FishFilesLite Newsletter
June 2021

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Common Fisheries Policy

1. Commission issues IUU yellow card warning to Ghana (again)
2. Historic agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the Arctic Ocean
3. Commission proposes EU fishing opportunities for 2022
4. EU and United Kingdom finalise catch limits for jointly managed fisheries in 2021
5. EU amends the 2021 TACs and quotas for sprat and anchovy
6. Commission reports on EU fisheries control system; deficiencies noted
7. Commission publishes study on EU fisheries sanctions for infringements
8. IOTC holds annual meeting; yellow fin tuna target catches reduced by 6%
9. Commission publishes poster on IUU fishing
10. Commission extends Cabo Verde's tariff free quotas for canned tuna and mackerel
11. EUMOFA articles on herring, horse mackerel and monkfish
12. EUMOFA reports on structure of the pricing for frozen cod fillets in the EU
13. Commission registers designations for Romanian and Hungarian fish products
14. EU Parliament publishes briefing on revision of EU marketing standards for fish
15. Commission adopts regulation on waste and plastic fishing gear
16. Commission hosts seminar on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
17. Commission rejects Romanian request to label fish with days since harvest
18. Commission publishes editions of the EU Food Fraud Newsletter ~
19. Launch of EU financed project on floating modules for intensive shellfish farming

Fish Hygiene

20. Rapid alerts were notified for 36 consignments of fishery products
21. Commission amends food hygiene regulation on allergens and food safety culture
22. EFSA publishes report on hygiene and impact on spread of anti-microbial resistance
23. Commission calls for inputs to online dialogue for UN Food Systems Summit

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The Commission issued a warning (so-called yellow card) to the Republic of Ghana that it risks being identified as a non-cooperating country in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The decision is based on identified shortcomings in Ghana's ability to comply with its duties under international law as flag, port, coastal or market State, and is the second time such a warning has been issued. This time the Ghanaian authorities are accused of failing to implement effective monitoring and control of the activities of its fishing vessels, and of an inadequate enforcement and sanctioning system. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius, said: "The Commission stands for zero tolerance for IUU fishing". Should Ghana not address the deficiencies identified in the notice, there is a risk of trade sanctions being imposed on the export of Ghanaian fishery products to the EU.

2. On 25 June 2021, the Agreement to prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean entered into force. The EU is a Party to the Agreement together with nine countries: Canada, the People's Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), Iceland, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Kingdom of Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. The Agreement bans unregulated fishing activities in the Central Arctic Ocean, and sets up a joint scientific programme to improve Parties' understanding of the ecosystems and potential fisheries. It represents an important step towards ensuring that any future fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean will be carried out sustainably. Virginijus Sinkevicius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said "the Agreement's entry into force today is a historic success. It protects the Arctic's fragile marine ecosystems against unregulated fishing and fills an important gap in the international ocean governance framework".

3. The Commission adopted a Communication "Towards more sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2022" which proposes EU fishing opportunities for next year. The paper also calls for further efforts to protect marine resources, both through maintaining ambitious management targets for EU fisheries in line with maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for MSY-assessed stocks and to fully implement management plans that set MSY ranges of mortality. Overall, the EU fleet remained profitable in 2020, reporting gross and net profit margins of EUR1.5 billion of gross profits and EUR800 million of net profits. This indicates a strong resilience, thanks to a combination of low fuel prices and the sector's efforts in previous years to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The Commission claims that is a clear illustration of the benefit of an EU blue economy driven by sustainability. The Commission states that it will strive to achieve the same high standard in fisheries shared with third countries. Member States, Advisory Councils, the fishing industry, non-governmental organisations and interested citizens are invited to take part in a public consultation on the Communication, open until 31 August.

4. The EU and the United Kingdom finalised negotiations and agreed in principle on catch limits for jointly managed fish stocks for 2021. The concord establishes the total allowable catches (TAC) for 75 shared fish stocks for 2021, as well as for some deep-sea stocks for 2021 and 2022. It also provides clarity on access limits for non-quota species. The signing of the agreement, expected in the coming days, will also enable both parties to engage in quota exchanges. The Commission considers that conclusion of the negotiations, which started in January, creates a strong basis for continued EU-UK cooperation in the area of fisheries. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius said "this agreement provides predictability and continuity for our fleets with definitive TACs for the remainder of the year."

5. The EU has amended the 2021 TACs and quotas for the Baltic Sea, and for fishing opportunities in Union and non-Union waters. The amendments concern herring in the Gulf of Bothnia, sprat (Sprattus sprattus), anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus). The regulation also Maximum sets new limits for bluefin tuna farming capacity and fattening capacity for each Member State and maximum input of wild caught bluefin tuna that each Member State may allocate to its farms in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.

6. The Commission submitted a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 establishing a Union control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy (the Control Regulation). This lays down rules and measures for control, inspection, and enforcement based on a global and integrated approach. During the period 2015-2019, Member States made progress with their implementation of the Control Regulation. The report notes some steady improvements including (i) more modernised methods of control, including an increased use of VMS and ERS for monitoring, control and reporting of fishing vessels; and (ii) automated cross checks of fisheries data. Member States also made efforts to improve their sanctioning systems, although the level of implementation of these sanctioning systems is not equal across Member States, and this creates an unlevel playing field. A number of other ongoing deficiencies are also noted. Shortcomings include: (i) provisions on the control and verification of engine power; (ii) weighing; (iii) landing obligations; (iv) control of the external fleet; and (v) sanctioning.

7. The Commission issued a press release on the publication a study of the Member States' sanctioning systems for infringements of the CFP regulations, conducted on behalf of the Commission by an external contractor. The summary notes that the EU and all coastal Member States have systems in place for sanctioning infringements, with many making significant improvements since 2015. However, there are still some differences between Member States, including gaps in the legal frameworks and the practical application, which may slow down the effective implementation of a sustainable fisheries policy.

8. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held its annual meeting from 7 to 11 June 2021, at which the parties agreed a reduction of 6% in in yellowfin tuna catches, representing a total reduction of 21% compared to 2014 catch levels. The EU's proposal to reduce the catches of skipjack within the agreed Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was not adopted. The EU expressed its disappointment that the other IOTC parties were unwilling to act more strongly.

9. The Commission published a new poster outlining the nature and consequences of IUU fishing and the activities undertaken by the EU to counter it (yellow and red-card system).

10. The European Commission granted Cabo Verde's request for a prolongation of the temporary derogations to the rules of origin concerning tariff quotas of an annual volume (in the first year) of 5,000 tonnes prepared or preserved tuna fillets, 3,000 tonnes of prepared or preserved mackerel fillets and for an annual volume of 1,000 tonnes of prepared or preserved frigate tuna or frigate mackerel fillets. The justifications considered valid by the Commission are the low quantities of tuna and mackerel caught in territorial waters, scarce fishing opportunities outside territorial waters and the limited duration of the fishing season. The quotas are available from 1 January 2021 until 31 December 2023.

11. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2020, containing articles on Atlantic herring (Estonia, Latvia, Poland) and Atlantic horse mackerel (Netherlands, Spain, Portugal), consumption of Monkfish in France and Spain and a case studies of fisheries in Greenland and canned sardine and sardine-like products in the EU.

12. EUMOFA has also released a report on a study of the structure of the pricing for frozen cod fillets in the EU. The study analysed frozen cod fillet production and market trends at EU level, focusing on the prices and margins along the supply chain in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Cod is one of the top five seafood species consumed in the EU, together with tuna, salmon, Alaska pollack, and shrimp. Despite cod stocks in EU waters showing significant declines in recent decades, cod production has been increasing since 2009. In 2018, EU self-sufficiency for cod was at 7%, showing that the EU maintains a high level of cod consumption mainly through imports.

13. The Commission registered the Protected Designations of Origin "Tulcea pike caviar salad" from Romania and the "Balatoni hal" a species of carp or pike perch (zander) harvested from Lake Balaton, in western Hungary.

14. The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) of the European Parliament issued a briefing on the operation of existing EU legislation in the areas of marketing standards for fishery and aquaculture products set out under Regulation (EC) No.1379/2013. The briefing notes that an initial evaluation has pointed to the positive impact of the standards, but also to their limited coverage and lack of sustainability criteria. A public consultation on the topic closed on 23 February 2021 and the opinions gathered are reported. The expected outcome is the release of a new legislative proposal to replace the current regulation in the near future.

15. The Commission adopted an implementing regulation setting out the detailed requirements for reporting data on fishing gear containing plastic placed on the market and on waste fishing gear collected in the Member States. The regulation requires Member States to report using the format and structure as laid out in the Annex to the Decision.

16. The European Commission organised a seminar on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and their benefits, not just for the environment, but also for fishing and coastal communities as part of its annual fisheries science events. The activity attracted stakeholders from different areas to discuss concerns, such as would MPAs impact negatively on the thriving fisheries sector, and whether the existing policy framework (the Common Fisheries Policy, the Habitats and Birds Directives and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive) would be sufficient.

17. The Commission rejected a proposal from the Romanian Government to adopt a national order which would require retail fish business operators to label fish exposed for sale with information about the number of days since harvest. The reason given for rejecting the request is that EU legislation already provides the means to the competent national authorities to protect human health and safety, and to ensure that consumers are not mislead about the characteristics of fishery products.

18. The Commission has published the latest editions of the EU Food Fraud Newsletter. A study in Peru found that 43% of fish products in Lima were mislabelled and replaced with species of lesser economic value. Mislabelling was significantly higher in restaurants compared to supermarkets and fish markets. In Spain, Portugal and Italy the authorities, supported by Europol and Eurojust, arrested eight people belonging to a criminal organisation trading bivalves unfit for human consumption. The authorities investigated seven commercial companies and also seized 1.5 tonnes of clams. The criminals falsified the origin of the bivalves which were also contaminated by high level of toxins and pathogens. Taxes were evaded as well. In Colombia a study found that 98% of tested common snook fillets from supermarkets were replaced with other. cheaper species. In the USA, it is reported that the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act was filed in USA to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, to expand transparency and to stop fraud affecting the seafood sector.

19. The Commission has reported on an EU financed project "The Open Mode project" which is investigating floating connectable modules for intensive shellfish farming in open waters, which can be used either in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean or the North and Baltic Sea Basins. The modules can be assembled in different setups and sizes and are provided with remote sensors that control onsite parameters such as water, weather and structure conditions, as well as shellfish growth. Four modules are being tested in different conditions in Spain, Denmark, Croatia, and Montenegro.

Fish Hygiene

20. During June 2021 there were 36 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 5 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 2 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 4 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 25 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 2 consignments of frozen cephalopods from Morocco, 2 consignments of smoked trout from Scotland and 2 consignments of smoked swordfish and 2 consignments of smoked marlin from Spain.

21. The Commission adopted a regulation amending the EU Food Hygiene Regulation 852/2004, requiring that equipment, conveyances and/or containers used for the harvesting, transport or storage of one of the substances or products causing allergies or intolerances, cannot be used for the harvesting, transport or storage of any food not containing that substance or product, unless the equipment, conveyances and/or containers have been cleaned and checked. In addition, food business operators are required to establish, maintain and provide evidence of an appropriate food safety culture in their operation. Relevant actions demonstrating the presence of such a culture are defined. It includes ensuring that the appropriate training and supervision are in place for personnel.

22. The European Food Safety Authority published a press release on recent work to assess the role of food producing environments in the emergence and spread of AMR. They identified the main sources of AMR bacteria and genes, although current data do not allow quantification of the specific contribution each of them makes to this global problem. The study recommends measures to limit the emergence and spread of resistance in food production environments, to include reducing the faecal microbial contamination of fertilizers, water and feed, and the implementation of good hygiene practices. Experts also made recommendations on priority areas for research that would help to implement the EU One Health Action plan against AMR.

23. The Commission has issued a call for inputs to an online dialogue to prepare EU inputs for the UN Secretary-General's Food Systems Summit, which will take place in September 2021. Interested parties with comments and ideas on achieving sustainability in European and global food systems are invited to register to participate in the EU-wide dialogue which will take place on 12-13 July 2021.


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