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November 2018

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU Fisheries Ministers agree deep-sea fishing opportunities for 2019 and 2020.
2. Commissioner Karmenu Vella calls for faster spending of fishery subsidies
3. Commission publishes proposals for the 2019 Atlantic and North Sea TACs and quotas
4. EU Parliament PECH Committee case study on discard ban in Italy; no real impact
5. EU Parliament PECH Committee case study on discard ban in Spanish Mediterranean; no real impact
6. Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission for many stocks
7. EU and Guinea Bissau sign new protocol to Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement
8. ICCAT does not agree on long-term management of tropical Atlantic tuna fisheries
9. North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission agrees 2019 TACS and adoption of the Electronic Reporting
10. EU, Faroe Islands, Norway and Iceland agree on management blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring
11. EUMOFA publishes articles on European pilchard, sprat and hake
12. DG MARE publishes evaluation study on its direct implementation of EMFF
13. New budgets EUR 2.2 billion announced for EU Outermost Regions for 2021-2027
14. Commission amends State Aid Guidelines to allow fishing boat subsidies in Outermost Regions
15. EUMOFA publishes study on the economics of the EU fish market
16. EUMOFA publishes study on the production, trade and consumption of caviar
17. Commission publishes study on economic benefits of Marine Protected Areas
18. EU promises €350 million per year for biodiversity projects in developing countries
19. Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) commits to three new marine environment projects
20. New EU project MSPGlobal to develop guidance on international cross-border maritime spatial planning
21. Commission promotes EUMOFA report on opportunities in the Blue Bioeconomy
22. European Commissioner Vella donates Ocean Award to Sustainable Ocean Alliance

Fish hygiene

23. Rapid alerts for 47 Fisheries Products during November 2018.
24. Commission allows bivalve imports from American States of Massachusetts and Washington
25. Commission publishes audit report on Peru; some flaws and weaknesses identified
26. Commission publishes audit report on Kazakhstan; controls mostly desk-based and administrative
27. Commission publishes audit report on China; Limited controls on fishing and freezer vessels
28. EFSA Panel on Contaminants adopts lower tolerable weekly intake for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs
29. Member States and the Commission to review of maximum levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs
30. Member states requested to increase checks on Ukrainian feed imports for dioxins and PCBs
31. Commission and Member States consider permissibility of flavourings in live oysters

Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU Fisheries Ministers met at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of 19 November 2018 where they agreed on the fishing opportunities for certain deep-sea stocks in the EU and international waters in the North-East Atlantic, for 2019 and 2020. The fish stocks concerned are: deep sea sharks, black scabbardfish, alfonsino, roundnose grenadier and red seabream. In view of the vulnerability of deep-sea species to human activity, and in order to prevent their over-exploitation, the Council decided to raise the TACs for the two stocks and to reduce the TACs for ten stocks as proposed by the Commission. Fisheries Ministers also discussed the status of implementation of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Commissioner Karmenu Vella congratulated the Member States on adopting the decision.

2. Commissioner Karmenu Vella, when meeting the EU Fisheries Ministers met at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, expressed the need for action on implementation of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, which after four and a half years of its existence, is only 13% disbursed, and highlighted the risk of the sector losing more than EUR 400 million at the end of the 2018. He requested Ministers to take all possible steps to spend the money quickly.

3. The European Commission published its proposals for the 2019 TACs and quotas for the 89 commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic and North Sea. For 62 stocks the fishing quota is either increased or remains the same, for 22 stocks is reduced and for 5 stocks the Commission proposes new by-catch quotas at low level to reduce the fishing pressure. Notable increases are for Norway lobster in Skagerrak/Kattegat, Northern hake and Southern horse mackerel. Zero quotas are proposed for cod in the West of Scotland and the Celtic Sea and Bay of Biscay/ Iberian Waters, whiting in the West of Scotland and in the Irish Sea, and plaice in the southern Celtic Sea and southwest of Ireland. The proposal will be submitted for discussion and decision by the Member States at the December Fisheries Council on 17-18 December in Brussels Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "Our collective duty is to ensure a good transition to the full landing obligation as of 1st January 2019 while continuing our progress to achieve sustainable fishing by 2020".

4. The European Parliament's PECH Committee published a case study on the implementation of the discard ban, landing obligation and MSY in the Western Mediterranean Sea, considering the Italian case. The study concludes that most of the demersal and small pelagics assessed stocks are overexploited, and in some situations chronically overexploited. There have not been any major consequences of the landing obligation regulation for fishers in the western Mediterranean so far, mainly because of the use of the "high survivability" and "de minimis" exemptions. The study concludes that management measures which rely exclusively on reducing the fishing days of trawlers would cause losses of fishing opportunities but would not reverse the excessive exploitation of juveniles. Additional actions are desirable to introduce more sustainable fishing practices such as improved selectivity, gear technology, and changing of fleet behaviour. Management measures need to be accompanied by the involvement of the fishing sector.

5. The European Parliament's PECH Committee also published a case study on the implementation of the discard ban, landing obligation and MSY in the Western Mediterranean Sea, considering the Spanish situation. The study concludes that although the demersal fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea are heavily overfished the landing obligation will not help to reach MSY because it will not decrease fishing mortality. The study recommends the adoption of a total allowable effort as a new way to regulate Western Mediterranean demersal fisheries by significantly reducing fishing time of vessels. However, this new management measure must be complemented with increased gear selectivity, implementation of closed areas and local co-management plans. The study notes that in Spain the approach required to reduce fishing mortality may have significant socio-economic impacts.

6. Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Belgian vessels fishing for common sole, plaice and haddock, Lithuanian, Polish, German and Dutch vessels fishing for Jack mackerel in SPRFMO Convention area, Danish vessels fishing for ling, Spanish vessels fishing for undulate ray and saithe.

7. On 15 November, the EU and Guinea Bissau signed a new protocol to the Sustainable Fishing Partnership Agreement (SFPA), a year after the previous protocol expired. The new protocol will last for 5 years and provide access to Guinea Bissau waters for around 50 EU vessels targeting demersal fisheries (including cephalopods and crustaceans) as well as tuna and small pelagic species. The EU will pay Guinea Bissau a financial contribution of EUR15.6 million per year (up from EUR9.2 million under the previous protocol). In addition, EU ship owners will contribute around EUR4 million per year in licence fees. The EU catch limits are set at 1,500 t for cephalopods, 2,500 t for crustaceans, 11,000 t for demersals and 18,000 t for small pelagics. The protocol foresees the transition from the current system based on vessel capacity to a system based on catch limits (TAC), applicable for the last three years of the agreement.

8. After two years of negotiations, ICCAT (the International Commission for the conservation of Atlantic Tunas) finally adopted a long-term management plan for Bluefin tuna, during its annual meeting on 12-19 November 2019. The followed the scientific advice to move from the current rebuilding plan to a management plan, without weakening control measures. The new framework includes new measures to improve the traceability in tuna farms and facilitates the return to fishery of small-scale artisanal fishermen. However, ICCAT failed to reach agreement on a long-term management plan for tropical tuna fisheries in the Atlantic which aimed to aimed to reduce mortality of juvenile tropical tunas (yellowfin and bigeye, for example with an annual 2-month moratorium of FADs), as well as improving capacity and control measures. The EU and many other Contracting Parties were ultimately not able to endorse the final proposal presented by South Africa, and current management measures are therefore carried forward for another year.

9. The North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) held its annual meeting in London from 13 to 16 November 2018. The parties agreed on conservation and management measures for 2019, for blue whiting, Atlanto-Scandian herring, mackerel, redfish in the Irminger Sea, spur dog and Rockall haddock). They also agreed on the full adoption of the Electronic Reporting System (ERS). The EU confirmed its readiness to be the first Contracting Party to implement the new system as of 2019. All other Contracting Parties will follow within 2 years. NEAFC parties also supported a joint request (with Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic OSPAR) to ICES to generate species distribution maps for listed deep sea shark species and provide scientific support for ICES on bycatch management options.

10. Delegations of the European Union, the Faroe Islands, Norway and Iceland, with the participation of Greenland as observer, reached an agreement on the management measures for 2019 for blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring in the North-East Atlantic. The parties agreed that, in 2019, the total catches of blue whiting should not exceed 1,143,629 tonnes and that the total catch level for Atlanto-Scandian herring should not be more than 588,562 tonnes. The catch limits are in line with the scientific advice received from the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The parties may fish their quotas in their respective zones of fisheries jurisdiction and in international waters.

11. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2016, containing articles on European pilchard (France, Italy, the UK) and European sprat (Estonia, Latvia, Sweden), the consumption of fresh hake in France, Portugal and Spain and a case study on fisheries and aquaculture in Canada.

12. The Commission's DG MARE published the results of an interim evaluation study of the implementation of the direct management component of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund ("EMFF Regulation"). The study, which assessed the impacts of the EU fishery subsidies spent by the Commission, found that the interventions supported have achieved benefits beyond what could have been achieved by national and/or regional spending. EUMOFA, STECF, Advisory Councils and FARNET, as well as maritime policy interventions such as EMODnet and mechanisms and projects for fostering cross border maritime spatial planning would have not existed had it not been for the direct EMFF support. The report recommends maintaining the subsidies EUMOFA and the Advisory Councils. The proportion of funding to the EMODnet biological data group is recommended to be increased. The report cautions against handing over FARNET's tasks to more narrow levels of intervention. National networks are not sufficiently specialised and encounter budgetary difficulties and cannot deploy financial resources required to support FARNET operations.

13. At the annual conference of the Outermost Regions Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented 21sector-specific proposals for support measures for the EU's outermost regions, one year after the launch of the new EU strategy for those regions. The new initiatives, covering transport, research and innovation, agriculture and fisheries worth EUR 2.2 billion in additional investment will be included in the next long-term EU budget for the period 2021-2027 and will aim to promote innovation, the circular economy and blue growth. In fisheries and aquaculture, amendments to guidelines for State aid in will allow support for new vessels introduced in these regions, with higher aid rates for small and medium-sized vessels. The nine outermost regions of the EU comprise six French overseas territories (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint-Martin), two autonomous Portuguese regions (the Azores and Madeira) and one autonomous Spanish community (the Canary Islands).

14. The European Commission amended the Guidelines for the examination of State aid to the fishery and aquaculture sector provided by Member States. The amendment opens the possibility of allowing state aid for costs relating to the acquisition of a new fishing vessel that will be registered in an outermost region of the EU. The amendment also clarifies that the use of State aid can only be justified if it is in line with the objectives of the CFP.

15. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA) has published a study, "The EU fish market" which provides an economic description of the whole European fisheries and aquaculture industry. It presents data on production and trade seasonality, demand and consumptions, and identifies some of the main trends. It also includes a comparative analysis of the performance of fishery and aquaculture products in the EU market compared with other food products.

16. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA) has published a study on the production, trade and consumption of caviar (in which it includes only caviar from sturgeons). Estimated annual production in the EU was about 126 tonnes in 2016, with almost all from aquaculture, and world production was estimated at 340 tonnes. Production is forecasted to reach 550 tonnes by 2020. France and Germany are the main consumers.

17. The Commission published the study on "Economic Benefits of Marine Protected Areas and Spatial Protection Measures", which assesses ten case studies to assess the costs and benefits of MPAs for economic operators and communities. It also presents some best practices on how to enforce, how to fund and how to govern an MPA. The Commission hopes that the study will help to raise awareness and acceptance of marine protected areas.

18. Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella attended the 2018 United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Egypt, also attended by representatives from 196 countries, including researchers, scientists, local authorities and members of civil society groups. The meeting also hosted the 14th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (CBD COP 14) and was preceded by an Africa Ministerial Biodiversity Summit. The EU promoted international efforts for a post-2020 global biodiversity framework and its financial support of €350 million per year for biodiversity projects in developing countries. The EU called for the integration of biodiversity objectives into industry, mining, energy and infrastructure projects. Commissioner Vella said: "Biodiversity - nature - is our life-support system".

19. The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) issued a press release on its work to deliver on three specific EU commitments to protect our oceans, support the blue economy, forecast climate change impacts, tackle marine pollution and ensure sustainable fisheries. The JRC is working on i) a floating macro-litter monitoring system, the first-ever international-scale attempt to quantify the floating litter that ends up floating in our oceans; ii) a new version of the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA) Explorer, providing an advanced global information system on the world's terrestrial, marine and coastal protected areas; and iii) hosting the sixth meeting of scientific experts to support the implementation of the Agreement on Fish Stocks in the Central Arctic Ocean, at the JRC's site in Ispra in 2019. The Commitments were adopted at the Our Ocean Conference in Indonesia which brought together people from across the globe to drive sustainable action and innovative solutions to protect the world's oceans.

20. The European Commission and IOC-UNESCO announced the launch of MSPGlobal, a new joint initiative to promote cross-border maritime spatial planning. MSPGlobal is a three-year project that will fund regional experts to develop guidance on international cross-border planning and implement two MSP pilot projects in the West Mediterranean and the South-East Pacific. The project will support the implementation of the Joint Roadmap to accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) processes worldwide and is expected to triple the area of territorial waters that benefit from an effectively implemented MSP system. The EU contribution is EUR 1.4 million towards the total project cost of EUR1.75 million.

21. The Commission promoted the publication last month of the EUMOFA report on the Blue Bioeconomy. It notes that over 50% of any fish caught or farmed is not consumed directly, with much materials ending up in production of fish oil, fishmeal, animal feed, pet food or fertilizer. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products study suggests that are opportunities for the better utilisation and generation of high added value from aquatic biomass in terms of nutritional and pharmaceutical ingredients, cosmetic products, fish by-products and algae.

22. Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries was awarded the 2018 German Ocean Award on November 5, 2018 from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel for his dedication to the protection and sustainable use of the oceans. Valued at € 10 000, the prize is awarded to well-known individuals from the fields of politics, business, science or the media who have demonstrated special commitments to preserving and protecting the world's oceans. Commissioner Vella donated the prize money to the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, an international non-profit that empowers young innovators to become leaders in preserving the health and sustainability of the ocean.

Fish hygiene

23. Rapid alerts for 47 Fisheries Products during November 2018 being 6 Alerts for Bivalves, 5 alerts for Cephalopods, 5 alerts for Crustaceans, 31 alerts for Fish and no alerts for Gastropods. Including 2 consignments of live mussels from Italy harvested in Spain, 4 consignments of frozen shark from Namibia, 3 consignments of salmon from Poland, 2 consignments of Mackerel from the Netherlands, 2 consignments of pangasius from Vietnam, 2 consignments of tuna from Spain and 2 consignments of smoked salmon from the UK.

24. The Commission adopted a decision amending the list of countries and territories from the which the import of live, chilled, frozen or processed bivalve molluscs, echinoderms, tunicates and marine gastropods for human consumption are permitted. Following audits from the Commission services in 2015, and subsequent assurances provided by the competent authorities of the United States of America, the Commission has approved that the States of Massachusetts and Washington offer guarantees equivalent to those laid down in the relevant Union legislation. As a result, imports from these States in the United States of America of bivalve molluscs, tunicates, echinoderms and marine gastropods are now permitted.

25. The European Commission DG SANTÉ has published a report of a mission to Peru in 2018, to audit the conditions and control system in place concerning the export of fishery products to the EU. The mission found that the official control system allows the competent authority, in most cases, to provide the guarantees required in the health certificates for fishery products to be exported to the European Union. However, flaws and weaknesses were identified regarding the authorisation and listing of establishments and facilities along chain. Freezer vessels were listed in some cases for export even though they did not possess or implement HACCP plans. Fish oil producing establishments were approved for export for human consumption, even though products not fit for human consumption were processed in the same lines. Legislation on maximum permitted limits for heavy metals in fishery products was also not in line with EU requirements. Fishing vessels supplying tuna were found to make use dual use tanks (for storage of fuel and brine for freezing fish). In several plants hyper-chlorinated water was used to disinfect fishery products. Block ice producers supplying crushed ice to fishery products establishments and vessels were not covered by official controls. The Competent Authority was also not able to ensure that only EU eligible raw materials and fishery products are used in products certified for export for the EU. As a result, the Commission requested guarantees that the deficiencies identified would be corrected, which were duly provided by the Competent Authority.

26. The European Commission DG SANTÉ has published a report of a mission to Kazakhstan in 2018, to audit the conditions and control system in place concerning the export of fishery products to the EU and following up on a previous audit in 2014. The mission found that the routine controls applied by the Competent Authority were mostly desk-based and administrative in nature. There was no on-site verification of the performance of the staff carrying out the controls on the ground. The official control system was weakened by compulsory prior notification to food business operators. As a result, important non-compliances with EU requirements for food safety conditions were not identified and recorded. There were no official controls undertaken in relation to organoleptic checks and the analysis of non-dioxin-like PCBs and there were important gaps in the knowledge of the relevant EU requirements by the control personnel. There are differences in maximum permitted limits for cadmium, mercury and lead in Kazakhstan compared to the EU legislation. Two out of six establishments visited did not meet EU hygiene requirements. The understanding of HACCP principles demonstrated by the CA staff and the food business operators was limited The Competent Authority, the Committee for Veterinary Control and Supervision under the Ministry of Agriculture, was requested to undertake corrective actions in line with a plan submitted and agreed by the Commission.

27. The European Commission DG SANTÉ has published a report of a mission to China in April 2018, to audit the conditions and control system in place concerning the export of fishery products to the EU and following up on a previous audit in 2013. The Commission was concerned that there had been 47 RASFF notifications for Chinese fishery products since 2013, including 12 for fraudulent certification. The mission found that the official control system covers the full production chain, and the applicable EU requirements along that chain, and that for the most part its implementation in practice was found to be satisfactory. However, a number of important deficiencies were identified. In particular national legislation does not express the full range of EU requirements in relation to fishing and freezer vessels, and the official controls applied to fishing vessels do not adequately cover these rules; in addition, the provisions for listing these vessels for EU exports are not satisfactory. Application of the HACCP principles to freezer vessels was also considered not consistent. Official controls of fishery products in primary production and landing do not adequately cover organoleptic properties. The provenance (in terms of EU compliant vessels and establishments) of imported raw materials use used in processed fishery products intended for export to the EU was not established, with the result that ineligible products are likely to have been exported. The Competent Authority, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine was requested to guarantee implementation of a plan of corrective actions, subsequently accepted by the European Commission.

28. The EFSA Expert Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) published a press release on an update to its risk assessment which confirms that dietary exposure to the environmental pollutants dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs presents an ongoing health concern for consumers. Exposure data from European countries indicates that whilst their presence in food and feed has declined in the last 30 years all age groups exceed the recommended tolerable intake levels of these chemicals as set by EFSA. Dr Ron Hoogenboom of the CONTAM Panel and chair of the dioxins working group, announced the new tolerable weekly intake [TWI] for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in food of 2 picograms per kilogram of body weight. The new TWI is seven-times lower than the previous EU tolerable intake set by the European Commission's former Scientific Committee on Food in 2001.

29. The Committee was informed of the impending publication of an EFSA opinion on risk for animal and human health related to the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in feed and food. Member States and the Commission will discuss options for possible risk management measures, e.g. review of current maximum levels, to prevent and reduce the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in feed.

30. Following the recurrent findings of dioxins and PCBs in feed materials originating from Ukraine, Member states were requested by the Commission to remain vigilant as regards the presence of dioxins and PCBs in feed materials from Ukraine and to perform the necessary controls.

31. The Commission and Member States discussed flavourings in oysters following information that a French operator has designed a process to change the taste of oysters by immersing them in water containing natural flavourings for a few hours. The French delegation sought clarification from the Commission on regulation of the practice. Some Member States considered that such flavourings may be authorised under the food legislation, providing that they are labelled accordingly. The Commission will investigate the issue in more detail.

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