1. The PECH committee of the European Parliament has published a summary of its study on the Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on EU fisheries and aquaculture. The study analysed the effects of COVID-19 from March to December 2020. The study found that in 2020 EU first sales of fish products decreased by 8 % in volume and 12 % in value. The closure of the hospitality industry led to a demand reduction for fishers and fish farmers. Fishers targeting high-value species intended for the hospitality industry were most affected. In the aquaculture sector, farmers selling to retail did not experience particularly negative impacts. Estimates point to a 17 % reduction in sales volume and an 18 % reduction in total income, with a particularly harsh impact on the shellfish segment. The provides policy recommendations to
strengthen the sector's resilience to shocks, and to address current vulnerabilities in view of potential similar events. Proposed measures include banking fishing quotas from one year to the next, implementing local promotional campaigns.
2. DG MARE published a study by EUMOFA - European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products, on the EU supply chain for brown crab (Cancer pagurus) and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also investigated the issue of cadmium restrictions on live brown crab exported to China. The study found that processors who had diversified sales to both retail and catering markets were better equipped to keep up sales. Many exporters to China (with the exception of Netherlands, which can deliver mostly compliant products) have lost access to this market due to the excessive levels of cadmium in this species.
3. The Regulation establishing the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund
(EMFAF) under the EU's 2021-2027 long-term budget was adopted by the European Parliament with an overwhelming majority. The adoption follows a political agreement reached with the Council at the end of 2020. With a total budget of EUR6.1 billion (2021-2027), the EMFAF will provide financial support and subsidies to protect, manage and sustainably use the ocean and its resources and contribute to the objectives of the European Green Deal. Virginijus Sinkevi?ius, Commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries called on Member States to finalise their national programmes as a priority.
4. The Commission has proposed an extension of the current system of access rights of EU fishers to European waters, albeit modified to take account of UK exit and a recent agreement regarding the access of Italian fishing vessels to Greek territorial waters. The current regime has been in place since the early 1970s, has been included in every version of the CFP Regulation since 1982 and applies until 31 December 2022. The arrangements provide all EU fishing vessels with equal access to waters in the entire EU. However, Member States can restrict fishing in their territorial waters to take into account the vulnerability of their coastal zones (up to 100 nautical miles in the EU's outermost regions).
5. The EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, and fisheries ministers of GFCM contracting parties (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean) held a high-level meeting on the new strategy for the Mediterranean and Black Sea, held under the umbrella of the FAO GFCM. The participants reaffirmed their political commitments of the MedFish4Ever and Sofia Declarations and endorsed the new GFCM Strategy (2021-2030) with the aim of ensuring the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture in the Mediterranean and Black Sea in the next decade.
6. The EU has adopted the latest NAFO conservation and enforcement measures into an amendment of the regulation setting out the relevant conditions for management of EU fishing in the NAFO area. The amendments apply new NAFO mesh measurement standards and update the information to be transmitted to NATO relating to control and inspection, such as at sea inspection reports and notifications arising from the observer scheme.
7. Following the results of negotiations concluded between the EU and the UK, the Council has amended the 2021 TACs and quotas regulation to account for Brexit and the removal of the UK as a recipient of pelagic fishing opportunities under the extended EU Mauritania Fisheries Partnership Agreement, and to account for changes to fishing opportunities for certain stocks, including some deep-sea stocks. Whilst the EU and the UK did not reach an agreement on alignment of technical measures, these measures are retained for EU vessels in the interests of conservation. TACs for a number of other species (including anchovy) are adjusted to account for the latest management advice.
8. The Council adopted a regulation amending several conditions regarding import duties for fishery products. The measure extends the Union's autonomous tariff quotas to a range of new fishery products, including Patagonian squid, herring preserved in brine, frozen herrings, frozen fillets and flaps of herrings, fillets of redfish and various species of frozen fish, all with new tariff quotas of an appropriate volume. In addition, the regulation refers to the removal of duty-free quota-free access of fishery products originating from the British overseas countries and territories since they are no longer associated with the Union. Reference is also made to the amendment of various tariff preferences on Norwegian and Icelandic fishery due to the expiry of the protocols to their respective trade agreements. The changes apply, with retroactive effect, from 1 January 2021.
9. The Commission adopted a decision setting out the multiannual Union programme for the collection and management of biological, environmental, technical and socioeconomic data in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors from 2022. The programme defines detailed variables to be generated for CFP management and data collection methods for fisheries, recreational fisheries and aquaculture. It specifies the Member States' data collection activities, lists mandatory surveys at sea and sets minimum thresholds. The Commission also adopted a decision establishing the list of mandatory research surveys (defined by species and fishing zone) which Member States must undertake in order to generate the fish stock data specified in the above multiannual Union programme.
10. Following negotiations between the parties, the European Council authorised the Commission to sign a new Implementing Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the Gabonese Republic and the EU for period the (2021-2026). The previous Protocol expired in 2016. The new one provides for access to Gabonese waters for EU tuna seiners (Spain, 15 vessels and France, 12 vessels), pole-and-line tuna vessels (Spain, 5 vessels) and France (1 vessel) and trawlers (Spain, 4 vessels). The Agreement is subsidised by the EU with compensation of EUR 1.6 million per year for resource access on the basis of an annual reference tonnage of 32 000 tonnes; and cash for fishery sector support of EUR1 million per year. Overall the period of the agreement the subsidy is valued at EUR13.6 million.
11. The EU and Mauritania concluded negotiations for a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement to replace the one in force since 2008. The new Implementation Protocol accompanying the agreement was also concluded for a period of five years and aims at a gradual alignment of the fishing opportunities offered to Union vessels operating in Mauritanian waters with their actual activity, taking into account the best scientific advice. The existing Protocol is extended until November 2021 to allow for the new Agreement to be ratified. The Protocol provides for access by the European fleet to Mauritanian waters for the fishing of crustaceans, demersal fish, tuna and small pelagics, with a total catch of approximately 290.000 tonnes per year. For the first years of application of the protocol, in addition to the fees paid by European fishermen, the EU will provide an access fee of EUR 57.5 million to the Government of Mauritania. The EU will also pay a further subsidy of EUR 16.5 million, over the duration of the protocol, as sectoral support to for the implementation of the Mauritanian national strategy on fisheries.
12. The EU and the Cook Islands agreed to continue their Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement, and agreed a new Implementing Protocol for a further duration of three years. The agreement allows EU fishing vessels operating in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean to continue fishing in the Cook Islands fishing grounds. The EU and ship owners will contribute a total of approximately EUR4 million for the next three years, of which EUR1 million will support the implementation of the Cook Islands' sectoral fisheries and maritime policy.
13. The Commission has updated and published the EU list of vessels identified as engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The list is now 16 pages long.
14. The Commission published an updated list of designated ports, adjusted for Brexit, at which landings and transhipment operations of fishery products are allowed and port services are accessible for third country fishing vessels.
15. The Commission amended the regulations concerning the management measures applicable in the sprat box and the plaice box in the North Sea, with regard to the access conditions for vessels of different fishing capacities.
16. Stop fishing notice were published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by French vessels fishing for anglerfish, Italian vessels fishing for giant red shrimp, Greek vessels fishing for bluefin tuna.
17. The World Trade Organization (WTO) held a ministerial meeting on fisheries subsidies, which confirmed the commitment to reach agreement on reducing subsidies before the WTO's Ministerial Conference starting in November 2021. While some divergences remain, a new consolidated text provides a basis for a successful conclusion of the negotiations.
18. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2020, containing articles on European flounder (Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands) and megrim (Denmark, France, Spain). It also includes a case study on whelks in the EU.
19. During July 2021 there were 44 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 7 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 5 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 9 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 23 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 3 consignments of prawn/shrimp from Ecuador, 6 consignments of swordfish and 4 consignments of yellowfin tuna loins from Spain, and 2 consignments of chilled silver scabbardfish from Morocco.
20. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit carried out in Poland to evaluate the food safety controls for smoked fishery products placed on the EU market. The mission (conducted remotely) followed RASFF alerts in relation to a number of multi-country outbreaks in smoked salmon linked to Polish operators. It found that the control system in place provides a largely satisfactory basis for the competent authority to verify compliance of several European Union food hygiene requirements. However, there were gaps and shortcomings in relation to the ability of the controls to detect relevant deficiencies, most notably in relation to the incorrect storage temperature of frozen smoked salmon products and the assessment of the shelf life studies to determine the risks associated with Listeria monocytogenese. In the case of the non-compliances detected in the concerned establishments, the corrective action was limited to those food business operators involved and there is no evidence that the acquired knowledge was used to improve the overall control system. The Competent Authority, the General Veterinary Inspectorate was requested to correct the deficiencies observed.
21. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit carried out in Bulgaria to evaluate the food safety controls for fishery products placed on the market. The mission found that whilst the official control system covers the requisite elements as set out in European Union law it was undermined by a number of gaps. There were no centrally issued instructions/checklists and/or guidance for controls of fishery products, with the result that regional offices and control personnel were not adequately informed of their duties. As a result there was insufficient and inconsistent official control over vessels, landing sites and landings and first sale sites. There was also a lack of uniformity and consistency in sanitary standards applied during approval of establishments. No shelf life studies had been conducted in relation to Ready to East fishery products that are able to support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes. The audit team noted that the placing on the market of cold smoked fish in accordance with the Bulgarian Standard could not guarantee the safety of the product throughout its shelf-life. The Competent Authority, the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency submitted a plan of corrective actions, subsequently accepted by the Commission.
22. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit carried out in Croatia to evaluate the food safety controls for live bivalve molluscs placed on the market. The mission found that national legislation does not provide an adequate framework for the official control of production areas as it is obsolete and does not correctly interpret EU requirements regarding decisions subsequent to microbiological monitoring of production areas. The monitoring of toxin-producing plankton does not function as an early warning system for the presence of biotoxins in molluscs, since the control system does not foresee any decisions following the detection of toxin-producing plankton. The Competent Authority does not close or reclassify the production area when certain regulatory limits for microbiological quality are exceeded for the first time. The Competent Authorities, the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Inspectorate were requested to submit a plan of corrective actions, subsequently accepted by the Commission.
23. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit carried out in Faroe Islands to evaluate the food safety controls for fishery products exported to the European Union. The audit was conducted remotely and was based on a review of documentation and control records. The mission found that there was an insufficient frequency of controls on fishing vessels and a lack of proper follow-up of deficiencies identified on freezer and reefer vessels. It was also identified that the production and export of smoked ready to eat products was insufficiently controlled in respect of the monitoring of food safety hazards presented by Listeria monocytogenes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The Competent Authority, the Faroese Food and Veterinary Authority submitted a plan of corrective actions, subsequently accepted by the Commission.
24. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit carried out in Ukraine to evaluate the food safety controls for fishery products exported to the European Union. The audit was conducted remotely and was based on a review of documentation and control records. The mission found that there were a number of gaps in the procedures and the legislation, which resulted in a lack of satisfactory oversight of some establishments, an absence of standards covering the testing method for the determination of histamine and the maximum levels for certain contaminants and insufficient supervision over official control staff. Official checklists did not cover adequately all relevant points set out in EU legislation. Furthermore, the Competent Authority was not able to provide effective control of the safety imported raw materials used in the production of fishery products to be exported to the European Union. The Competent Authority, the State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection submitted a plan of corrective actions, subsequently accepted by the Commission.
25. The EU Food Fraud Newsletter reported several incidents related to fishery products. In Spain, researchers investigated the impact of mislabelling and substitution of fish species including anchovy, hake, tuna, blue withing. Seven out of 401 samples (1.9%) were mislabelled. The total proportion of mislabelling was 0% in blue whiting, 2.4% in anchovy, 4.17% in hake and 5.2% in tuna. In Belgium, between September and December 2020, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (AFSCA) seized almost 80 tonnes of tuna fish with illegal unapproved treatments (with carbon monoxide and injection of nitrates and nitrates). 92% of non-compliant products originated from Asia. In Italy, authorities seized 8 tons of seafood lacking the required traceability documentation. In France, Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, Operation Lake, led by Europol between November 2020 and June 2021, led to the seizure of 1 million immature glass eels (387 kg) and 25 kg of adult eels, ready to be exported to the Asian market. The total value was estimated to be worthy 1.24 million euros. Fifty people were arrested.
26. EFSA launched the #EUChooseSafeFood campaign with a website to help explain the science behind EU food safety regulations.
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