FishFilesLite Newsletter
August 2022

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Common Fisheries Policy

1. UN makes progress toward treaty on biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction
2. EU Commission proposes 2023 fishing opportunities for the Baltic
3. DG MARE publishes report on implementation of laws on controls on IUU fishing in the EU
4. DG MARE study finds high level of unexplained mortality in Irish Sea cod
5. EU supports publication of manuals for scientific observers in West African fisheries waters
6. Joint Scientific Committee meets to discuss EU-Guinea Bissau Fisheries Agreement
7. EU Economic and Social Committee supports subsidies for operators affected by Ukraine war
8. Commission reduces landing notice period for vessels landing in Southern Spain
9. EU Economic and Social Committee calls for revised approach to implement NAFO measures
10. Commission extends derogation for inshore goby fishing in Italian coastal waters
11. Portugal exhausts quota for Atlantic bigeye tuna
12. EUMOFA publishes articles on freshwater species and Atlantic mackerel
13. EU4Algae Forum opens for pre-registration
14. EU BlueInvest Readiness Assistance Programme promoted with Portuguese case study
15. Commission promotes community-led local development (CLLD) initiatives
16. Commission approves EMFAF financial subsidy packages for Finland and Sweden
17. Commission agrees management of king scallop (Pecten maximus) with UK

Fish Hygiene

18. Rapid alerts were notified for 31 consignments of fishery products
19. DG SANTÉ audits food safety controls for fishery products in Czech Republic
20. DG SANTÉ audits food safety controls for fishery products in Curaçao
21. DG SANTÉ audits food safety controls for bivalve molluscs in Tunisia
22. Commission recommends increased monitoring of mercury in fish, crustaceans and molluscs
23. New combined lists of third country authorisations for fishery and aquaculture products
24. EU Food Fraud Newsletter reports major study of fish fraud; highlights veterinary residues

Common Fisheries Policy

1. UN Members attended the Inter-governmental Conference on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The meeting made significant progress in most areas towards finalising the wording of a new Treaty. The process for establishing and managing marine protected areas in the high seas has been clarified. The EU tabled a mechanism for sharing the benefits arising from marine genetic resources in a fair and equitable manner, and for enhancing marine scientific cooperation. The process and requirements for environmental impact assessments for future activities in the high seas has been elaborated. The modalities for developing capacities on ocean management have been laid down. Crucial progress has also been made on the institutional framework of the agreement, including an information exchange mechanism to foster cooperation and coordination between the Parties, and a committee on capacity building and the transfer of marine technology to strengthen support to developing countries. Although hopes for a conclusion are high, the EU, on behalf of Member States, accused Russia and China of often derailing the negotiations.

2. The European Commission proposed the fishing opportunities for 2023 for the Baltic Sea. Based on this proposal, EU fisheries ministers will decide the total allowable catches of the most important commercial fish species. The Commission proposes to increase fishing opportunities for central herring and plaice, while maintaining the current levels for salmon and the levels of by-catch of western and eastern cod, as well as western herring. The Commission proposes to decrease fishing opportunities for western Baltic cod, western Baltic herring (bycatch only), Riga herring and sprat. Virginijus Sinkevicius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: "This is the only way to ensure that our fish stocks become healthy again and that our local fishers could rely again on them for their livelihoods".

3. The European Commission DG MARE has published a report on the status of implementation in Member State legislation of the EU's controls on IUU fishing as set out in regulation 1005/2008. The study found that sanctions are in place for nationals engaged in or supporting IUU fishing activities in all Member States but Slovakia. Obstacles to enforcement by EU Member States were the difficulty in identifying IUU fishing activities which do not occur within EU waters and the administrative burden such identification entails, as well as the lack of cooperation with third countries authorities. The report also recommended the need to clarify rules on jurisdiction to ensure that enforcement authorities have the power to exercise their authority over any national, regardless of whether they are on the national territory or on board a vessel flying the national flag or the flag of any other country.

4. The Commission's DG MARE published a report on an EU funded tagging study to determine mortality sources on cod in the Irish Sea. Since 2000, the implementation of conservation and various cod avoidance measures concerning this stock has showed little or no response, raising questions about unaccounted causes of mortality to cod. The study identified that despite a significantly reduced fishing effort targeting gadoid species in the Irish Sea, levels of unexplained mortality have remained up to 10 times the level of commercial catch and constant natural mortality.

5. The EU supported the preparation and publication of four manuals for scientific observers on board different groups of fishing vessels in West African waters. The manuals address species identification, fishing vessels and gear characterisation, spatial data, sampling methods, biological measurements, and recording and reporting protocol in fisheries for cephalopods, hake, crustacea and pelagic trawl fisheries. The manuals were developed through a project "Study on improvement for the analysis and exploitation of observer reports in EU fisheries from NW African waters" implemented by the Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia in collaboration with West African research institutes.

6. The Commission published the report of the Eighth Meeting of the Joint Scientific Committee to the EU-Guinea Bissau Fisheries Partnership Agreement. The Committee considered the catches and fishing effort and utilisation of the opportunities under the Agreement for 2020. The parties also updated and analysed the industrial fishing fleet activities and provided scientific advice on species targeted by EU vessels operating Guinea Bissau's waters (cephalopods and demersal fish, crustaceans, and pelagic fish). The JSC recommended that the observer on-board programme should be continued, along with the annual research campaign/ survey financed under the Agreement. It also recommended retaining the current measure of a one-month biological rest-period (January each year) applied to all fleets operating in Guinea-Bissau waters.

7. The European Economic and Social Committee provided its opinion on the Commission's proposal for a Regulation to modify the rules concerning the EU Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) to provide subsidies to EU fishing and trading businesses to mitigate the impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The proposal was supported almost unanimously, without providing a formal opinion.

8. The Commission has reduced the period of notice which EU vessels longer than 12m must give to Member States' fisheries control bodies when seeking to land fish in Spanish ports when caught in the Cantabrian Sea, the Gulf of Cadiz and the western Mediterranean Sea. Since fishing grounds are close by the relevant ports, the period of notice for such vessels is reduced from 4 to 2.5 hours. The Government of Spain is required to assess and report on the impact of the reduced prior notification period.

9. The European Economic and Social Committee, a consultative body of the European Union, has expressed an opinion on the proposed changes to the regulations applying to EU vessels operating in the NAFO area. The Committee is critical of the regular annual changes to EU legislation to address revised NAFO measures but is against providing the Commission with extended delegated powers, since the EU's bureaucratic procedures are very slow, leading to a continuous time-lag between the rules adopted by NAFO and EU legislation. Instead, it considers that a more efficient, simpler mechanism, would be to introduce a regulation that contains a single article stipulating that the European Union must, without fail, directly apply NAFO measures to its fleet.

10. The Commission has extended the derogation granted to seine fishing for transparent goby (Aphia minuta) in coastal waters of Tuscany and Liguria in Italy, which would otherwise be prohibited by the ban on use of bottom gears in inshore and shallow regions of the Mediterranean. The decision covers 117 vessels, smaller than 14 m in length overall. Italy provided up-to-date scientific and technical justifications for the renewal of that derogation, which will apply from 1 November 2021 to 31 March 2024.

11. Due to exhaustion of quota, the Commission has closed the fishery for bigeye tuna in the Atlantic Ocean for vessels flying the flag of Portugal.

12. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2022, containing articles on freshwater bream (Estonia, the Netherlands) and pike-perch (Estonia, France, the Netherlands). It also presents a case study on Atlantic mackerel in the EU and raw material costs for fisheries and aquaculture value chains.

13. The Commission announced that the EU4Algae Forum has opened for Pre-registration of participants. The Forum will provide a means to develop collaboration among European algae stakeholders including algae farmers, producers, sellers, consumers, technology developers as well as business-support organisations, investors, public authorities, academia, researchers and NGOs. Structured events will be held, concerning microalgae, macroalgae, algae for food and for feed, ecosystem services & bioremediation, bio-actives & bio-refining, youth & entrepreneurship.

14. The Commission issued a press release regarding a Portuguese aquaculture start-up, as an example of how the EU BlueInvest Readiness Assistance programme can promote diversification of the blue economy. Through sessions with their BlueInvest coach, SEAantia, a Portuguese producer of meagre has successfully developed a business plan and participated in a series of events which have helped to access investment of EUR1.12 million from several sources, including private investors.

15. The Commission issued a note encouraging fishery operators to engaged in community-led local development (CLLD) initiatives. The note explains the concept, sets out steps to developing and implementing a strategy, and the sources of assistance (financial and advisory) from the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund.

16. The Commission approved the allocations of a financial subsidy packages to support the fishery, maritime and aquaculture sectors in Finland (valued at EUR71 million) and Sweden (EUR71 million).

17. The Commission published the consolidated management measures agreed between the EU and the United Kingdom, for the regular seasonal and area closures of the shared fishery, exploited by dredges, for king scallop (Pecten maximus) in the English Channel.

Fish Hygiene

18. During August 2022 there were 31 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 2 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 1 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 8 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 20 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 6 consignments of crayfish and 3 consignments of salmon from China, 2 consignments of shrimp from Ecuador and 3 consignments of anchovies from Morocco.

19. In January and February 2022, a remote audit was conducted by DG SANTÉ in the Czech Republic to evaluate the food safety control systems in place governing the production and placing on the market of fishery products. Although the audit found that the official control system in place covers the entire production chain, shortcomings were detected regarding the unspecific instructions for inspectors controlling fishery product establishments and lack of knowledge on HACCP undermining the inspector's ability to conduct the process of establishment approval. Additionally, the country has national legislation that contravenes provisions set out in EU legislation, permitting the temperature of frozen fishery products in approved cold storage facilities to fluctuate between -15°C and -18°C.

20. A remote audit was conducted by DG SANTÉ in November 2021 in Curacao to evaluate the control systems in place governing the production of fishery products, in particular tuna products, intended for export to the European union. National legislation, although dated 1999, covers most of the requirements except for the conditions related to the temperature of frozen products and the absence of requirements for reefer vessels. Shortcomings undermining the official control in place included shortage of human and financial resources, inadequate documented procedures, and insufficient knowledge on the relevant Union legislation. Audit findings concluded that Curacao competent authority cannot provide guarantees when exporting tuna fishery products to the EU.

21. A remote audit was conducted in April 2022 by DG SANTÉ in Tunisia to evaluate whether the official controls that are in place for bivalve molluscs destined for the European Union. Although Tunisia has not exported any clams since 2020, the audit concluded that the country has continued bringing the system in line with new EU requirements and continued implementing the official monitoring of production areas in a satisfactory way. However, sanitary surveys are not adequate for establishing effective monitoring for microbiological contamination and significant delays in obtaining laboratory test results lower the effectiveness of the monitoring. The lack of demonstrated efficacy of purification treatments might result in the placing on the market of bivalve molluscs with inadequate microbiological quality posing potential risk for consumers.

22. The Commission published a recommendation on the monitoring of mercury in fish, crustaceans and molluscs, to provide guidance on the benefits of fish/seafood consumption compared to the risks of methylmercury in fish/seafood. The maximum levels for mercury in many fish species was lowered in 2022 but for other fish species such as shark and swordfish it was maintained pending further scientific review. The European Food Safety Authority of the Commission needs additional data to complete the risk assessment and to provide tailored consumption advice to consumers in different parts of the EU (with widely different species consumption profiles). Member States are therefore requested to perform during the years 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 monitoring on the presence of methylmercury and total mercury in fish, crustaceans and molluscs. They are also requested to develop specific national consumption advice related to the consumption of fish, crustaceans and molluscs to fully achieve the beneficial effects of fish and seafood consumption, whilst limiting the risks of mercury toxicity. When reporting the data, Member States should pay particular attention to specify the production type (wild, gathered or hunted versus farmed non-organic production or farmed organic production).

23. Following the deliberations of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, concerning compliance with residue monitoring requirements, the Commission has revised the list of countries authorised to export fishery and aquaculture products to the EU. The amended list of countries authorised to export fishery and aquaculture products to the EU, now reflects the status of authorisation for aquaculture products in respect of countries which have submitted residue monitoring plans. Uganda and UAE have not submitted any such plans and are now only authorised for the entry into the Union of wild caught fishery products.

24. The Commission published the July 2022 edition of the Food Fraud Newsletter, a monthly summary of articles on food fraud and adulteration retrieved mainly from the JRC tool Medisys (http://medisys.newsbrief.eu ). It reports a scientific review undertaken by EU and UK researchers, analysing a decade of food fraud reports in the global supply chain for seafood. Illegal or unauthorized veterinary residues were found to be the most significant issue of concern, with most reports originating from farmed seafood in Vietnam, China, and India. Other classes of fraud (species adulteration and substitution, fishery substitution, catch method fraud, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing) are considered to be less prevalent. The paper calls for standardized and rigorous dataset through which food fraud can be scrutinized to ensure enforcement, as well as industry and research resources are directed accurately.

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