1. The European Commission announced the lifting of the yellow card imposed in 2015 on Taiwan, which is therefore no longer considered to be at risk being declared a non-cooperating country in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The decision recognises the progress made by Taiwan upgrading its fisheries legal and administrative systems to fight against IUU fishing by Taiwan's long-distance fleet (the second largest in the world). Taiwan has also imposed obligations on Taiwanese operators owning fishing vessels flagged to third countries.
2. The European Commission adopted a Communication, considering the implementation of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and launching a consultation on the fishing opportunities for 2020. The communication notes that commercial stock biomass in the North-West Atlantic and adjacent areas is 36% higher now than in 2003. The economic performance of the EU fleet has improved, registering record-high net profits of EUR 1.3 billion in 2017 and 2.7% increase per year in wages. However, 35 out of the 40 Mediterranean stocks assessed were exploited beyond sustainable levels in 2017. EU Member States have agreed to bringing commercial fishing pressure to sustainable levels by next year, in line with the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The MSY represents the maximum amount of fish that fishermen can take out of the sea without compromising the regeneration of the stock. In the Western Mediterranean, the Commission's proposal for 2020 will follow the newly agreed Multiannual Plan (MAP), which will reduce fishing effort by 10% in the first year and aim to reach sustainability by 2025. For other stocks the main objective for 2020, will be to set fishing opportunities at MSY level for all assessed stocks. The Commission published a Q&A Factsheet on the current status of EU fish stocks and objectives of the CFP.
3. The Commission adopted a regulation to amend the demersal fishery discard plan in North western waters, following proposals from Belgium, Spain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The changes concern a modified definition of 'Seltra panel', deletion of erroneous requirement to use highly selective gears in the fisheries for Norway lobster caught with otter trawls and the exclusion of the demersal Queen scallop fishery from the scope of certain technical measures for selectivity.
4. Following the adoption of the Malta MedFish4Ever Ministerial Declaration of 30 March 2017, and following the advice of the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, the EU adopted a regulation setting for the first time a multi-annual plan for the management of the demersal fisheries of the Western Mediterranean Sea. The plan applies to three species of shrimp, Norway lobster, hake and red mullet. The plans set levels of target fishing mortality (F) that corresponds to the objective of reaching and maintaining maximum sustainable yield (MSY) to be achieved on a progressive, incremental basis by 2020 where possible, and by 1 January 2025 at the latest. The plan also provides for a seasonal 3 month closure for trawls operating within six nautical miles from the coast except in areas deeper than the 100 m isobath.
5. The Commission also adopted a regulation to amend the landing obligation for certain demersal fisheries in the North Sea, following a submission from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The changes concern the inclusion of the trawl fishing gear "OTT" within the gear code lists for trawls, and clarification that certain exemptions for vessels using trawls also apply to bottom twin trawls. A number of errors in the quantitative calculation of de minimis exemptions are also corrected.
6. The EU made some amendments to the main TACs and quotas regulation, concerning fishing opportunities for anchovy, cod, whiting, Norway lobster, saithe and sprat as well as changes to the maximum number of fishing vessels targeting bluefin tuna and farming capacity (based on inputs).
7. The Commission adopted a decision establishing the EU's multiannual programme for the collection and management of biological, environmental, technical and socioeconomic data in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors for the years 2020 and 2021, pending adoption of a new Multi-annual programme, currently under review. The programme defines the data which must be collected by Member States and transmitted to the Commission.
8. The Commission also adopted a decision setting out the mandatory research surveys (at sea and on land) which must be undertaken by EU Member States in generating biological, environmental, technical and socioeconomic data in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, in line with the above regulation. It also sets thresholds below which it is not mandatory for Member States to collect data based on their fishing and aquaculture activities.
9. On 15 June, the EU and Guinea Bissau signed a new 5-year protocol to the existing
Sustainable Fishing Partnership Agreement (SFPA) which allows access for EU vessels to the waters of Guinea Bissau to fish for 18,000 tonnes of small pelagic species (for the first time in this country) as well as tuna, demersal fish, cephalopods, and shrimps. In exchange for the fishing rights, the EU will provide an annual financial contribution of EUR15.6 million plus an additional contribution from EU ship-owners. An EU contribution of €4 million is included for supporting the sustainable development of the fishery sector, in particular through measures in favour of monitoring, control and surveillance, reinforcement of export and scientific capacities and the modernisation of small-scale fisheries. The EU Council allocated the fishing opportunities to Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The Commission claims that the Protocol will have an important and positive impact on the social and economic development of the country and contribute to food security.
10. Following the successful negotiation in October 2018 of a new Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Cape Verde, the Council has authorised its signature by the Commission and application on a provisional basis, pending the completion of the procedures necessary for its entry into force. The new Protocol (2019-2024) provides for access to the Cape Verde EEZ by 28 EU freezer tuna seiners, 14 pole-and-line tuna vessels and 27 surface longliners which target sharks and swordfish. The annual amount of the EU's financial contribution is EUR 750 000, comprising EUR 400 000 per year for access to an annual reference tonnage of 8,000 tonnes and an amount of EUR 350 000 per year to support the implementation of Cabo Verde's sectoral fisheries policy. The Council allocated the fishing opportunities purchased by the EU in the EEZ of Cape Verde, to Spain, France and Portugal.
11. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held its 23rd Annual Meeting in Hyderabad, India, from 17 to 21 June 2019. The meeting adopted measures to improve the management of FADs and offset their possible negative impacts on the ecosystem. Limits to FADs numbers are to be further reduced to 300, with increased monitoring and data collection. The IOTC also made it mandatory to have completely non-entangling designs for FADs to reduce the possibility of catching non-targeted species. From 2022, all FADs will have to be made of biodegradable material, in line with the EU efforts to reduce marine litter. The meeting also banned the retention onboard of Manta and Mobula rays (except in accidental catches in artisanal fisheries which have a derogation until 2022). However, the parties failed to agree on new conservation measures for Yellowfin Tuna (YFT) which remains subject to overfishing.
12. The EU and other Mediterranean states held a high-level conference in Marrakech under the umbrella of the FAO General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), to review progress and renew their commitment to the MedFish4Ever Declaration, initiated by the European Commission in March 2017. The conference highlighted achievements such as the first multiannual plan for demersal stocks in the Western Mediterranean, significant reduction of EU fleet size, and extension of control and inspection programmes to the Mediterranean and the Black Seas through joint deployment programmes. All 16 Mediterranean countries confirmed their commitment to implement the Declaration. European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella reiterated the EU's commitment, stating: "We are not looking at a short sprint, but at a marathon - requiring step after step of persistent effort, determination and dedication to the cause".
13. The EU Council set out the position to be taken by the EU in the meetings of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO). the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA). The positions shall, inter alia, be consistent with the objectives and principles of the Common Fisheries Policy, promote the implementation of an ecosystem-based approach, ensure that measures adopted are consistent with international law, seek consistency and synergy with the EU's bilateral fisheries relations with third countries, and aim to create a level playing field for the Union fleet within the relevant Area. Before each meeting the Commission is required to provide a written document to the Council setting out the particulars of the proposed position for discussion and subsequent endorsement by the Council.
14. The EU, Canada, China, Denmark (in respect of Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Iceland, Japan, Korea, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States met in Ottawa on 29-30 May to discuss the entry into force of the Agreement to prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. Delegations agreed to establish a scientific group to coordinate work under the Agreement and to develop the Joint Program of Scientific Research and Monitoring envisaged. The group of scientists will meet for the first time in February 2020 at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy. The EU also announced two scientific expeditions into the high seas of the Central Arctic Ocean, one starting in September 2019 (MOSAiC) and one in the fall of 2020 (Oden expedition) to assess fish stocks in this area.
15. The Council adopted a decision approving the application for accession to the NASCO Convention (for the Conservation of Salmon in the North Atlantic Ocean) submitted by the United Kingdom. The application is made in readiness for Brexit without the Withdrawal Agreement being approved by the UK Government (which would continue UK membership of NASCO and other fisheries treaties under transitional arrangements).
16. The European Economic and Social Committee gave an opinion on the measures proposed by the Commission for adapting the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund due to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union. The Committee also gave an opinion on the measures proposed by the Commission for adapting fishing authorisations for EU vessels in UK waters and UK vessels in EU waters in the event of a UK exit from the EU without Agreement. The Committee unreservedly endorses both proposals and offers no comment.
17. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2019, containing articles on First sales of Common sole (Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK) and lemon sole (Denmark, France, the UK). There are case studies on fishmeal and fish oil and the EU fish processing industry.
18. The Commission has corrected an error in the publication of the autonomous Union tariff quotas for shrimps and prawns of the species Pandalus borealis, and Pandalus montagui, cooked and peeled, for processing.
19. The European Commission (DG MARE) and 'Race for the Baltic' foundation held their 10th Annual Forum on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region in Gdansk, Poland. Participants discussed blue investment opportunities in the Baltic Sea Region relating to the circular economy including aquaculture, blue bio-technology, renewable ocean energy and green shipping. The Commission also introduced its new technical assistance mechanism for the region.
20. The Commission launched a Common Information Sharing Environment under the auspices of the European Maritime Safety Agency, which will integrate data from different agencies such as European fisheries control agency The European Commission and EU member states. CISE will be funded through a direct grant of EUR3.5 million from EMFF. Stakeholders held a kick-off meeting in Lisbon in May 2019.
21. The 8th Mediterranean Coast Guard Functions Forum was held in Casablanca on 12-13 May 2019, addressing issues of illegal migration, fisheries control, maritime surveillance, environmental protection, and oil spill response. The meeting was attended by Coastal states, as well as European Commission agencies including EFCA, EMSA, and Frontex and by INTERPOL.
22. During June 2019 there were 40 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 8 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 3 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 7 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 22 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included, 5 consignments of swordfish from Spain, 2 consignments of clams from Italy, 2 consignments of oysters from France, 2 consignments of lobster from Morocco and 2 consignments of chilled sea bream from Algeria.
23. DG SANTE reported on a mission to Ghana in February 2019, to evaluate the system of sanitary controls for fishery products exported to the EU, and to follow up on the findings of a previous mission in 2013. The audit team found a number of shortcomings in facilities and in relation to structure and operations affecting hygiene and traceability. The Competent Authority, the Ghana Standards Authority, had also permitted a cuttlefish processor to use illegal additives to bleach the product (an aliphatic amine derivative and hydrogen peroxide). Testing laboratory methods were not in line with EU legislation, and turnaround time of the samples was too slow, impacting on timely corrective actions based on results. Furthermore, official controls on ready to eat fishery products did not include Listeria monocytogenes. The audit also noted that in some establishments brine-frozen tuna was processed into loins for EU export (uncooked) which were not labelled as suitable only for canning. The mission also found weak controls on imported raw materials for processing and subsequent export to the EU, many of which were not certified regarding their compliance with the EU regulations. In respect of the 9 recommendations of the 2013 audit, the mission found that the implementation of the announced corrective actions was effective in respect of five, partially effective for three recommendations, and ineffective for two recommendations, relating to hygiene conditions in facilities and controls on imported raw materials. The Competent Authority submitted a plan of corrective actions, subsequently accepted by the Commission.
24. DG SANTE reported on a mission to Seychelles in November 2018, to check on progress in addressing the findings of a previous mission in 2017 to audit the sanitary controls for fishery products exported to the EU. Of the 11 recommendations in the agreed action plan, 7 were found to have been addressed satisfactorily, 3 were in progress (updating of regulations was delayed due to drafting issues), and one was outstanding. The issue of the dual use brine freezing tanks had been resolved to the satisfaction of DG SANTÉ by seeking guarantees from operators and sealing relevant valves to prevent dual usage. The outstanding issue concerned the validation of HACCP plans for a Seychelles tuna vessel with a mixed brine/dry freezing process. The Competent Authority, the Seychelles Bureau of Standards, agreed to implement and action plan to address the remaining issues.
25. DG SANTÉ has published the latest edition of the annual EU report on pesticide residues in food, based on tests on 88,000 samples collected from the 28 EU Member States plus Iceland and Norway. The study found that 96% of food samples were free of pesticide residues or to contained traces that fell within legally permitted levels. About 1.1% of products of terrestrial animal origin had levels above the MRL. Levels in fish were not reported.
26. The Fraud Network reports that the Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India has presented a test kit to detect contaminants in fresh fish. The kit is reported to detect formaldehyde, an illegal additive, sometimes applied to increase the shelf life of fish.
27. The European Commission marked the first UN World Food Safety Day with the publication of an EU-wide survey on European food issues, which found that 40% of consumers take a personal interest in food safety when making purchase decisions and two-thirds report that they have changed their behaviour as a result of receiving information about food safety issues. The three issues of greatest concern to consumers were: the misuse of antibiotics, hormones and steroids in farm animals (44%), pesticide residues in food (39%), and food additives (36%).
28. The European Commission published a study from the Joint Research Centre, showing that just under one third of packaged products sampled and tested have different compositions while being identically or similarly branded. The European Commission has made around EUR4.6 million available to assess the scale of the dual quality issue. New laws are being introduced penalizing the dual quality approach by multinational companies. V?ra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said "There will be no double standards in Europe's single market". The Commission issued a press release setting out questions and answers on dual quality standards in branded food products on the EU market.
29. The European Food Safety Authority updated its public list of competent organisations designated by the Member States which may assist the Authority, either individually or in networks, with its mission
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