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May 2017

Common Fisheries Policy

1. European Court of Auditors publishes report on EU fisheries controls
2. DG MARE approves plans to fix fisheries control shortcomings in Belgium, Estonia and Germany
3. Comoros Islands gets red card as non-cooperating third country involved in IUU fishing
4. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also gets IUU red card for IUU fishing
5. Liberia gets yellow card as a potentially non-cooperating country in IUU fishing
6. EU Fisheries Ministers agree technical measures for conservation of fish resources
7. Commission announces 2017 Bluefin tuna fishing season; 20% quota increase
8. Commission sets new minimum size for red seabream
9. Stop fishing notice for redfish in NAFO
10. EU- Cook Islands Fisheries Partnership Agreement enters into force
11. EUMOFA publishes reports on Red Mullet and Sprat
12. Changes to protected designation of origin for Cornish Sardines approved
13. Commission amends monitoring data forms for European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
14. Commission sets content of Member States marine environmental strategies
15. Commission announces “Our Ocean Conference 2017”; October in Malta
16. EU to support implementing decisions under Minamata Convention on mercury
17. Commission discusses investment finance needs for the blue economy

Fish hygiene

18. Sixtynine rapid alert notifications for fishery products during May 2017
19. FVO reports on a mission to Italy; inspection of HACCP plans insufficient
20. FVO reports on a mission to Colombia; shortcomings identified
21. FVO reports on a mission to Ecuador; shortcomings and risk of diesel contamination
22. FVO reports on a mission to Canada; equivalence confirmed, but deficiencies identified
23. FVO reports on a mission to Honduras; gaps in monitoring and weak import controls
24. Commission considers admitting fish imports from Macedonia, Georgia and Kiribati
25. EU definition of fishmeal and fish oil amended to include aquatic invertebrates and starfish
26. Commission proposes new limits for mercury in compound feeds for non-food animals

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The European Court of Auditors published a Special Report aimed at answering the question “has the EU an effective fisheries control system in place?”. The report found that the Member States and the Commission have made progress in several areas but that due to significant weaknesses the EU did not yet have a sufficiently effective system for fisheries controls in place to support the success of the CFP. Member States had not yet fully implemented the EU’s fisheries control regulation and certain provisions of the regulation would need modification to enable Member States to effectively control fisheries activities. Member States did not sufficiently verify the accuracy of their fleets' capacity and of the information on the vessels in the fleet register. Although Member States monitored vessels using satellite-based tracking technology, 89 % of the vessels in the EU fleet were not monitored in this way. They also criticised lack of transparency in quota distribution to beneficiaries. Some provisions related to small scale fisheries also leave loopholes in the legislation, preventing a full monitoring of fishing activities and rigorous monitoring of fishing quotas uptake, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea. The Commission issued a press release welcoming the findings of Special Report, considering it provides “an excellent opportunity for the EU tostrengthen the control legal framework”.

2. DG MARE of the European Commission subsequently approved action plans submitted by Belgium, Estonia and Germany setting out how they address identified shortcomings in their fisheries control systems, with a focus on ensuring that catch data are comprehensively collected within the required time limits, validated, cross-checked, exchanged with other countries, then and applied to ensure effective monitoring and reporting of quota uptake.

3. The Commission adopted a decision naming the Comoros Islands as a non-cooperating third country in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The decision to issue this “red card” reflects the failure of the country to submit its flag state notifications to the EU, and to discharge its duties under international law as a flag, port or coastal State. The Commission cites lack of adequate legal framework and registration and licensing procedures, inadequate management of the Comorian register, lack of cooperation and information sharing within the Comorian administration and with third countries where Comorian flagged vessels operate, lack of adequate and efficient monitoring and lack of a deterrent system of sanctions.

4. The Commission also adopted a decision naming Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as a non-cooperating third country due to the lack of control by the authorities of vessels flying their flag. These vessels operate all over the Atlantic and offload their catches in Trinidad and Tobago (which has already been warned in order to improve control over activities in its ports). These vessels elude any control over their activities. Two vessels from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are already on the international vessel "black list" compiled by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

5. The Commission also named Liberia as a potentially non-cooperating third country in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The “yellow card” is issued due to the finding that over 100 Liberian flagged fishing vessels operate beyond Liberia's EEZ without authorisation from the relevant Liberian fisheries authorities (the Bureau of National Fisheries) and which are not subject to monitoring, control and surveillance. The Commission found a lack of cooperation between the Liberian Maritime Authority and the national fisheries authorities. There was also an apparent lack of cooperation with third countries in many regions where Liberian fishing vessels operate. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said "We are showing our commitment to fight illegal fishing globally” and invited the countries “to seriously step up their fight against illegal fishing so that we can reverse this decision quickly”.

6. On 11 May 2017, the Agriculture and Fisheries Council agreed its position on proposed new rules on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems, often referred to as "technical measures". European Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers strengthened the Commission’s proposals for the new technical measures regulation. These will cover the catching and landing of fisheries resources, the specifications and operation of fishing gear, and measures to mitigate their impact on sensitive species or areas. The proposals seek to streamline the governance structure for technical measures, to allow for improved flexibility and incentives to increase fishing selectivity. The European Parliament will consider the proposals by the second half of 2017.

7. The Commission announced the start of the 2017 fishing season for Bluefin tuna. This year, the number of vessels authorised to fish Bluefin tuna is 782 (of which 49 are purse seiners) while the number of authorised traps is 12. The EU quota for 2017 increased by 20 percent to 13,451 tonnes. Strict controls and an inspection programme are in place with a significant deployment of inspectors, patrol vessels and aircraft coordinated by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the Member States concerned.

8. The Commission has adopted a regulation setting a minimum conservation reference size for red seabream (Pagellus bogaraveo) of 33 cm, to be reviewed by the end of 2018.

9. A stop fishing notice was published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Member State of the European Union vessels fishing for redfish in NAFO 3M area.

10. Information was published in the Official Journal on the entry into force on 10 May 2017 of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Government of the Cook Islands.

11. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2016, containing articles on First Sales in Europe: Focus on Red Mullet and Sprat

12. The Commission approved a modified specification for Cornish Sardines as a registered of protected designations of origin, as requested by the UK Government.

13. The Commission amended the requirements for the data which the Member States are to supply to the Commission in order to permit the monitoring and evaluation of activities implemented under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). New reporting templates are provided to ensure greater consistency in format.

14. The Commission introduced a directive to Member States as to the indicative lists of ecosystem elements, anthropogenic pressures and human activities relevant to marine waters which must be considered in the preparation of their strategies to be developed in response to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

15. The Commission announced that the “Our Ocean Conference 2017” with the theme “An Ocean for Life”, will be hosted by the European Union in Malta on 5-6 October 2017. Marine pollution is one of the key topics with a focus on marine litter. The Commission has called on aquaria in the EU to showcase this problem and has prepared information packages for dissemination.

16. The European Commission published a fact sheet on EU mercury policy and the ratification of the Minamata Convention (which restricts the production and use of mercury). The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention is scheduled to take place on 24-29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. A series of implementing Decisions will be adopted at this meeting, including guidance documents in relation to mercury supply sources and trade and to the use of the best available techniques to reduce mercury air emissions.

17. The European Commission, in collaboration with the WorldWide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Prince of Wales' Charities International Sustainability Unit (ISU), convened a meeting of stakeholders to discuss financing requirements for the blue economy and sustainability of such investments. The meeting heard that according to projections from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), by 2030 the output of the ocean economy, currently about EUR1.3 trillion globally, could more than double.

Fish hygiene

18. During May 2017, there were 69 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 5 notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 5 notifications for cephalopod products, 5 notifications for crustacean products, 54 notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. The notifications included 3 consignments of live mussels and oysters from Ireland, 11 consignments of tuna and 10 consignments of swordfish from Spain, 2 consignments of monkfish from the UK, 2 consignments of nile perch from Uganda and 2 consignments of blue shark from Portugal.

19. The Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office reported on a mission to Italy in December 2016 to evaluate food safety controls for fishery products. The mission found that that Italy has an adequate and effective official control system in place which provides adequate guarantees with regard to the requirements of EU legislation. All recommendations from a previous audit in 2010 were addressed. However, inspection of HACCP plans as regards hazards analysis and the identification of critical control points was deficient, and numerous non-compliances in fishery business operations were not detected (for example failure to identify histamine, parasites, mercury or cadmium hazards). The Competent Authority, the Directorate General for Food Hygiene, Food Safety and Nutrition of the Ministry of Health was required to submit a plan of corrective actions.

20. The Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office reported on a mission to Colombia in October 2016 to evaluate controls for tuna products exported to the EU, and assess whether they meet public health requirements (in particular conditions for histamine and heavy metals) as well as IUU fisheries and customs rules. The mission found that comprehensive legislation and adequate procedures guaranteed the validity of the European Union export certificate. However, the system allowed freezer vessels to stay EU listed without regular controls. There was a risk of contamination with diesel, due to the dual use of storage tanks for both fuel and brine for freezing tuna. Weaknesses in import controls over fish landed from foreign vessels give rise to a risk of product being derived from vessels which do not meet EU sanitary requirements. The Competent Authority, the National Institute of Food and Drug Monitoring was required to submit a plan of corrective actions.

21. The Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office reported on a mission to Ecuador in October 2016 to evaluate controls for tuna products exported to the EU, and assess whether they meet public health requirements (in particular limits for histamine and heavy metals) as well as IUU fisheries and customs rules. The mission found that there were gaps in the knowledge of official staff regarding HACCP, and the competent authority was not able to detect serious hygiene and HACCP shortcomings that may pose a food safety risk to the consumers, such as risk of contamination with diesel, due to the dual use of storage tanks for both fuel and brine. There were also serious weaknesses with regard to the control of raw materials used for the production of fish oil. These weaknesses do not allow the Competent Authority (Instituto Nacional de Pesca) to justify the guarantees provided in the EU export certificate. The Competent Authority was required to submit a plan of corrective actions.

22. The Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office reported on a mission to Canada in June 2015 to evaluate food safety controls for fishery products exported to the EU, under the terms of the Veterinary Equivalence Agreement between the parties. The mission found that whilst the Competent Authority listed facilities authorised to export to the EU, the Canadian conditions were not fully met in some independent cold stores. Some landing sites and fishing vessels were not checked for compliance before allowing their entry into the production chain, and checks on landing operations were considered insufficient. The implementation of the Canadian protocol for partially completed export certificates did not provide the guarantees required by EU legislation. The report concludes that the central competent authority, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, should correct the deficiencies noted.

23. The Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office reported on a mission to Honduras in October 2016 to evaluate food safety controls for fishery products exported to the EU. The mission found that that there were hygiene and HACCP deficiencies identified but not corrected in listed establishments. There were gaps in monitoring parameters and a lack of import controls, which undermined the declarations made on health certificates for export of fishery products to the EU. Most of the recommendations of a previous mission had been addressed except those regarding weak controls on the use of additives and the lack of accreditation of some methods of analysis used for official controls of fishery products. The Competent Authority, Servicio Nacional de Sanidad e Inocuidad Agroalimentaria, was required to submit another plan of corrective actions.

24. The Commission and Member States considered changes to the list of third countries and territories from which imports of certain fishery products for human consumption are permitted. The Commission proposes adding the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia and the Republic of Kiribati to Annex II to Decision 2006/766/EC. The proposal will be decided at the next Committee meeting.

25. The Commission adopted a regulation which amends the EU definition of fishmeal, to include starfish belonging to the phylum Echinodermata, subphylum Asterozoa and other farmed aquatic invertebrates (such as polychaete worms) other than molluscs and crustaceans within the definition of “aquatic animals” which may be used for the production of fishmeal. The terms fish oil is also amended accordingly.

26. The Commission and Member States discussed proposed amendments to maximum levels for certain undesirable substances in animal feeds, including introduction of new limits for mercury in fish, other aquatic animals and products derived thereof intended for the production of compound feed for dogs, cats, ornamental fish and fur animals.

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