1. Due to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union, numerous stocks have become shared stocks. The UK, EU and Norway met for the first time in January this year to discuss stock shares, and in March signed a trilateral arrangement on jointly managed fisheries stocks in the North Sea for 2021, establishing the total allowable catches (TAC) and quota sharing covering annually over 636,000 tonnes of fish, operational until July 2021. The agreement provides for the joint management of stocks of cod, haddock, saithe, whiting, plaice, and herring, in most cases adopting maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels, in line with the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). This results in quota reductions in 2021 for saithe (-25%), plaice (-2.3%) and herring (-7.4%) but increases in haddock (+20%) and whiting (+19%). The parties agreed to continue implementing a range of additional measures, to protect adult and juvenile cod, such as area closures.
2. The AGRIFISH Council of EU Member State agriculture and fisheries ministers, was held on 23 March 2021. The Council adopted a regulation putting into EU law new temporary TACs and quotas for North Sea stocks in 2021 following the conclusion of contingency negotiations with the UK and Norway. Commissioner Sinkevicius issued a press statement following the holding of the AGRIFISH Council. He indicated that the Council's endorsement of TACs and quotas agreed with UK and Norway will ensure that fishing remains within the 2021 scientific advice. The agreement provides additional time for the UK and EU to conclude the ongoing negotiations on a permanent agreement on shares of the TAC. In parallel, the Council was informed that the EU and Norway also concluded their annual bilateral consultations for the bilaterally shared stocks in the North Sea, Skagerrak and quota exchanges.
3. Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by vessels flying the flag of certain Member States fishing for cod and redfish, Belgian vessels fishing for haddock, common sole, plaice, whiting, and cod and Portuguese vessels fishing for Northern albacore in the Atlantic Ocean.
4. The Council expressed the position of the EU, to be adopted during a forthcoming meeting of the Parties to the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. This first review meeting will assess the effectiveness of the Agreement in achieving its objectives and decide on further steps as necessary. The EU position must take account of the latest scientific and other relevant information provided to the Commission. If, in the course of a meeting of the Parties, it is impossible to reach an agreement, in order for the Union's position to take account of new elements, the matter shall be referred to the Council or its preparatory bodies.
5. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held a special session, at the request of the EU from 8 to 12 March, to discuss how to rebuild the yellowfin tuna stock in the Indian Ocean. The EU proposed that a revised management plan for yellowfin tuna be adopted that would effectively reduce the catches of this stock in line with the recommendations of the IOTC Scientific Committee. However, the parties to the IOTC Commission could not agree on any new measures, despite the EU and the Maldives presenting three successive proposals to accommodate the requests for flexibility.
6. DG MARE of the European Commission issued a press release on the occasion of the first meeting of the Joint Committee to be held under the new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and the Seychelles and its six-year implementing Protocol. Each year, the EU will contribute EUR 2.8 million to promote the sustainable management of fisheries in Seychelles, as well as to support the development of small-scale fisheries. During the meeting the Parties agreed on the actions foreseen in the support program, including the construction of infrastructure, training and a COVID-19 Response Program for local fisheries sector operators.
7. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2021, containing articles on the Striped Venus clam (Italy, Spain) and whelk (Belgium, France; Netherlands), consumption of fresh cod in Germany, France and the Netherlands, and case studies on Fisheries and Aquaculture in South Africa and Horse Mackerel in the EU.
8. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published a Report on Online sales of fishery and aquaculture products. The study analyses of online sales and technological tools and platforms used in selected EU MSs and one non-EU MS. Case studies are presented for (Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Portugal, and Spain). The role of Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) and Producer Organisations is considered, including examples of programs that help producers to attain key skills in administration, IT, language, and marketing. The study also identifies barriers to implementing digital solutions such as lack of IT skills, logistics, costs, and information.
9. EUMOFA published a report on Freshwater Aquaculture in the EU. It reviews production for consumption, re-stocking, sport and ornamental fish, and the species and production technologies applied. It describes the supply chains, socio-economic and environmental impacts of the sector, along with an analysis of the economic performance (including use of EU structural funds) and prospects for the sector.
10. The UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) released a new guidance (developed with EU support) on blue finance to help banks, insurers and investors take action on the transition of ocean sectors to a sustainable future. The publication "Turning the Tide: How to finance a sustainable ocean recovery" provides a practical toolkit for financial institutions in five key ocean sectors: seafood, shipping, ports, offshore renewables and coastal tourism. It provides a road map with a detailed breakdown of which client activities to seek out as best practice, which activities to challenge, and which activities to avoid completely due to their damaging nature. The guidance builds on the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles, developed in 2017 by the European Commission in partnership with WWF, the Prince of Wales' International Sustainability Unit and the European Investment Bank.
11. The Commission announced that from 1 April, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the Life Programme, Horizon 2020 Energy Efficiency and part of the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 'Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials will all be managed by a new EU agency, the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA). CINEA will support the implementation of the European Green Deal by managing relevant Union programmes with a total budget of EUR52bn over the period of 2021- 2027. The Commission released a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adOEuJjs8js
12. The European Commission published a new action plan to accelerate the development of the organic sector which aims to boost the production and consumption of organic products in general and includes targeting a significant increase in organic aquaculture. With only 4% of total aquaculture production (2015), organic aquaculture is still in its early stages in Europe, but EUMOFA reports a 20% growth in the consumption of organic aquaculture products over the last 5 years. Structured around 23 actions, the plan provides the sector with tools to enhance the role of organics in sustainable resource management and contributing to healthier and biodiverse ecosystems. The plan aims to boosting consumption, increasing production and improve sustainability and will be supported by the new organic regulation (EU) 2018/848 which will enter into force on 1 January 2022.
13. The European Maritime Day (EMD) 2021 Conference will take place virtually from Den Helder, The Netherlands on 20 & 21 May. It will be co-organised with the City of Den Helder, the Province of Noord-Holland and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Furthermore "EMD In My Country" partners have been able to organise 232 open air or virtual events, such as eco-tours, excursions in coastal areas, beach-cleaning activities etc. A list of events is published at: https://ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/maritimeday/my-country_en
14. Joint Research Centre of the European Commission published an online knowledge hub on algae biomass (both macro- and micro-algae) containing facts and figures about algae biomass production in Europe, including a dashboard with production locations. It also links up to ongoing research projects and recent publications. The Commission also announced that in 2022, it will present a strategy on sustainable production and consumption of algae.
15. Euronews Ocean reported on several R&D projects supported by EU funding. A project in Galicia aims to extract omega3 fatty acids from the micro-algae Crypthecodinium cohnii. The project is supported by the Costa da Morte FLAG in Galicia Spain and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund with a grant of EUR200,000. The HOLOFARM project at the Agrocampus Ouest Institute at Rennes, France explores the potential for farming sea cucumbers in Europe. The project MER-CLUB aims to deliver a mercury clean-up system for marine substrates based on microbial bioremediation. The method uses recent advances in environmental genomics, cell sorting and mercury tracing to identify the microorganisms that have the potential for mercury bioremediation and test their performance in a special clean-up system, based on immobilized bacteria able to operate in dredged marine sediments. Pilot actions will be conducted in sediments from the Baltic, Mediterranean and the Atlantic, with a view to developing a patented system and a marketable product.
16 During March 2021 there were 48 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 11 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 3 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 6 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 28 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 5 consignments of oysters from France, 2 consignments of live mussels from Spain, purified in Italy, 3 consignments of frozen squid from India, 4 consignments of silver scabbardfish, 2 consignments of frozen sardines from Morocco, 2 consignments of chilled seabreams from Malta and 2 consignments of chilled yellowfin tuna loins from Spain
17. The Commission adopted amendments to the Annexes to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 to bring it into line with Codex Alimentarius Commission code of practice on food allergen management for food business operators (CXC 80-2020). The EU food hygiene regulation is therefore amended to introduce improved controls and practices to prevent or limit the presence of substances causing allergies or intolerances in equipment, conveyances and/or containers used for the harvesting, transport or storage of foodstuffs. In addition, the Regulation is amended to address the Codex Alimentarius Commission revision of its global standard on General Principles of Food Hygiene (CXC 1-1969) which introduces the 'food safety culture' concept as a general principle to increase the awareness and improve the behaviour of employees in food establishments.
18. Following a request from the European Commission, the EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF) published updated scientific guidance to assist applicants in the preparation of applications on smoke flavouring primary products. Information to be provided in all applications should include: 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. EFSA has also published administrative guidance to applicants for the preparation and online submission of the technical dossier.
19. The latest EU Food fraud newsletter reports that about 20% of fish products sold in Taiwan are mislabelled. Most affected species include snapper, cod and surimi. The Italian Carabinieri seized 800 kg (1000 jars) of anchovies and sardines in oil. The criminals labelled the products with fake labels imitating another known brand. The Italian Coast Guard also seized 1 160 kg of seafood products lacking the required traceability documentation and seized 800 sea urchins fished illegally. Four persons were arrested in USA for unlawful import of catfish from Myanmar and Bangladesh over a two-year period. According to a report of a survey of DNA of fish on sale to the public, from OceanaPeru and ProDelphinus, 67% of fish traded in Peru is mislabelled and fraudulently substituted with other less expensive species. Restaurants are especially affected by such fraud.
20. A traditional fishery product 'Escavèche de Chimay' (eel or trout pickled in vinegar) from the Chimay region of Belgium is registered as a new protected geographical indication in the Commission's register.
21. The Commission published the final results of an EU wide quality comparison of food products marketed under the same branding, conducted by the Joint Research Centre (JRC). The first part of the study, published in 2019, found differences in products marketed in different Member States for about one-third of the products tested. The second part of the study showed that where there are large differences in product composition, sensory differences are also clearly noticeable. The study is part of a EUR 5 million investment from the EU budget to increase knowledge on dual quality issues and to support capacity-building activities for consumer authorities and associations across the Union.
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