1. The European Commission issued a new yellow card to the Republic of Panama, notifying it of the risk of being identified as a non-cooperating country in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The Republic of Panama had previously received a yellow card in November 2012, which was then lifted in October 2014. The Commission has identified various ongoing shortcomings, which undermine the country's ability to comply with its duties under international law as flag, port, coastal and market state. Panama is encouraged to step up its actions to ensure an effective monitoring of the activities of its fishing and fishing related vessels and an adequate implementation of its enforcement and sanctioning system. It should also ensure adequate implementation of the 'Port State Measures Agreement' (1) in order to prevent fish stemming from IUU fishing activities from reaching its market or other. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevi?ius said "Fighting illegal fishing has been a fundamental part of the EU's action to improve ocean governance over the last ten years, and this Commission will continue our fight against IUU fishing with a zero-tolerance approach".
2. The EU's Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers met on 16-17 December 2019 to consider the Commission's proposal for the 2020 fishing opportunities and set the catch limits in the Atlantic, North Sea, Mediterranean Sea and for the EU vessels outside of EU-waters. The Council reached agreement on catch limits for the 89 main commercial fish stocks. The Council also agreed on a general approach on a regulation addressing the socioeconomic impacts of management decisions for Western herring and cod fisheries in the Baltic Sea. The new Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevi?ius, claimed that in 2020 all stocks will be fished "at the level that would not hinder the regeneration of the stocks". He claimed the regeneration of the Northern hake and seabass stocks as a vindication of Commission policies.
3. The EU Council adopted the regulation setting the fishing opportunities for the Black Sea and Mediterranean. The Regulation implements recommendations of the General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean, and sets catch and fishing effort limits for the main commercial species.
4. The Commission adopted a decision on the proposed citizens' initiative entitled 'Stop Finning - Stop the trade' which aims to end the trade of shark fins in the EU including the import, export and transit of fins other than if naturally attached to the animal's body, since it prevents effective shark conservation measures. It requests the EU to develop a new regulation, extending the requirements for "fins naturally attached" to all trading of sharks and rays in the EU. The Decision recognises the validity of the campaign and registers the initiative and a citizens committee.
5. Following three rounds of negotiations in November and December the EU and Norway signed their three running fisheries agreements, (two bilateral arrangements and a neighbouring arrangement) setting the fisheries quota allocations and access arrangements for 2020. The bilateral arrangements cover the North Sea and the Atlantic, and Skagerrak and Kattegat, whilst the neighbouring arrangement covers the Swedish fishery in Norwegian waters of the North Sea. The agreements cover quotas for the jointly-managed fish stocks in the North Sea (cod, haddock, plaice, whiting, herring, and saithe) and Skagerrak (cod, haddock, whiting, plaice, shrimp, herring and sprat), as well as an exchange of reciprocal fishing possibilities. In the North Sea, 5 out of 6 stocks jointly managed with Norway have been set in line with the ICES scientific advices, at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels. This results in quota reductions in 2020 for saithe (-15%) and whiting (-13%), but increases in haddock (+23%) and plaice (+17%). A roll-over was set for herring. The EU and Norway also agreed to roll-over last year's agreement on quota exchanges. In particular, the EU received over 21,518 tonnes of Arctic cod.
6. On December 10th, the European Union and the Faroe Islands reached an agreement on reciprocal exchanges of fishing opportunities in each other's waters for 2020. The new agreement allows for the exchange of a number of important quotas for the European Union, such as cod, haddock, saithe and redfish, with Norway pout and blue whiting for the Faroe Islands. The Parties have also agreed reciprocal access to each other's waters for 34,856 tonnes of mackerel, 37,500 tonnes of blue whiting and 7,000 tonnes of Atlanto-Scandian herring.
7. Following the introduction of new technical measures adopted in August 2019 at regional level for the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, which also include rules on mesh sizes, associated conditions and by-catches, the Commission has adopted a regulation to set out the rules and procedures for the protection of aggregations of juveniles through real time closures of fishing areas.
8. The Council authorised the amendments to the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas concluded in November 2018. The changes strengthen minimum size requirements, controls on recreational fishing and bluefin tuna bycatch limits. The amendments commit contracting parties to apply the precautionary approach to fisheries management and ensure that exploitation of living marine biological resources restores maintains population of harvested species above levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield. The Commission amended, under delegated powers, the corresponding EU regulations to account for changes to the Protocol to the ICCAT with respect to fisheries management measures for Atlantic tunas fished by EU vessels.
9. The Commission cut Poland's 2019 quotas for Atlantic salmon on account of overfishing in 2018 by over 2,000 salmon.
10. The Commission adopted three regulations respectively setting out the detailed implementation arrangements for the landing obligation in relation to demersal fisheries in South-Western waters, North Western water and the North Sea for the period 2020-2021. The provisional survivability exemptions for Norway lobster, sole and red seabream are confirmed. That for skates and rays remains but, along with other species, further research is required to fully assess the justification. Certain de minimis exemptions from the landing obligation are also specified, for example in relation to hake caught with trawls and seines in and certain species caught using certain selective gears.
11. The Council authorised the Commission to sign the Protocol on the implementation of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between São Tomé and Príncipe and the EU. The five-year Protocol sets out fishing opportunities for 28 tuna seiners, and 6 surface longliners with a combined reference tonnage of 8,000 tonnes of fish (Annex 1 species which includes tunas, sharks and swordfish) per year. In return the EU will provide a financial contribution of EUR 4.2 million over the period, comprising an annual amount of EUR 400,000 for access to São Tomé and Príncipe's fishing zone and a specific amount of EUR 440,000 per year to support the implementation of São Tomé and Príncipe's sectoral fisheries policy. The EU allocated the fishing opportunities to Spain, France and Portugal.
12. The Commission published the 2019 Edition of the EU Fish market annual report (prepared by EUMOFA), which analyses fish landings, import and export origins and destinations, along with an overview of how EU Member States' fisheries and aquaculture sectors fit into the global picture. Consumption of fish and seafood in the EU was estimated at 24.35 kg per capita in 2017. On average, EU citizens ate half a kilo less compared to the previous year. Portugal remains the absolute champion in terms of per capita consumption. In 2017, the Portuguese ate 56.8 kg of fish and seafood per capita, which is more than twice the EU level. The top five species consumed in the EU are tuna, cod, salmon, Alaska pollock and shrimps. The EU Fish Market 2019 edition is available at:href="https://www.eumofa.eu/documents/20178/157549/EN_The+EU+fish+market_2019.pdf">www.eumofa.eu/documents/20178/157549/EN_The+EU+fish+market_2019.pdf
13. The Commission published the 2018 implementation report of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). It summarises EMFF implementation across EU countries and sea basins and is based on data provided by the Member States in 2019, covering the period from January 2014 to December 2018. Most funding went to data collection on fisheries and aquaculture activities (€362.4 million committed) which helps improve stock assessments and status, including socioeconomic conditions. Control and enforcement (€293.5 million committed) and productive investments in aquaculture (€241.5 million) came in the second and third positions. The Commission claims that the EMFF has maintained 6,518 full-time equivalent jobs in fisheries supported a volume of aquaculture production of 150,749 tonnes and helped ensure that 1,456 km² Natura 2000 areas are sustainably managed.
14. At the UN General Assembly on 10 December, the EU called all states to take urgent, resolute and ambitious international action on Oceans and Law of the Seas and on Sustainable Fisheries, in line with agreed commitments to counter the impacts of climate change on the oceans such as ocean acidification, ocean-warming, reduced fisheries catch potential and rising sea levels. The resolution on sustainable fisheries made progress on the social dimension of fisheries. The EU encouraged the ratification of the ILO "Work in Fishing Convention" and the Cape Town Agreement by all states, aiming to promote equality and the recognition of the role of women in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors as well as improved labour conditions and safety aboard fishing vessels. However there was no agreement on the recommendations of the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (IPCC) on Oceans and the Cryosphere, approved in September 2019, which highlighted that since 1970, the "global ocean has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system." The rate of ocean warming has "more than doubled" since 1993 and surface acidification has increased as the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide.
15. The Commission published another story on EMFF successes, regarding the VALDUVIS tool developed by the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to measure the environmental, social and economic sustainability of Belgian fisheries, based on an evaluation of official electronic logbook data from the fishing vessel. The tool provides a graphic representation of different indicators of sustainability. The project was developed with an EU budget contribution from the EMFF of around €122,000, matched by equivalent national funding.
16. The Commission has published a short report setting out how the EU Mauritius FPA has provided financial grant support for investment in semi-industrial fishing in Mauritius. The new, semi-industrial fishing boat purchased enables the fishers to go out for longer fishing trips without docking at the coast and with a larger crew. This allows the fishers to catch larger catches with higher value species that they can sell on the markets. The Commission has also published an article about the technical assistance for local fisheries cooperatives in Mauritius for purchasing canoes and semi-industrial boats, using funds from the Sustainable fisheries partnership agreement (SFPA) between that country and the European Union.
17. The EU organised an 'EU Ocean Day' on 7 December during the COP 25, the UN Climate Change Conference (2 - 13 December 2019) with a view to highlighting the role of science in policy-making and the opportunities provided by oceans in tackling the climate challenge. European Commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevi?ius, stated that: "Fighting climate change and protecting marine life biodiversity is a centrepiece of the EU's ocean policy.
18. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest editions of 2019, containing articles on Northern prawn (Denmark, Sweden) and European lobster (Denmark, France, the UK), Albacore (France, Italy, Spain) and swordfish (Italy, Portugal, Spain).
19. Euronews broadcast an online programme about the Seychelles and how it is addressing some of the climate-related challenges that Small Island Developing States are facing - from coral die-off to coastal erosion, flooding, farming damage and freshwater loss due to salt water intrusion. Euronews talked to Seychelles climate adaptation officer Jean-Claude Labrosse, the EU Ambassador Vincent Degert, NGO activists and common citizens about the main threats associated with climate change and actions to mitigate their consequences, including the EU-financed climate change adaptation programme.
20. The Commission has announced that it will host an All-Atlantic Ocean Research Forum, taking place on 6 - 7 February 2020 in Brussels, with the aim of defining the new strategic direction and political ambitions for the Atlantic Alliance, which was signed by the EU, United States and Canada in 2013, and the EU, Brazil and South Africa in 2017. The Forum will define how the Alliance will deliver on the European Green Deal, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the Horizon Europe Mission Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal and Inland Waters, and a just transition to a healthy ocean and a climate neutral planet. The event will also be the occasion to launch the All-Atlantic Ocean Youth Ambassadors Forum. Interested participants can register at
href="http://www.scic.ec.europa.eu/ew/register/dgscic/All_Atlantic_Ocean_Research_Forum_B russels_2020/e/lk/g/11995/k/ ">www.scic.ec.europa.eu/ew/register/dgscic/All_Atlantic_Ocean_Research_Forum_B russels_2020/e/lk/g/11995/k/
21. During December 2019 there were 33 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 7 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 7 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 19 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for cephalopod and gastropod products. These included 2 consignments of oysters from France, 2 consignments of live mussels from the Netherlands, 2 consignments of cooked and frozen crawfish from China and 2 consignments of frozen shrimps from Thailand.
22. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit carried out in South Korea in March 2019 in order to evaluate the control systems in place governing the production of bivalve molluscs intended for export to the EU. The mission found that although Korea has made substantial progress in the implementation of official controls for exports since the previous Commission audit in 2012, several problems remain. There was an absence of written procedures and instructions for the coordination and supervision of the system resulting in the risk of inconsistent controls. Production areas for bivalve molluscs destined for the EU were adequately monitored for microbiological quality and biotoxins. Nevertheless, there was no requirement for production areas to be closed or recalled when analysis results exceeded the regulatory limits for biotoxins. The monitoring for toxin-producing plankton was also inadequate. Some laboratory tests were found to be incorrectly performed, not accredited or subject to proficiency testing, creating uncertainty about the validity of guarantees provided by the Korean Competent Authority, the National Fishery Products Quality Management Service under the Ministry of Fisheries. The CA submitted a plan of corrective actions, subsequently accepted by the European Commission.
23. A recently conducted Fitness Check of the General Food Law undertaken by the Commission has identified a need for several amendments to Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, now adopted by Council. The Amendments include extending the transparency of food safety risk assessment. The Commission is required to establish a general plan on risk communication in close cooperation with EFSA and Member States, and to promote an integrated risk communication framework for all actors at EU and MS level. The regulation also expands the EFSA Management Board to include representatives of all Member States, the European Parliament and of the Commission as well as of civil society and industry organisations. However, the Management Board will continue to focus on administrative and financial aspects and will not impact on the independence of the scientific work performed by the Authority. The Fitness Check identified certain shortcomings in the long-term capability of the Authority to maintain its high-level expertise and the regulation also strengthens the role of the Member States in maintaining a sufficient pool of experts, whose status is now defined; they should be scientists actively conducting research and publishing their research findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals. They should comply with specified criteria of excellence and independence and be provided with proper financial compensation. EFSA is also provided with the lawful means to establish an additional verification tool for risk assessment, by commissioning of additional studies with the objective of verifying evidence provided by industrial applicants for approvals. The Regulation also amends Regulation 178/2002 to provide a horizontal list of items of information whose disclosure will potentially harm the commercial interests concerned and which should not therefore be disclosed to the public. This includes data such as confidential formulations and process specifications.
24. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) issued a press release on the findings of the annual report on trends and sources of zoonoses. The main result was that Salmonella food poisoning accounted for nearly one in three foodborne outbreaks in the EU in 2018, with Slovakia, Spain and Poland accounting for 67% of the 1,581 Salmonella outbreaks (mainly linked to eggs). Salmonellosis was the second most commonly reported gastrointestinal infection in humans in the EU (91,857 cases reported), after campylobacteriosis (246,571). Furthermore, the study reports a Eurobarometer study that shows that less than one third of European citizens rank food poisoning from bacteria among their top five concerns when it comes to food safety.
25. Following a request from the European Commission, the Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed (FEEDAP) of EFSA has delivered a scientific opinion on the safety and efficacy of synthetic astaxanthin?dimethyldisuccinate (ATX?DMDS) a feed additive changing the colour of muscle used for salmonids, crustaceans and other fish. EFSA concluded that the use of ATX?DMDS in the nutrition of salmonids, other fish and crustaceans up to the maximum permitted dietary level is of no concern for the safety of the consumer.
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