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March 2016

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Commission proposes decentralised approach to fisheries conservation measures
2. First EU multiannual, multi-species fisheries management plan adopted for Baltic Sea
3. Parliament adopts resolution on fisheries in the Adriatic and Ionian seas
4. EU amends 2016 TACS and quotas regulation; new quotas for sand eel and horse mackerel
5. Fisheries agreements generally well managed by Commission, say Member States
6. Netherlands to strengthen fisheries control following audit; focus on pelagic catch data
7. Commission to negotiate new UNCLOS agreement on marine biological diversity
8. EU Commissioner visits Slovenia
9. European Fisheries Control Agency to provide satellite data for migrant controls

Fish hygiene

10. Rapid alerts were notified for 51 consignments of fishery products
11. FVO reports on fishery product controls in France; omissions weaken integrity
12. FVO finds gaps in implementation of US bivalve controls
13. European Food Safety Authority designs baseline survey for norovirus in oysters.
14. Commission approve fish disease free compartments; discuss RASFF for animal feed
15. FAO Subcommittee on Fish Trade considers guidelines for catch document schemes
16. EU-funded project ECsafeSEAFOOD considers science policy for safe seafood.

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The European Commission presented its proposal for new technical conservation measures for fisheries in European seas. The regulation will prescribe the general principles and the overall objectives of conservation and will set the basic rules that will be applicable to prohibited fishing gear or the protection of certain species and habitats. However, for technical measures which affect a specific sea basin, national governments and operators will be able to customise the proposed rules to the local context so as to achieve the desired results. Member States may submit joint recommendations to the Commission for regulations defining appropriate technical measures at the regional level that deviate from the existing measures. These include rules on how, where and when fishermen may fish, also determining gear, catch composition and ways to deal with accidental catches. The approach will devolve powers back to Regional Advisory Councils and avoid them being decided at EU level through a lengthy adoption process, with complex regulatory structure. Annexes list prohibited species, closed areas, prohibited species for catching with driftnets, methods of measurement of the size of a marine organism, minimum conservation reference sizes etc. The approach is in line with the Better Regulation Agenda for the European Commission.

2. The Netherlands presidency and European Parliament representatives, agreed on the mechanism, proposed by the Commission in 2014, for establishing a multiannual and multi-species fisheries management plan for cod, herring and sprat in the Baltic Sea. The new plan will replace the existing management plan for the Baltic Sea cod stocks, in place since 2007, with a multispecies approach, including the stocks of herring and sprat which were not yet subject to a management plan. The measure was endorsed by a committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States, prior to being considered by the Council and Parliament. This is the first such plan to be approved under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. Commissioner Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, welcomed the decision.

3. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on fisheries management in the Adriatic and Ionian seas. The resolution urges sanction measures on Member State which do not fulfil data collection and transmission obligations, or fail to address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by its vessels. It also calls for advisory bodies for the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Regional Advisory Council (RAC) and for stepping up exchanges of best conservation practice, in cooperation with the coastal states concerned.

4. The European Council has amended the 2016 TACS and quotas regulation setting out the fishing opportunities for EU fish stocks, following new scientific advice from ICES. Amongst other modifications, TACs for sand eel, small-eyed ray and horse mackerel are adjusted. Adjustments are also made as a result of agreement with Norway regarding an exchange of quotas (blue whiting from the EU in return for cod and haddock in North Norway).

5. A Working Party on Internal and External Fisheries Policy of the European Council (representing Member States) has considered the report by the European Court of Auditors entitled: "Are the Fisheries Partnership Agreements well managed by the Commission?" The working party shares the Court's assessment that the negotiation processes and the implementation of Fisheries Partnership Agreements are generally well managed, while leaving room for further improvement. The report acknowledges the need for improved analysis of surplus resources, the respect of democratic principles and human rights, the alleviation of the EU budget, and the decoupling and closer monitoring of the sectoral support component of the financial contribution within the Agreements.

6. The European Commission has adopted an action plan to strengthen fisheries control in the Netherlands, following a recent audit of the Dutch fisheries control system. Under the action plan, the Netherlands Government will improve its catch data management system, especially in relation to pelagic fisheries and provide more detailed information on its official website. The plan follows similar plans for Sweden, Finland and Lithuania adopted in 2015.

7. The European Council has authorised the European Commission to negotiate on its behalf in relation to the development of a new legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, concerning the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. The proposal is based on a recommendation by a UNCLOS working group and the subsequent decision by the UN General Assembly calling for an inter-governmental conference on the matter.

8. EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mr.Karmenu Vella, visited Slovenia to inaugurate landing facilities financed by the European Fisheries Fund. He held meetings with the Slovenian minister responsible for fisheries, Mr Dejan Židan, and local fisheries representatives.

9. The EU Parliament's Fisheries Committee approved a proposal to allow the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA, which centralises and coordinates EU member states’ fisheries inspections) to provide data from its ship reporting systems to detect vessels carrying migrants. This will include data from Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and the Electronic Reporting Systems (ERS). It will also be authorised to conduct operations to disrupt people smuggling routes in cooperation with a future European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the European Maritime Safety Agency.

Fish hygiene

10. During March 2016 there were 51 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 14 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 8 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 8 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 21 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 5 consignments of live mussels and 3 consignments of clams from Spain, 2 consignments of live clams and 3 consignments of live oysters from France, 2 consignments of live clams from Italy, 3 consignments of cuttlefish from India, 2 consignments of frozen red shrimps from Argentina and 3 consignments of pangasius from Vietnam.

11. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANTÉ (Health and Food Safety) published a report of an audit mission to France in March 2015, to evaluate the food safety controls applied in relation to fishery products. The mission found that several establishments accepted fresh fishery products at temperature of up to +6°C without notifying the supplier or taking corrective actions, the HACCP system did not always contain all necessary elements and details, and seawater used in fish auction and processing establishments was not always subject to adequate controls. The mission concluded that whilst the control system is broadly meets the requirements of EU regulations, it’s integrity is weakened by these omissions. The Competent Authority, the Directorate General for Food - Direction Générale de l’Alimentation was requested to submit a plan of corrective actions to address the issues identified.

12. The Food and Veterinary Office of DG SANTÉ (Health and Food Safety) published a report of an audit mission to the USA in March 2015, to evaluate the food safety controls applied in the production of bivalve molluscs and their products intended for export to the European Union, as part of the on-going process of seeking recognition of equivalence of controls for these products. The mission (the scope of which did not extend to export certification procedures) found that the structure and organisation of the Federal and State competent authorities was adequate for the implementation of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. However, gaps were identified in the implementation of the Program by State authorities, in relation to controls over the Vibrio hazard, and the traceability of batches of bivalve molluscs harvested (which could not reliably ensure that the production areas of origin could be identified). As a result the mission concluded that in relation to Vibrio parahaemolyticus the guarantees currently provided in respect of bivalve mollusc products intended for future EU export are insufficient. Control plans were only applied to products placed on the market in whole and live form, but not to shucked products (which are assumed to be cooked before consumption). With regard to laboratories providing monitoring of harvest areas for bivalve safety, the mission found that the level of equipment and the staff knowledge was not uniform, not all laboratories participated in proficiency tests, and that USA guarantees regarding the reliability of the testing results to be given for bivalve molluscs are insufficient, particularly in relation to marine biotoxins. The mission concluded that there are gaps in certain areas which do not allow one to conclude that the system implemented is fully compliant with the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. The report made recommendations for corrective actions to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, being the Central Competent Authority.

13. Following a request from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has prepared the technical specifications for a European baseline survey of norovirus in oysters. This food safety hazard is not detected by current monitoring systems for bivalve safety. EFSA recommends that a multistage sampling scheme should collect each year 1,026 samples from 171 production areas and 1,182 samples from 197 dispatch centres. This will permit an estimate of the European prevalence of norovirus-contaminated oysters with a 95% level of confidence (considering an expected prevalence of 50%).

14. The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed of the Commission met to discuss a number of technical matters concerning disease free compartments regarding a number of aquaculture diseases. Information was supplied from Iceland, France and Spin, concerning disease-free status of several areas, with regard to viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS) and infectious haematopoietic necrosis (IHN) Norway also record the disease free status of a compartment as regards infectious salmon anaemia (ISA). It also discussed rapid alerts arising due to mercury contaminated canned pet foods with fish, from Thailand. The Commission also reminded the Member States that the RASFF system was also applied to animal feeds, including feeds for animals not for food consumption, but only where there was a serious risk to human or animal health or to the environment. The Commission undertook to elaborate guidelines to the competent authorities regarding which non-compliances have to be considered as a serious risk.

15. The European Commission attended the 15th session of the biannual meeting of the FAO Subcommittee on Fish Trade, held in Agadir (Morocco). Members discussed topics of special significance to the foreign trade of fisheries, including catch document schemes (CDS), trade in fisheries services and traceability. The Subcommittee considered the draft voluntary CDS guidelines, to which the EU has contributed. However, an alternative, less ambitious draft version has been proposed by some countries without CDS systems in place. The Subcommittee expressed its aim to finalise the guidelines at a technical group in April 2016.

16. The EU FP7-funded project ECsafeSEAFOOD, held a workshop entitled “Science supporting policy for the safety of European seafood”, which considered how to bridge food safety information gaps and improve communication between decision makers and consumers. A final project conference is planned to bring policy makers, seafood industry representatives and consumer organisations together to discuss ways optimise seafood safety. Details of the event will be released at

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