessels
22. NEAFC to establish a Working Group on Allocation Criteria
23. South Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) one step nearer to launch
24. European Market Observatory publishes case study on the hake market in Spain
25. European Parliament publishes study Arctic fisheries and climate change
26. Commission closes consultation on blue growth
27. EU publishes video about on its development cooperation in the fishery sector
28. Commissioner Vella visits European Fisheries Control Agency in Vigo
29. EU and China agree to set up IUU Working Group

Fish hygiene

30. Rapid alerts were notified for 36 consignments of fishery products
31. DG SANTÉ reports on aquaculture feed safety in Denmark
32. DG SANTÉ also reports aquaculture animal health controls in Malaysia
33. European Food Safety Authority holds food safety conference at EXPO 2015
34. EFSA issues risk profile on farmed insects used as food and feed
35. DG SANTÉ publishes fitness for purpose of Regulation 178/2002
36. Commission to amend standard method for testing of E.coli in line with Codex

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The EU Court of Auditors published a special report on the management by the Commission of the EU’s Fisheries Partnership Agreements with third countries. The Court examined four of the 12 agreements in force at the time of the audit, representing 77 % of FPA payments in 2013. The study found that the procedures for negotiating and renewing FPAs were often complex and lengthy, yet the Commission handled these difficulties well, but that the exclusivity clause led to misunderstandings in relation to continuation of fishing pending conclusion of an agreement. Whilst the FPA should permit the fishing only the surplus resources of partner countries, this concept of surplus is difficult to apply in practice due to a lack of reliable information on fish stocks and the fishing effort of domestic fishing and other foreign fleets. The EU was found to over-pay for fishing opportunities used since the reference tonnage agreed was often higher than actual catches, leading to regular underutilisation and the EU financial contribution was paid in full regardless of the fishing opportunities used. The information given in independent ex post evaluations of FPAs is not always sufficiently complete, consistent or comparable, thus reducing its usefulness in informing decisions when negotiating the protocols. The court also criticised the sectoral support which does not allow for a suspension of payments, when agreed actions or results are only partially achieved. Moreover, despite sharing the same development concept, the conditions for payment of sectoral support are different from those for European Development Fund (EDF) budget support, which was found to sometimes to lead to inconsistencies.

2. The European Commission announced that it has concluded negotiations with the Cook Islands regarding the establishment of a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement. The Protocol will allow four EU flagged purse seiners to fish in the Cook Islands' waters for the next four years and will therefore expand the area of operations for the EU fleet in the western and central Pacific Ocean. In exchange for this access, the Cook Islands will receive a financial contribution from the EU, to contribute towards a sectoral support programme, which until now has not been announced.

3. The European Council announced the conclusion of the Protocols setting out the fishing opportunities and the financial contribution under the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between Madagascar and the EU and between Cape Verde and the EU. The Commission is authorised to negotiate with the respective Governments and agree on modifications to the Protocols in respect of the fishing opportunities and the financial contribution.

4. On 14-16 October 2015, the Joint Committee under the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement Protocol met in Brussels, and assessed the first year of implementation of both the fishing activity carried out under the current Protocol and the financial support given to develop and strengthen the fisheries sector. The use of the fishing possibilities was satisfactory for both the EU and Morocco and the absorption rate of the sectoral support funds has reached 72%. Both parties expressed their satisfaction with the results. A number of clarifications were introduced and technical issues agreed to ensure more efficient fishing operations.

5. The European Commission issued Decision setting out the rationale for the notification of the Comoros Islands as a potentially non-cooperating third country in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (i.e. issue of a so-called yellow card). The Commission cites evidence that around 20 Comorian vessels have been involved in IUU fishing activities during the period 2010 to 2015. Two Comorian vessels are also reported to have conducted an at-sea transhipment off the West African coast in 2014. Comorian authorities acknowledge that the Comorian vessels operating outside the Comorian EEZ are not subject to any measure of monitoring, control and surveillance and the authority in charge of fisheries does not have any information on such vessels, in direct contravention of an undertaking made to the EU in 2011. The Comorian fisheries authorities did not share the Maritime Code or a list of Comorian fishing vessels. The management of the Comorian register is partly delegated to a private company located outside the Comoros, and some registered vessels are without a genuine link with the country. Although the EU and the Comoros and have signed a Fisheries Partnership Agreement and support was also delivered by various regional EU funded projects (ACF Fish II and Smartfish) these measures have failed to promote sustainable fisheries development by the Comoros. The Commission concludes that the authorities have failed to discharge their duties under international law with respect to fisheries cooperation and enforcement efforts and that the country should therefore be notified that is potentially considered as a non-cooperating third country in the fight against IUU fishing.

6. The Commission Decision also notified Taiwan that is was also being considered as a potentially non-cooperating third country in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, by the issue of a yellow card. Whilst noting that Taiwan, due to its political status, is not a member of the United Nations and is not bound by any of the international agreements governing fisheries, the Commission has decided to apply UNLCOS as the primary applicable international legal framework. The Commission notes that at least 22 Taiwanese vessels have been involved in IUU activities during the 2010 to 2015 period. It cites cases in which the Taiwanese authorities have not imposed any sanction on IUU fishing vessels. Trading companies were found to be not incorporating in their accounting systems information concerning traceability of fishing transactions and the Commission considers that Taiwan cannot ensure fishery products entering its ports and processing plants do not stem from IUU fishing. Numerous inconsistencies were identified in catch certificates, for example lack of required data and inconsistent information concerning catch, master declarations, logbook, ICCAT statistic documents, dolphin safety declarations, and transhipment. Furthermore consultations between the parties in the period 2012 – 2015 have led to little or no progress in the areas of concern highlighted by the Commission. Taiwan is accused of failing to adopt a legal framework foreseeing definitions of IUU fishing and serious infringements.

7. At the same time, the Commission lifted the yellow cards from Ghana and Papua New Guinea, which have significantly reformed their fisheries governance system. Both have amended their legal frameworks to combat IUU fishing, strengthened their sanctioning systems, improved monitoring and control of their fleets and are now complying with international law.

8. The Commission adopted a Communication on the key achievements of the IUU Regulation in the first five years of its enforcement. Since 2010 the Commission has sent more than 160 Mutual Assistance messages to Member States' authorities to direct their controls and checks towards situations of risk and to request investigations on presumed IUU fishing activities, resulting in more than 4.2 million EUR in fines imposed by various West African coastal states. The Commission has by now initiated dialogue on IUU fishing controls with almost 50 countries, resulting in improved governance, revised legislation; adoption of National Plans of Action (NPOA) in line with the FAO IPOA-IUU; strengthened sanctions; better cooperation, coordination and mobilisation of different relevant authorities. Eighteen yellow cards were issued and red cards issued for Belize, Cambodia, Guinea and Sri Lanka. Since 2010 the Commission has investigated over 200 cases of presumed IUU fishing by vessels from 27 countries. The EU signed Joint Statements on combating IUU fishing with the US in September 2011 and with Japan in July 2012. The Commission announced intention to modernise the catch certificate scheme through an IT system and will create a harmonised system to exchange and cross-check information in cooperation with EFCA.

9. The European Parliament, Directorate-General for Internal Policies Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies has published a study on “Fisheries. The Landing Obligation and its Implications on the Control of Fisheries”. The study, conducted by consultants, reviews the impacts of the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) rules requiring catches in regulated fisheries to be landed and counted against quotas of each Member State. It estimates the level of discarded fish likely to be covered by the new rules, the impact of the changes on EU fisheries, the regulatory challenges arising and recommends responses to them. It concludes that the landing obligation is one of the most significant changes there has been in the history of the development of the CFP and that whilst extended MCS activities should be carried out at sea to ensure that the obligation is effectively enforced, any new control measures introduced should avoid making the industry less efficient.

10. EU Fisheries Ministers in Luxembourg and reached a political agreement on fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea, fixing for 2016 the maximum quantities of fish which can be caught for the commercially most important stocks. For the stocks of Western and Eastern Baltic cod, Ministers adopted 20% reductions in catches. In addition, Member States agreed on several measures to protect the Western stock to accelerate its recovery, including a six-week fishing closure during the spawning period between mid-February and end-March 2016. The measures are expected to bring all stocks to Maximum Sustainable yield by the year 2017, albeit later than the Commission intended.

11. EU Fisheries Ministers were also briefed on EU-Norway annual consultations in the framework of their bilateral fisheries agreement. The main concerns expressed by member states covered the management arrangements for the jointly-managed fish stocks and the exchange of reciprocal fishing possibilities in EU and Norwegian waters.

12. DG MARE of the European Commission adopted a plan to reduce discarding in certain demersal fisheries in the North Sea, being a temporary measure to gradually put in place the landing obligation, a key component of the EU's reformed Common Fisheries Policy. The plan sets out “de minimis” exemptions which allows discarding a small percentage of catches in fisheries where increasing the selectivity is difficult or where handling costs are disproportionately high. A “survivability exemption” also allows discarding species that have a high chance of surviving. Both exemptions have been set taking into account available scientific advice and following discussions with scientific advisory body STECF. The new discard plans will apply from 1 January 2016 for one year, once final adoption takes place. Further discard plans will be adopted for 2017 to bring additional fisheries under the landing obligation.

13. The Commission also adopted two plans to reduce discarding in the EU waters in the Atlantic. These plans concern certain demersal fisheries, and also set out “de minimis” exemptions (allowing discarding a small percentage of catches in fisheries where increasing the selectivity is difficult or where handling costs are disproportionately high) and “survivability exemptions” (allowing discarding species that have a high chance of surviving). Both exemptions have been set taking into account available scientific advice and following discussions with scientific advisory body STECF. The discard plans will apply from 1 January 2016 for a maximum period of three years. However, they may be revised to bring additional fisheries under the landing obligation.

14. The Commission has established new conservation zones in the Baltic Sea in which fishing activity with mobile bottom-contacting gear is prohibited, so as to protect ecologically fragile bubbling reef areas in seven Natura 2000 sites in the Baltic Sea and three sites in the Kattegat. The measure follows joint submissions by Denmark, Germany and Sweden for fisheries conservation measures to protect reef structures in the Danish zone.

15. The Commission passed a regulation amending the technical measures included within the recovery plan for cod in the North Sea and to the west of Scotland. The requirement which obliges fisherman to discard fish has now been amended to bring it into line with the landing obligation. All unintended catches of marine organisms of species subject to the landing obligation and caught in excess of the catch composition limits must therefore now be landed and counted against quotas.

16. The Commission has announced deductions to be applied to the 2015 fishing quotas as a result of overfishing by member states in previous years. Denmark overfished quotas of sandeel and sprat by 7,026 and 1,158 tonnes respectively; Latvia overfished herring quotas by 749 tonnes, and the UK overfished mackerel by 4,131 tonnes. Other Member States will also suffer respective cuts to future quotas.

17. The Commission passed a regulation setting out the terms and conditions for the cancellation of all or part of the EU’s financial contribution to Member States’ operational programmes for the delivery of financial assistance from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The new rules set the procedures and levels of financial corrections to be applied by the Commission, and the criteria for applying flat rate deductions to Member States subsidies, in the case of non-compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy.

18. The European Commission approved the operational programmes for subsidies to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors of Poland and Greece under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the period 2014-2020. The investment package for Poland is valued at EUR710 million which includes EUR531million of EU subsidies. For Greece the EMFF will provide EUR 389 million of a public investment package of EUR523 million.

19. The Commission passed a regulation amending the control and inspection regime for small pelagic fish in the waters adjacent to Western Waters so as to take account of the landing obligation introduced under the CFP reforms introduced this year. Target benchmarks for the inspection of landings of herring, mackerel and horse mackerel are adjusted accordingly, and their application is also extended to landings of blue whiting.

20. The European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies: Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies has published a report on a workshop it held on the “New Technical Measures Framework for the new Common Fisheries Policy”. The report presents the content and discussion of presentations to the EU Parliament’s Fisheries Committee on technical measures. It includes descriptions by leading EU fisheries scientists of lessons learnt regarding fisheries technical measures, as well as descriptions of the need for technical measures in different EU fisheries basins (Baltic, Atlantic, and Mediterranean etc.).

21. Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Belgian vessels fishing for whiting, sole, skates and rays, anglerfish, hake, Norway lobster and megrims.

22. The North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC which brings together the EU, Denmark in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation) adopted several fisheries management measures, following the results of an independent performance review. The decisions were taken at an extraordinary NEAFC meeting in London from 5 to 7 October 2015 and will establish a Working Group on Allocation Criteria, which should help to address the contentious issue of how to share shifting pelagic fish stocks that straddle several zones in the North-East Atlantic. The parties agreed to allot some time at their annual meeting in November to develop recommendations on a framework for future coastal state negotiations on migratory pelagic stocks and redfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic and also will make some structural changes to its permanent committees.

23. The members of the South Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) held a meeting in Brussels at which they agreed on a number of important administrative and financial issues, including the Rules of Procedures, the Terms of Reference for subsidiary bodies, as well as the roadmap and the procedures for the recruitment of the Executive Secretary. Progress was also made on the financial regulation of SIOFA which will allow to become a fully operational Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) within the next year. It will then be in a position to commence work to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the non-tuna fishery resources through cooperation and to promote their sustainable development.

24. The European Commission published the latest edition of the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture products. Articles include reports of first sales Denmark (covering plaice and cod) and Norway (haddock and mackerel). There is a case study on the hake market in Spain and a report on the EU consumption of anchovy and salmon.

25. The European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies: Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies published a study on “Fisheries Management and the Arctic in the Context of Climate Change”. The study by a team of consultants, suggests that fisheries in the Arctic will benefit from increased primary productivity, expansion of distribution ranges of mainly low to medium resilience boreal commercial species and availability of new fishing grounds, especially in international waters not covered by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations. It recommends that the EU’s Arctic policy should seek to develop international collaboration in research and monitoring, and address the anticipated fisheries governance issues.

26. The Commission closed its international public consultation on how the EU could contribute to achieving better international governance of oceans and seas to improve the benefits of sustainable blue growth. Comments were received from over 90 governments, public bodies, NGOs, industry representatives, academics and other stakeholders within and outside of Europe. The Commission will study the contributions, and has announced the intention to launch a new initiative on international ocean governance in 2016.

27. The EU published an animated video about the co-operation of EU with developing countries in fisheries for the sustainable management of seafood resources so as to enhance food security and opportunities for trade and growth. The video is published in the frame of the European Year of Development 2015, in which October is dedicated to Food Security issues. See:

28. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mr.Karmenu Vella visited Europe's biggest fishing port in Vigo, Spain, to mark two important anniversaries: the tenth anniversary of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the 20th anniversary of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Mr Vella used his visit to recognise both organisations' achievements in promoting and enforcing sustainable fisheries.

29. The Vice-Minister of Agriculture of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Qu Dongyu, and Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries met in Beijing on 14th October 2015 and exchanged views in reinforcing their concrete cooperation on fisheries. The parties decided to establish an EU – China Working Group on IUU fishing issues and agreed to hold its first meeting in the first half of 2016. They expressed the intent to reinforce cooperation in fisheries by utilising “the existing bilateral and multilateral platforms in a win-win situation”. Both sides reaffirmed their will to enhance better science, enforcement, and governance of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).

Fish hygiene

30. During October 2015 there were 36 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 5 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 2 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 2 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 27 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 2 consignments of chilled yellowfin tuna loins and 3 consignments of swordfish from Spain.

31. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANTÉ has issued a report on a mission to Denmark to evaluate the production and use of certain proteins of animal origin in feed for aquaculture animals. The mission assessed the controls placed by the Danish Competent Authority, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration on the use of processed animal protein (PAP) of non-ruminant origin used in the production of feed for aquaculture animals. The FVO concludes that the system of official controls on animal by-products and feed manufacturers producing feed for aquaculture animals is not effectively applied to the use of PAP. As a result there is a risk that unauthorised animal proteins may be used in Danish aquaculture feeds. A number of short term corrective measures were applied and additional recommendations were made to address the shortcomings.

32. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANTÉ also issued a report following a mission to Malaysia in March 2015 to evaluate the animal health controls in place for aquaculture animals (specifically ornamental fish) destined for export to the European Union. The mission found that a control system for aquaculture diseases was undermined by the lack of animal health import standards and checks, as well as lack of movement controls of fish into internal spatial health compartments defined for cyprinids, the absence of a list of legally notifiable diseases, and the high threshold on the requirement for aquaculture businesses to report mortality. There was also a lack of laboratory procedures to investigate unspecified mortalities. The report makes recommendations to the Competent Authority (the Fishery Biosecurity Division under the Department of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture) aimed at addressing areas in which further improvements are required.

33. The European Food Safety Authority held a scientific conference on food safety in association with the EXPO 2015 event in Milan. The conference theme was “Shaping the future of food safety, together”, and it was attended by 1100 people from 70 countries over three days. Delegates examined topics such as open data, weighing uncertainty in risk assessments, emerging issues in animal and plant health, and developing expertise for the future. Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety made a plea to Member States to maintain financial support for EFSA and to increase their efforts in recruiting and training the next generation of risk assessors.

34. The European Food Safety Authority issued a scientific opinion on the risk profile related to production and consumption of farmed insects as food and feed, comparing potential hazards with those associated with mainstream sources of animal protein. EFSA concludes that when non-processed insects are fed with currently permitted feed materials, the potential occurrence of microbiological hazards is expected to be similar to that associated with other non-processed sources of protein. The occurrence of prions (the abnormal proteins that can cause diseases such as BSE) is expected to be equal or lower than conventional food and feed materials. The assessment notes that the insect species reported to have the greatest potential for use as food and/or feed in the EU include houseflies, mealworms, crickets and silkworms and that the European Commission is currently co-financing a research project to explore the feasibility of using insect protein for animal feed.

35. DG SANTÉ published a report of an expert working group on EU food law regarding a check to assess the fitness for purpose of Regulation 178/2002, which implies addressing the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, the EU added value and the relevance of EFSA. Member States were asked to comment on these aspects of EFSA’s work. It was noted that the pool of experts available for participation in EFSA's activities was shrinking while the demand for professional expertise was increasing; it was considered that the separation of risk assessment and risk management has been a crucial accomplishment of the general food law; however some Member States have questioned the sustainability of the existing panel system, since criticisms on independence and a high work load might act as disincentives for the mobilisation of these voluntary experts. The Commission invited the participants to provide additional written comments.

36. The Commission and the Member States discussed a draft Commission Regulation amending rules regards standards for E.coli bacteria in live bivalve molluscs, echinoderms, tunicates and marine gastropods set out in Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs. The amendment will bring the EU regulation into line with the Codex standard for end-product testing of E.coli, which is considered scientifically more precise and is more likely to detect non-compliant samples.

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