1. The Commission published a press release setting out how the ban on bottom trawling below 800 meters, fish stocks such as grenadier, orange roughy and black scabbardfish became less accessible to fishers and have benefited from decreased catches. However, full implementation has been delayed by the delay in delivery scientific advice (only available from January 2021). Based on the new scientific advice, the European Commission will now propose new measures to limit the fishing footprint and to close vulnerable areas before the end of 2021.
2. For the first time the Commission has released an assessment of the contribution of EU and its Member States to achieving SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources). The EU has identified a 'SDG 14 toolbox' in which it has placed 170 policy measures at EU level and 417 at national level). The restoration of certain fish stocks and the establishment of marine protected areas are considered to be amongst the achievements. However the assessment does not identify gaps in the EU policy framework, and SDG 14 targets are not on track to be met by the agreed deadlines. In some areas, no tangible results have been achieved and some negative trends are far from being reversed, for example on ocean acidification or pollution.
3. European Fisheries Ministers met in Brussels on 26 and 27 May 2021 to discuss, EU-UK fishing opportunities, WTO discussions on fisheries subsidies. The Council expressed support for the Commission's approach in continuing to seek a comprehensive Agreement with the UK which will form the basis for a permanent arrangement.
4. The EU authorised the Commission to sign the new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement and Protocol between the EU and the Greenland and the Government of Denmark. Until signature the Protocol shall be applied on a provisional basis. Fishing opportunities have been negotiated for the same species as in the current protocol (Cod, Redfish, Greenland Halibut, Northern Prawn, Capelin and Grenadier). Fishing opportunities for Mackerel have also been included in the agreement at a 0 TAC level. Based on the fishing opportunities and the newly negotiated reference prices, the EU will provide Greenland with an annual financial contribution of EUR16 500 000. A significant part of this contribution, EUR2 900 000 per year, is specifically earmarked to promote the development of the fisheries sector in Greenland. For the whole duration of the protocol, the estimated value amounts to €99 000 000. Additionally, EU ship-owners will pay license fees for the fishing opportunities.
5. The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), in cooperation with the Member States Control Expert Group for the Baltic Sea Fisheries Forum (BALTFISH) reported on an evaluation of compliance with the landing obligation (LO) in selected fisheries in the Baltic Sea carried out in 2017 and 2018. The study covered plaice, cod, Atlantic salmon, herring and sprat and found an overall good level of compliance with the obligation in pelagic fisheries for herring and sprat, but demersal segments had a significantly lower level of compliance.
6. The EU hosted the third meeting of the parties to the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), an international agreement to reinforce the global fight against illegal fishing. The agreement was negotiated in the framework of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) of which the EU is a member. It was adopted in 2009 and entered into force in 2016. The EU was one of the first parties to ratify the agreement, and nowadays, the agreement counts 69 parties. The meeting will be the first review of the implementation of the agreement since its entry into force half a decade ago.
7. The EU has amended its regulation on the list of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME) indicator species, applicable to the conservation and enforcement measures of the fisheries managed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO).
8. The Commission published a regulation to maintain the countervailing duty on imports of certain rainbow trout originating in Turkey of up to 9.5%. This follows an appeal by the Danish Aquaculture Organisation on approaching the expiry of the previous sanction regime. Following an investigation by the Commission it was found that the Government of Turkey continues to provide direct grant subsidies to aquaculture operators, which allows them to undercut the prices of EU producers on live weighing 1,2 kg or less each and fresh, chilled, frozen and/or smoked trout. Countervailing duties currently ranging from 1,5 % to 9,5 % are therefore maintained.
9. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published a report on the production, trade, and consumption of caviar, both within the EU and internationally. The report updates a previous study in 2018, and found that the global aquaculture production of sturgeons was about 115.168 tonnes and that almost all of the caviar on the market was from farmed fish. EU Member States produced 164 tonnes of caviar in 2018, an increase of 12% from 145,8 tonnes in 2017. The largest producers were Italy, France, Poland, and Germany, accounting for 84% of the total production in 2018. The global production of caviar in 2018 was estimated at 380 tonnes. Consumption in the EU has increased by an estimated 20% since 2016.
10. The Commission has approved some amendments to the specification for the protected geographical indication 'Aischgründer Karpfen'.
11. Under the European Green Deal the European Commission has adopted new strategic guidelines for the development of EU aquaculture sector, to help it become more competitive and resilient, and to improve its environmental and climate performance. The Guidelines address building resilience and competitiveness, participating in the green transition, ensuring social acceptance and consumer information, and increasing knowledge and innovation. They specifically address the development of organic aquaculture and the use of EU subsidies. Virginijus Sinkevi?ius, Commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries said: "The sector can offer healthy food with a climate and environmental footprint generally below that of land-based farming."
12. The Commission published its Annual Economic Report on the EU Aquaculture Sector. Aquaculture now accounts for approximately 25% of the consumption of seafood. In 2020 there were about 15,000 companies in the sector in the EU in 2018, employing 69,000 people. The sector's sales volume increased by 2% and turnover increased by 11%, compared to 2016. EU aquaculture production is concentrated in four countries: Spain 27%), France (18%), Italy (12%), and Greece (11%) - together accounting for 69% of sales and 62% of turnover.
13. The Commission published the fourth edition of its yearly EU Blue Economy Report analysing the scope and size of the Blue Economy in the EU. It reports that the established sectors of the EU Blue Economy directly employed close to 4.5 million people and generated around EUR650 billion in turnover and EUR176 billion in gross value added. The living resources, with gross profits valued at €7.3 billion in 2018, saw a 43% rise on 2009 (€5.1 billion). Turnover reached €117.4 billion, 26% more than in 2009. Marine renewable energy (offshore wind) has also seen growing trends, with employment increasing by 15% in 2018 (compared to 2017). Emerging and innovative sectors which offer significant potential for economic growth, sustainability transition, as well as employment creation are identified and include marine renewable energy (i.e. Ocean energy, floating solar energy and offshore hydrogen generation), Blue bioeconomy and biotechnology, Marine minerals, Desalination, Maritime defence, security and surveillance, Research and Education and Infrastructure and maritime works (submarine cables, robotics).
14. Following a Commission communication on Sustainable Blue Economy the Commission and the European Investment Bank Group, announced increased cooperation to ensure that the finance is in place to implement the new blue economy strategy, to reduce pollution in European seas, with particular focus on circular economy approaches, and support investment for blue innovation and blue bioeconomy. The partnership will identify projects worthy of investment for pollution avoidance and reduction, such as, biodegradability, recycling and re-use along the entire plastic value chain and prepare a framework to stimulate investments.
15. The European Commission launched an open public consultation on the EU algae initiative, planned for 2022, and which aims to increase sustainable production of algae and algae-based products, ensure their safe consumption and boost their innovative use in the European Union. The consultation aims to gather facts and opinions about current challenges related to algae production and consumption as well as ways to resolve them and runs until 11 August. It is targeted at EU citizens as well as all relevant stakeholder groups, including industry, NGOs, public authorities, civil society, research and academia.
16. The European Committee of the Regions has provided its opinion on the Commission's proposals for a new approach to the Atlantic maritime strategy and the updated action plan for a sustainable, resilient and competitive blue economy. Whilst generally endorsing the proposals, the opinion criticises the fact that none of the pillars are dedicated to tourism and cultural heritage,
17. The Commission published a FAQ on the Sustainable Blue Economy, considering the nature of the blue economy, its contribution to the Green new Deal, and how blue economy investments are to be financed.
18. The Commission published the results of a study on the main effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the EU's fishing and aquaculture sectors. The main findings were that the closure of fresh fish markets as consequence of the closure of the catering sector has had a negative impact on demersal fisheries and some aquaculture production systems. For roundfish and flatfish species, demand and fishing effort decreased and for some species, a 50-60% reduction in the volume and value of landings was reported in logbook data. Prices dropped in many countries. On the other hand, there was an increase in demand for canned and frozen fish, which was also accompanied by lower fuel costs. This meant that large pelagic fisheries were only negatively affected in terms of travel restrictions. In the following overview we summarize the main information and conclusions from the report. Nearly all MS have reported implementing mitigation measures to support fishing and aquaculture companies during the pandemic. For some species, like aquaculture seabass and seabream, reduced demand was reported (e.g. in Italy and Spain). This led to a decrease in sales up to 50% in Greece. The industry has also reported a stagnation in prices which may last well into the future.
19. On 20 & 21 May the Commission held the virtual European Maritime Day (EMD) conference broadcast from the host city, Den Helder in the Netherlands. The focus of exchanges, attracting more than 2,400 ocean stakeholders, was the contribution of a sustainable blue economy to post-covid recovery and the European Green Deal. In his opening address, Commissioner Sinkevicius announced that the EU will work and in hand with the EU's coastal states and regions to achieve the EU's aim of protecting 30% of the EU sea area by 2030 and to realise its Zero Pollution targets. In this context, he called for an investment drive for biodiversity, zero pollution and for decarbonising the blue economy. He expressed the hope that Member States and regions would specifically earmark EU Structural Funds for this objective.
20. During April and May 2021 there were 70 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 7 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 2 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 13 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 39 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and 2 rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 2 consignments of Scampi from the UK, 5 consignments of swordfish from Spain and 2 consignments of red scorpionfish, 2 consignments of live murex snails from Italy and 2 consignments of Mackerel from Morocco.
21. Following the emergence of a risk of ciguatoxins in European Fisheries, EFSA Journal has published a report on the development of a sensitive methodology of LC?MS/MS for the identification of ciguatoxin and related compounds, and the steps towards the preparation of reference materials. The methodology developed identified toxicity attributed to several maitotoxins analogues as well as gambieric acids C and D, Gambierone, 44?methyl gambierone, and gambieroxide that were identified in strains of Gambierdiscus and Fukuyoa from the Mediterranean Sea and North East Atlantic Ocean.
22. The EU Food Fraud Newsletter reporter that a recent WWF Report highlights that 30% of sturgeons in the lower Danube Region / Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine) are offered for sale illegally. In addition, according to the International Trade Commission of the United States, seafood caught via illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing with an estimated commercial value of EUR2 billion was imported into the USA in 2019 from e.g. China, Russia, Mexico, Indonesia and Vietnam.
23. The Commission adopted a regulation which allows organic cholesterol to be used to supplement natural feed in the grow-out stage and earlier life stages of penaeid shrimps and freshwater prawns (Macrobrachium spp.).
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