1. EU Fisheries ministers reached an agreement on the catch limits for over 200 commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea for 2021 and, in the case of deep-sea species, for 2021 and 2022. Given the ongoing (at the time) EU-UK negotiations on their future relationship, Ministers agreed to only set provisional quotas for the fish stocks shared with the UK. A similar approach was agreed for the stocks co-managed with Norway. Otherwise TACS were reduced for plaice in Kattegat, Norway lobster in Skagerrak, hake and pollack in the Southern part of the Atlantic and several deep-sea species, including one stock of roundnose grenadier and black scabbardfish. The Council also set new catch limits for southern seabass (Bay of Biscay) in line with maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The Council has also followed the Commission proposal on 9 fishing opportunities applying the precautionary approach, including 4 deep-sea total allowable catches (TACs). The Council has continued the protection of the vulnerable deep-sea sharks through a prohibition of fishing of this species. The Council has agreed to set limited bycatch for cod in Kattegat (123 tonnes), and roundnose grenadier in Skagerrak and Kattegat (5 tonnes), and a scientific TAC for Nephrops in the southern Bay of Biscay (2.4 tonnes).
2. EU Fisheries Ministers also agreed fishing opportunities for 2021 for the Mediterranean and Black Seas, guided by the EU's multiannual management plan for demersal stocks in the Western Mediterranean, adopted in June 2019, with a further reduction of fishing effort by 7.5%. The new regulation also introduces measures adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean in 2018 and 2019, in particular measures for eel, red coral, dolphinfish, small pelagic species and demersal stocks in the Adriatic and deep-water shrimp stocks in the Ionian Sea, Levant Sea and the Strait of Sicily. For the Black Sea, the quotas for turbot and sprat are maintained at the 2020 level.
3. The Commission announced that according to a new report by FAO/GFCM on the "State of Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries 2020", between 2014 and 2018 the percentage of fish stocks subject to overfishing, fell from 85 to 7 percent. Exploitation ratios are down by a similar proportion. Taking into account newly assessed stocks, the number of fish stocks with high relative biomass has doubled since the last edition published in 2018. The Commission suggests that these improvements are due to the introduction of new management measures.
4. The North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) held its annual meeting (by video) from 10 to 13 November 2020. Contracting parties reached agreement on a number of conservation and management measures for 2021 covering several fish stocks such as blue whiting, AtlantoScandian herring, redfish in Irminger Sea, Rockall haddock, blue ling, spurdog and orange roughy. Parties also established a zero total allowable catch (TAC) for redfish in the Irminger Sea. Decisions on mackerel were deferred. The validity period of the closed area for blue ling and haddock fisheries has been extended, while the prohibition of fisheries targeting picked dogfish / spurdog (Squalus acanthias) and orange roughy has been extended until 2022 and 2024 respectively.
5. Given the lack of conclusion of the EU-UK Brexit negotiations on fisheries at the time of the setting of the 2021 TACs and quotas, EU fisheries ministers agreed to adopt transitional arrangement to ensure continuity of fishing opportunities through mutual access arrangements to fish own quota. The Council approved an EU regulation to allow mutual access possibilities until an EU-UK fisheries agreement is concluded, or until the end of 2021, whichever comes first. The regulation creates a legal framework for the granting of fishing authorisations for EU and UK fishers to continue fishing in UK and EU waters respectively after the end of the transition period (31st December 2020). As a contingency measure, in the case of a no-deal, these authorisations could apply until 31st December 2021. This contingency was not in the event required following the conclusion of a general agreement between the EU and the UK on 23 December. Regarding fishing opportunities and quotas co-managed by the EU and the UK, these are envisaged on a preliminary and limited manner and will be addressed through a separate EU regulation to implement the final agreement.
6. The Commission has adjusted the 2020 fishing quotas allocated to EU Member States on account of overfishing in previous years. Where quota cannot be deducted (for example due to the available 2020 quotas being fully consumed), deductions are applied to alternative stocks. Thus Denmark, which previously overfished saithe quotas by 34 tonnes, loses an equivalent quota of herring in 2020.
7. The Commission has finalized the provisional TAC previously set for Norway pout for 2020. Since catch rates were found to be high, the TAC has been adjusted to avoid overfishing. The measure affects quotas held by Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway and Faroe Islands.
8. The Commission extended until 31 December 2023 the rules concerning the landing obligation for certain Mediterranean fisheries, permitting discards in the case of small pelagic fisheries using pelagic mid-water trawl and/or purse seines and catching anchovy, sardine, mackerel and horse mackerel.
9. The Commission has amended the rules concerning the landing obligation for certain demersal and pelagic fisheries in the North Sea and in the South Western Waters, adjusting the permitted discards in the case of lobster (Homarus gammarus), with further adjustments for minimum permitted landing sizes for Horse mackerel (Trachurus spp.) and several other species. Separate minimum conservation reference sizes are set for recreational fisheries for cod (Gadus morhua), red seabream (Pagellus bogaraveo) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). The new rules are applicable from 1st January 2021 and will apply until the end of 2023.
10. The Commission has amended the rules concerning the landing obligation for certain demersal fisheries in the North Sea. Survivability exemptions for a range of species are adjusted, including Norway lobster, plaice, common sole, skates and rays, and turbot, all catches made with certain gears (including mackerel caught by purse seine), and new exemptions for species below the minimum conservation reference sizes. The new rules are applicable from 1st January 2021 and will apply until the end of 2023.
11. The Commission has amended the rules concerning the landing obligation for almost all fisheries in the western waters. The new rules are applicable from 1st January 2021 and will apply until the end of 2023.
12. The Commission has amended the derogation to the landing obligation which permits the discarding of Venus shells (Venus spp.) below the established minimum conservation reference size. The derogation applies to this species when harvested from certain Italian territorial waters.
13. The Commission announced the launch of a stakeholder consultation on the effectiveness and the impact of the new fisheries technical measures regulation adopted in August 2019. This sets rules on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems and includes specifications for fishing gears and mesh sizes, closed areas and seasons, and measures to minimize the impact of fishing on the marine ecosystem and environment. Interested stakeholders can submit their views until 15 February 2021.
14. EU Ministers approved the new Protocol on the implementation of the Agreement on a Sustainable Fisheries Partnership between the EU and the Republic of Senegal and authorized the signature by the Commission.
15. EU Ministers approved a new Agreement on a Sustainable Fisheries Partnership between the EU and the Seychelles, and its associated Protocol, and authorized the signature by the Commission.
16. The EU and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania agreed via an exchange of letters on an extension to the Protocol to their Fisheries Partnership Agreement.
17. The Commission and the Government of Morocco held a meeting of the Joint Committee established under the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement between them. The parties reviewed activities under the agreement and concluded that fishing opportunities were being well used, particularly for small pelagics by industrial trawlers, estimated at around 95% of fishing possibilities for the year 2020.
18. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius co-hosted with international NGOs an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the EU's "IUU Regulation" to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The EU has engaged in dialogue with more than 60 countries, out of which 26 have received a yellow card and 6 have received a red card due to a lack of cooperation. The Commission claims that this proves that the carding system has created the political will to act and triggers structural changes, by reinforcing national fisheries administrations and providing adequate tools to monitor, detect and address IUU fishing. The Commission has submitted a Report to the EU Parliament and the Council, assessing the results of the Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008.
19. The Commission announced that the Government of Kiribati has address all of its concerns regarding engagement in IUU fishing by vessels carrying the Kiribati flag, which resulted in the imposition of a yellow card in in April 2016. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius said that Kiribati has "cooperated actively with the Commission and addressed effectively the shortcomings in their fisheries control system".
20. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2020, containing articles on the European pilchard in Netherlands, Portugal, Spain; European sprat (Poland, Netherlands, Sweden), consumption of fresh scabbardfish in Portugal
and Case Studies on Fisheries and aquaculture in Brazil and Megrim in the EU.
21. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its annual review of the latest data on the EU fish market. In 2019, imports and exports of fisheries and aquaculture products between the EU and the rest of the world totalled 8,55 million tonnes with a value of EUR 33 billion, making the EU the second largest trader of these products after China. As a net importer, the EU had a deficit of EUR 21 billion in 2019, which was slightly higher than the previous year. In the long run, the deficit grew by 33% in real terms from 2010 to 2019. Extra-EU imports reached a ten-year high of 6,34 million tonnes, almost 460.000 tonnes or 8% more than in 2010. There was also a peak in value, with imports reaching EUR 27,21 billion, which was a significant 38% increase in real terms compared with ten years before. From 2018 to 2019, the volume increased a barely perceptible 0,3% (+18.625 tonnes) while value grew by 2% (+EUR 659 million). The value increase was driven by prices of the most highly imported products - salmon, cod, tuna, fishmeal and Alaska pollock.
22. The Commission, the Council and the Parliament reached a provisional political agreement on the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) for the period of 2021- 2027. The agreement sets out the distribution of the EUR6.1 billion of subsidies and public expenditure. In line with the objectives of the European Green Deal and Sustainable Development Goal 14, it provides a support package for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, the development of local coastal communities, the promotion of a sustainable blue economy, and the implementation of the Union's maritime policy towards safe and sustainably managed seas and oceans. Also included is a crisis management scheme to allow emergency support to the fishery and aquaculture sector in case of a significant disruption of the market e.g. temporary storage measures or compensation for additional costs. Also, for the first time, the new EMFAF includes provisions on strengthening international ocean governance. Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius welcomed the agreement, saying: "We made sure that no subsidy at EU level would risk harmful effects leading to overfishing and overcapacity".
23. DG MARE of the Commission published its report on the utilisation for 2019 of EU funding for the fisheries, aquaculture and processing sectors under the EU Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The study shows that shows that by the end of 2019, EUR3.21 billion of EU subsidies had been committed, corresponding to 56% of the EUR5.7 billion available to the Member States. EUR1.4 billion of the subsidies committed contributed to the objective of enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs, while EUR1.3 billion (i.e. 40% of support committed so far) is dedicated to preserving and protecting the environment.
24. The EU adopted the autonomous tariff quotas which allow the Canary Islands to import defined quantities of fishery products free of EU duties, for the period up to 2027. The measures applies to 30,000 tonnes annually of fishery products in the HS Codes 0303, 0304, 0306, and 0307. The measure is intended to compensate for the additional costs arising from the exceptional geographical situation of the Canary Islands in relation to the sources of supply of fishery products for domestic consumption.
25. The Commission has announced that European Maritime Day (EMD) 2021 Conference 2021 will take place on 20-21 May in Den Helder in The Netherlands. It will be co-organised with the City of Den Helder, the Province of Noord-Holland and the Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat. The Conference will review the current state of play on a broad range of issues concerning the blue economy and the marine environment and discuss ways of moving forward. It will feature speakers, multiple breakout sessions and project pitch sessions organised by stakeholders and European Commission services as well as hundreds of B2B meetings. The EMD targets professionals from businesses, governments, public institutions, NGOs and academia. The Commission also opened a call for applications for funding of "European Maritime Day In My Country" events, as part of the EMD 2021 activities. The support is available for local activities such as beach-cleanups, guided tours of ports, art exhibitions, workshops, conferences, seminars, exhibitions on maritime themes, ocean literacy actions, eco-tours and walks in areas with significant maritime heritage, boat excursions, visits to maritime museums, ships, aquaria, shipyards etc. The aim is to appeal to a wide audience across Europe, with a "fun and game" component directly appealing to a younger public.
26. On 14-16 December 2020 the European Commission and the European External Action Service invited stakeholders worldwide to participate in the second virtual International Ocean Governance Forum, to discuss ocean challenges and to define action-oriented solutions towards global sustainability objectives. The first day consisted of a high-level event, followed by two days of working groups. Forum recommendations covered priority areas such as climate change, biodiversity, blue economy and key drivers for transition including financing, rules and implementation, ocean knowledge and cross-sector cooperation.
27. The Commission announced the launch of the MedAves project, which aims to understand the interaction of seabirds and fishing activities and investigate on how to adapt and implement best practices to prevent incidental catches. The project aims to develop ways to reduce the annual death of 200,000 birds accidentally killed in European waters through interactions with gillnets, longlines and seines. The project is implemented by a Fisheries Local Action Group in Portugal and seabird conservation NGOs
28. At a meeting on 11th December ministers from seven Black Sea countries (Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine) met with the EU Commission to discuss the need to strengthen regional cooperation on the blue economy, which has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They agreed to set a new framework for the Black Sea region to 'build back better' based on its blue economy potential, using the opportunities of digitalisation and a smart and sustainable approach.
29. EUMOFA published the 2020 edition of its report "Blue Bioeconomy. Situation Report and Perspective". This describes the latest advances and applications on three topics critical to the future of the sector and focuses on Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture, the utilization of fish waste as a raw material in Denmark and cell-plant technology and cellular mariculture.
30. EUMOFA published a report "Recirculating aquaculture systems in the EU". The report concludes that the most important advantage of RAS is perhaps near-market production of high-value species, for which the natural conditions for traditional aquaculture would otherwise not be available, e.g. warmwater species such as shrimp or yellowtail kingfish in the EU. By offering locally-produced, fresh products, which normally are imported frozen (or fresh with high transport costs), a price premium at farm gate is likely to be obtained to cover the increased production costs. It also points out that near-market production can also provide higher food security with lower transport costs, and reduced dependency on international freight capacity.
31. The European Commission has published an online consultation on its roadmap towards a strong and sustainable EU algae sector. Interested individuals are invited to comment before 18 January 2021. https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12780-Towards-a-strong-and-sustainable-EU-Algae-sector
32. Developers of a pilot project to develop and test a control scheme for recreational catches of sea bass hosted a webinar on "Recreational fisheries monitoring and control" attended by representatives from the European Commission, European Parliament, EU Member States, Advisory Councils and members of the scientific community. The project presented the results of the development of an IT tool, "Fishfriender", enabling recreational fishers to quickly register their daily catches and transmit the data to an EU web-based platform. In addition, a number of other presentations outlined the current political, biological and socioeconomic context of recreational fisheries.
33. The Commission announced the launch of the EU-funded FISH4FISH project, which will seek to extract chitin from crustacean shells and squid feathers and use this as raw material for the production of novel active polymeric packaging compounds, to be used subsequently in the seafood processing industry. It is hoped that the project will lead to a reduction in the EU production of 10,000 tons/year of shellfish waste. The materials under development are expected to combine sustainability, safety, antioxidant and antimicrobial effect, UV-shielding and improved mechanical properties, easy biodegradability and compostability.
34. During December 2020 there were 30 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 2 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 3 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 7 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 18 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 2 consignments of frozen Indian squids from Thailand and 2 consignments of yellowfin tuna and 2 consignments of swordfish from Spain.
35. DG SANTÉ of the European Commission published a report on an audit mission to Indonesia in March 2020 to assess the conditions in place concerning sanitary controls for fishery products exported to the EU, and to follow up on an audit carried out in 2017. The mission found that new legal acts adopted to address the deficiencies identified still presented gaps with regard to freezer vessels (temperature recording devices) and application of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system, and was also found to be contradictory on certain points. Application of controls to artisanal fishing vessels remained insufficient, with many primary producers and non-EU listed freezer vessels allowed to supply EU exports without any controls at all. Furthermore, where non-compliances were identified, enforcement by the Competent Authorities was found to be either non-existent or inadequate. The audit mission also identified that the testing methods used for heavy metals and histamine, were not in line with the EU reference methods. The EU considers that these deficiencies substantially undermine the guarantees provided in the European Union export health certificate. None of the five deficiencies identified in the previous mission had been corrected. The Indonesian Competent Authorities (various departments within the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries) were required to submit a plan of corrective actions for the approval of the Commission.
36. The European Union adopted a newly recast directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption. This directive replaces Council Directive 98/83/EC which has been substantially amended over the years. Since further amendments are to be made in the future, the Directive is recast in the interests of clarity.
37. The Commission has adjusted the list of third countries, territories, zones or compartments from which the import into the Union of consignments of aquaculture animals is authorized to account for Brexit. The UK, the Isle of Many, Jersey and Guernsey are added to the list set out in Annex III of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1251/2008 (2) which establishes requirements for the import into the Union of aquaculture animals.
38. The Commission also adopted decisions altering the EU's lists of disease-free zones for aquaculture, to account for the departure from the EU of the UK. In future the EU's list, with reference to the UK, will only include Northern Ireland. The Commission also adjusted the EU's approval of national control measures for aquaculture diseases, to account for Brexit and remove UK and add a reference to the UK in respect of Northern Ireland.
39. The EU Food Fraud Newsletter reported on a number of cases reported around the world. The Italian Coast Guard seized 7 tonnes of frozen mackerel with an expiry date in 2015. The Italian authorities, seized 4 250 kg of mussels, lacking traceability documentation, at the border between Italy and Slovenia. The scientific journal Nature published a paper on the current state of knowledge on organised crime in the fisheries sector (e.g. fraud, drug trafficking and forced labour). The FeedTechKenya consortium (comprising Kenyan and Dutch partners), reported that traders in fishmeal from Lake Victoria adulterate fish meal by adding sand up to 50% of the original weight. A recent article on the Journal PNAS highlights that seafood mislabelling in USA impacts on conservation of marine populations by hiding exploitation of unsustainable fisheries.
40. The Commission has amended the EU regulation on colouring materials in foods to confirm the permitted use of Sunset Yellow FCF/Orange Yellow S, Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A, and Lycopene in salmon substitutes based on Theragra chalcogramma, Pollachius virens and Clupea harengus.
41. The Commission has renewed the approval of L-histidine monohydrochloride monohydrate, produced by Escherichia coli ATCC 9637, as a feed additive for salmonids.
42. The European Food Safety Authority has developed a tool to help food business operators decide when to apply the 'use by' or 'best before' date to their products. The tool is structured as a decision tree with a series of questions to be answered by the food business operators to help them decide whether a 'use by' or 'best before' date is required. It reminds operators that the 'use by' date on food is about safety - foods can be eaten until this date but not after, even if they look and smell fine. 'Best before' refers to quality - the food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best.
43. The European Commission announced the launch of the Food Labelling Information System (FLIS), which will provide a user- friendly IT solution enabling users to select a food and then automatically retrieve the mandatory EU labelling indications in 23 EU languages. The system also provides links to the relevant legal provisions and existing guidance documents. In all, 87 different categories of food are to be covered. FLIS is in line with the Better Regulation Strategy of the Commission as it simplifies and facilitates the smooth functioning of the food sector, where SMEs represent the majority of the operators. It is designed to help food business operators (FBOs) identify the mandatory labelling indications that should appear on their products.
44. The Commission has published the latest Eurobarometer survey entitled Making our food fit for the future - Citizens' expectations. Two thirds of Europeans claim eat a healthy and sustainable diet and the main drivers influencing food decisions are taste, safety and cost, in that order. Almost all Europeans call on the public and private sectors to improve access to sustainable food and to have information on food sustainability on food labels.
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