1. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit mission to Germany in March 2020, to evaluate the food safety control systems in place governing the production and placing on the market of fishery products. The mission found that the implementation and execution of official controls is the sole responsibility of autonomous district and city authorities, whilst Federal state ministries are responsible for monitoring and technical supervision of controls. This system introduces considerable variation in checklists, reporting, control actions and food safety conditions in the fishery sector. In one county the food inspection and veterinary authority had granted approval before a formal application for approval had been made. In another, some inspections reports were so brief that the type and severity of the defects could not be identified. The audit team made visits to five factories, two cold stores and one factory ship, which showed up serious hygiene deficiencies in three of them. Examples include cleaning water and leaking pipes contaminating ready-to-eat products stored in the open, the same protective clothing used both inside and outside the clean areas, missing HACCP plans, and in one case denial by an operator of responsibility for food safety. The German Central Competent Authorities BMEL (Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture) and BVL (Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety) responded by proposing corrections to the report regarding some factual errors concerning administrative systems and correcting spelling mistakes. The report and the responses to it are published in the German language only.
2. During February 2020 there were 26 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 4 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 3 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 9 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 10 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 2 consignments of live mussels and 3 consignments of chilled cooked prawns from Spain.
3. The European Food Safety Authority issued a press release following the European Commission's intention to propose a harmonised mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling for foods, and for the setting of nutrient profiles to restrict the promotion of food high in salt, sugars or fat. EFSA will provide scientific advice on: nutrients of public health importance; food groups which have important roles in the diets of European populations; and criteria to guide the choice of nutrients and other non-nutrient components of food for nutrient profiling.
4. The latest EU Food fraud newsletter reports that the Italian authorities seized 2 tonnes of fish which did not have the required traceability documentation. Also, a recent survey by US NGO Oceana suggested that a majority of USA consumers and politicians would support stronger policies against fraud in the seafood sector and are in favour of similar standards between domestic and imported products.
5. The European Food Safety Authority published updated guidance on the scientific data applicants need to include in their dossiers for the authorisation of a new smoke flavouring, as well as for the renewal or modification of existing authorisations. Smoke flavourings are authorised for 10 years. The guidance is published together with a report outlining the outcome of the public consultation held in October-November 2020. Information to be provided now includes the characterisation of the primary product, including the description of the source materials, manufacturing process, chemical composition, specifications and stability; the proposed uses and use levels and the assessment of the dietary exposure; the safety data, including information on the genotoxic potential of the identified components and of the unidentified fraction of the primary product, toxicological data other than genotoxicity and information on the safety for the environment.
6. The Commission published a decision notifying the Republic of Cameroon of the possibility of being identified as a non-cooperating third country in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The Commission had difficulties to establish contacts with the competent fisheries and maritime authorities of Cameroon who were not responsive to requests for information. Cameroon has allowed the registration of vessels identified as engaged in IUU fishing. It has also failed to maintain a register of ships containing the names and particulars of ships flying its flag. The Commission's analysis revealed that national legislation does not contain any specific provisions as regards the management and control of fishing vessels, neither in Cameroon's sovereign or jurisdictional waters nor beyond its waters. The Government has also failed to apply sanctions or measures against IUU fishing activities carried out (other than de-registration). The "yellow card" could lead to the application of sanctions by the EU if Cameroon does not respond with a programme of corrective actions. European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevi?ius stated that "It is unfortunate that Cameroon has not been able to ensure proper control of fishing activities happening under its flag".
7. The Commission extended the derogation granted to certain French trawl vessel operators in the Mediterranean, which allows them to fish until May 2022 within defined areas covered by protected seagrass beds of Posidonia oceanica.
8. The Commission reduced the 2020/2021 quota for anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) allocated to Portugal due to overfishing in previous years. The reduction applicable is 79 tonnes.
9. The European Commission DG MARE issue a press release announcing a new Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Gabon. The Agreement allows European Union tuna and shark fishing vessels to access Gabonese waters for a period of 5 years, in return for an annual subsidy from the EU of EUR1.6 million.
10. The Council ratified the Exchange of Letters between the EU and Mauritania, in which the parties agreed to extend the Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between them, and which expired on 15 November 2020.
11. The European Union's request to accede to the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) was accepted at its sixth annual session, held in February 2021. Membership of the NPFC will enable EU vessels to extend their operations to fish in the North Pacific Ocean. Significant species in the NPFC Convention Area include small pelagics such as Pacific saury, chub mackerel and Japanese sardine, as well as neon flying squid and Japanese flying squid.
12. The European Economic and Social Committee of the European Parliament commented on the Commission's proposal for a regulation on the management, conservation and control measures applicable in the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Convention area. The Committee opined that the measure does not establish an efficient mechanism for transposing IATTC rules and does not resolve the issue of needing to update them every year. Instead, it proposes that the European Union must adopt a measure with the obligation to apply IATTC rules to its fleet, rather than granting delegated powers to the Commission.
13. Following a recent public consultation which revealed a broad interest in the subject, the European Commission announced that it is preparing a comprehensive cross-sectoral EU initiative with the aim of increasing the sustainable production, consumption and use of algae and algae-based products. Because of their small carbon and environmental footprint, the approach will help achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal (i.e. the transition to a green, circular and carbon-neutral EU.) The Commission has proposed five priorities to unlock the potential of the EU algae sector: 1. Improving regulatory and governance framework; 2. Supporting functioning of the market; 3. Improving business environment; 4. Increasing social awareness and acceptance; 5. Closing knowledge, research and innovation gaps.
14. The European Commission attended the 34th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), 1-5 February 2021, at which discussion was dominated by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the seafood markets, and the livelihoods of fishers and seafood farmers. In line with the European Green Deal, the EU stressed that the post-Covid recovery must be based on sustainable management of fisheries and aquaculture, as the best tool to balance the multiple challenges of fostering economic development, whilst promoting conservation, biodiversity, food security and the fight against climate change.
15. The European Union and Jordan hosted a Ministerial Conference of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) countries, at which Ministers from Mediterranean countries agreed to intensify efforts towards a sustainable blue economy in the Mediterranean, hoping to promote the recovery of the region's economies from the COVID-19 crisis, and address the environmental and climate challenges. The meeting was held six years after the first Union for Mediterranean Ministerial Declaration on the Blue Economy, and participants agreed to promote transformative policies and tools such as maritime clusters or maritime spatial planning and to support the overall shift towards low-emission technologies and circular blue economy. Activities are expected to address "blue skills", marine litter, marine renewable energies and nature-based tourism.
16. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2020, containing articles on the Common Octopus (Italy, Portugal, Spain) and broadtail shortfin squid (Italy, Spain). It also contains articles on consumption of fresh anchovy in Italy and case studies on cold-water shrimp in the EU and fisheries and aquaculture in Mexico.
17. The European Parliament's PECHE Committee published the results of a study on the "Impact of the use of offshore wind and other marine renewables on European fisheries". The study found that the fisheries impacts were mostly felt by trawling fleets targeting mixed demersal species and crustaceans and forecasts a sharp increase of spatial conflict in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and Mediterranean over the next five years.
18. The Commission announced that the final meeting of the International Ocean Governance forum will take place in April 2021. The forum was established following a public consultation in 2020 and a subsequent series of thematic in-depth discussions that enabled stakeholders and experts to provide valuable input, in line with EU core values and actions. The aim of the forum is to develop policy proposals with the overall objective to ensure clean, healthy, safe, secure and sustainably used oceans, while considering elements such as "resilience" and climate change.
19. The European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) announced the release of an upgraded version of its popular bathymetric Digital Terrain Model, which is a key reference for government, science and industry. The new release has benefitted from significant developments and expert input and is used in a range of applications, from marine science to sustainable ocean governance and blue economy activities. The model provides users easy and free access to high quality bathymetric data for research, policy and commercial users.
20. EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevi?ius attended the General Assembly of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), a global partnership for the conservation of the world's coral reefs with a membership of some 90 organisations and countries, acting to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems by sustainably managing coral reefs and associated ecosystems, building capacity and raising awareness. Commissioner Sinkevi?ius said: "The protection of these vital marine ecosystems is of great importance to biodiversity, sustainable food supply and the global climate system."
21. The Commission announced a subsidy of EUR1.1 million for the SPECtuna project, which will pilot the automated cutting of loins prior to canning, and the continuous, non-destructive quality control of tuna pieces based on spectral analysis. The project will be implemented by a consortium of Iberian tuna canning interests.
22. An EU-funded project Terre et Mer (land and sea), based in the Hérault department in southern France has announced that it has developed and marketed a range of ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat convenience fish dishes based on locally under-utilised resources of skate, mackerel, hake, capelin, red mullet and octopus. The products are supplied to local canteens in schools and retirement homes, and to restaurants, and will in the future also be made available to the public in retail outlets.
23. The European Commission has launched 'Taste the Ocean', a new social media campaign in which top chefs promote the consumption of sustainably caught or produced fish and seafood. Chefs from nine EU countries will share their fish or shellfish recipes. Campaign website: https://europa.eu/taste-the-ocean
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