FishFilesLite Newsletter
June 2023


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World Seafood Congress


Common Fisheries Policy

1. Treaty of the High Seas adopted by the United Nations; needs 60 states to ratify
2. EU to ratify WTO Fisheries subsidy protocol
3. Commission publishes annual report on state of play of EU fish stocks
4. External evaluation published of EU and Cabo Verde Fisheries Partnership Agreement
5. After 5 years, new EU- Madagascar Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement
6. EU funded pilot project compensates aquaculture for allowing bird predation
7. Commission amends State Aid rules for the production, processing and marketing
8. EU amends cod fishing quotas for EU vessels in Svalbard waters
9. EU amends quotas for certain fish stocks for both 2022 and 2023
10. EU Parliament committee holds public hearing on eel conservation
11. Stop fishing notice for Portuguese horse mackerel vessels
12. EU adopts new NAFO conservation and enforcement
13. The EU updated list of ports authorised for third country fishing vessels
14. EUMOFA publishes articles on haddock, trout and anchovy in the EU.
15. EU to approve new OSPAR Marine Protected Areas.
16. EUR106 million awarded to 18 projects to 'Restore our Ocean and Waters'
17. DG MARE supports pilot study on artificial reefs in the Baltic Sea
18. Commission launches European Blue Forum to improve dialogue among sea users
19. Commission launches Energy Transition Partnership for fisheries and aquaculture
20. EU protects names "Bohuslšns blŚmusslor" and "Novigradska dagnja" for blue mussels
21. DG MARE publishes article on EU structural funding for Croatian fish processing factory

Fish Hygiene

22. Rapid alerts were notified for 31 consignments of fishery products
23. DG SANT… reports on export controls of Serbia; shortcomings compromise certificates
24. DG SANT… reports on biotoxin controls for Jamaican conch; substantive deficiencies
25. EU Parliament publishes study on farmed fish welfare
26. DG SANT… published 2022 annual report for 2022 on RASFF
27. EU Food Fraud Newsletter reports cases from Spain, Italy and Lithuania

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The Treaty of the High Seas was adopted during a full session of the United Nations meeting in New York. The Treaty (named "Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction") follows a decade of negotiations between UN Member States. It provides for a procedure to establish large-scale marine protected areas in the high seas, ensures a sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources and establishes procedures for conducting environmental impact assessments. For the first time in history, it will allow for management of biodiversity in areas outside the EEZs of any state. It will come into force when ratified by 60 countries and the European Union has committed to support the Treaty's ratification and early implementation through the EU Global Ocean Programme with a EUR40 million grant.

2. The EU formally approved the acceptance of an amendment to the International Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization (the Marrakesh Agreement), as regards a new Protocol on fisheries subsidies in the form of an Agreement between WTO parties, made under the Doha round of negotiations. The Protocol prohibits WTO member states from granting or maintaining subsidies to IUU fishing vessels, in respect of vessels exploiting overfished stocks, or for vessels which fish outside the jurisdiction of a Member State or a relevant RFMO. Targeted technical assistance and capacity building assistance to developing country Members, including LDC Members, must be provided for the purpose of implementation of the disciplines under this Agreement. A voluntary WTO funding mechanism shall be established in cooperation with mandated UN organisations (e.g. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development). As well as regular notification of fisheries subsidies Member States must also report of fish stock status, conservation and management measures, fleet capacity, name and identification number of the fishing vessel receiving subsidies and catch data by species or group of species in the fishery for which the subsidy is provided. A WTO Committee on Fisheries Subsidies will be established charged with ensuring implementation of the Agreement.

3. The European Commission issued its annual report on "Sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2024", which assesses the progress towards sustainable exploitation of stocks under management in EU waters. Fewer fish stocks are now overfished and fishers are seeing socio-economic gains from certain stocks that have been managed at healthier levels. However, the economic benefits have been undermined by high fuel prices. The report also describes the different environmental situation in the Baltic Sea and its rivers and how many stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas are still fished above sustainable levels, where more action and greater commitment is required to tackle the situation. The report sets out the main orientations for policy on the 2024 fishing opportunities and fisheries management proposals. The Commission invites Member States, Advisory Councils, stakeholders and the public to provide feedback by 31 August 2023.

4. The Commission published an evaluation report of the 2019 - 2024 Protocol for the implementation of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Cabo Verde. The report concludes that the EU involvement in the FPA and its Protocol provides added value compared to what could be achieved by Cabo Verde and EU Member States or by EU shipowners directly. It suggests that the reference tonnage of a future agreement could remain at around 8,000 tonnes/year, even though EU vessels only exploited part of the fishing opportunities in some years of the expiring Protocol.

5. The Commission DG MARE announced that following a five-year interruption since 2018, a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement was signed between the EU and Madagascar, along with its implementing protocol. The agreement will allow 32 purse seine (targeting tuna) and 33 surface longline fishing vessels (targeting swordfish and sharks) from EU Member States to access Madagascar waters over a period of 4 years. In exchange, the EU will provide Madagascar with EUR700,000 per year to access Madagascar water, based on reference catches of 14,000 tonnes, and provide EUR1.1 million for sectoral support, to accompany the sustainable development of the fisheries sector and the blue economy in Madagascar.

6. DG MARE published a news article on an EU funded pilot project in Bulgaria to compensate an aquaculture operator in NATURA2000 protected areas for losses due to allowing birds to consume fish from their ponds. The scheme was found to allow for sustainable aquaculture with economic benefits whilst maintaining the status of the habitat.

7. The Commission has adopted a regulation which amends the rules on State Aid for the production, processing and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products. The period for which the current thresholds apply (EUR 10 000 for beneficiaries in the fishery and aquaculture sector, and EUR 500 000 for aid involved in financial products supported by the InvestEU fund) is extended until end of 2026. State aid for consultancy for SMEs may also be granted in the form of vouchers, for instance to promote green consultancy services. Amongst several other adjustments, aid to SMEs in the form of energy subsidies to mitigate the impact of price increases following Russia's war against Ukraine are brought within the scope of State Aid rules, but must be limited to avoid that such measures increase demand.

8. The EU amended the 2023 fishing opportunities for EU vessels concerning cod (Gadus morhua) in Svalbard waters and international waters of 1 and 2b, to account for the ICES management advice and subject to adaptations due to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union. Quotas for Greenland halibut, redfish (Sebastes spp.) in international waters of 1 and 2 were also amended. The EU published some additional corrigenda to the 2023 TACs and quotas regulation.

9. The EU has amended quotas for certain fish stocks for both 2022 and 2023, including anchovy and sprat, to account for new management advice and Brexit, and new management measures for shark fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, as well adjustments to carry over of ICCAT quotas. New bluefin tuna farming capacity limits are also set for EU Member States.

10. The Committee on Fisheries of the EU Parliament held a public hearing entitled "The implementation of the Eel Regulation 1100/2007". The hearing considered evidence and guidance for better implementation of the eel conservation measures. The meeting considered how the regulation has supported activities such as reducing commercial fishing activity, restricting recreational fishing, restocking measures, structural measures to make river passable and improve river habitats, transportation of silver eel from inland waters, combatting predators, measures related to hydro-electric power turbines, aquaculture and other measure necessary for the achievement of escapement target.

11. Stop fishing notice has been published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Portuguese vessels fishing for horse mackerel in the area 8c.

12. The EU adopted a regulation bringing the recent NAFO conservation and enforcement measures into force, concerning updates of research vessel restrictions, control measures for landings or transhipments of cod catches from Division 3M.

13. The EU updated its list of ports at which third country fishing vessels may discharge or tranship their catches. The list includes ports in Northern Ireland, in accordance with the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union.

14. The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products published its latest edition of 2023, containing articles on Haddock (France, the Netherlands, Sweden) and pouting (the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain). It published data on consumption of trout in Denmark, Germany, France, Netherlands and Poland and Case Studies on fisheries and aquaculture in Japan and anchovy in the EU.

15. The EU Council has published its position concerning the position of the European Union concerning amendment to decisions relating to two Marine Protected Areas under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention). The EU supports the extension of the North Atlantic Current and Evlanov Sea basin Marine Protected Areas.

16. Following a 2022 call for proposals under the Horizon Europe programme for the years 2021-2027, the Commission announced 18 projects which will receive over EUR106 million to contribute to the EU Mission 'Restore our Ocean and Waters'. The projects gather over 370 beneficiaries from 36 countries, including SMEs, research institutions, local authorities, schools and businesses. The projects seek to achieve climate neutrality and restore nature by protecting and restoring biodiversity in waters, cutting pollution, supporting a sustainable blue economy and developing the European Digital Twin of the Ocean. All EU Member States are involved in the projects, with actions from the Baltic and North Sea, through the Danube River, Mediterranean Sea, and across to the Atlantic. The projects will be managed by CINEA (European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency).

17. DG MARE published a news article on the benefits of the creation of artificial reefs in the Baltic Sea, as a means of partially countering the effects of environmental degradation on the fisheries. A pilot study looking into the technical feasibility of artificial reefs found that artificial underwater habitats that create shelter, feeding and rest zones which increase the value of catches the sea areas around them.

18. The European Commission launched the European Blue Forum to foster dialogue among all sea users, including offshore operators, stakeholders and scientists engaged in fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, renewable energy and other activities at sea, with a view to investigating and developing synergies between the different maritime activities and reconcile potential conflicts in uses of the sea. The forum was launched at an event in Brest, and was attended by government officials, fishers' representatives, researchers, industry leaders, civil society representatives and coastal communities and posed the key questions: "What do we need from European Seas by 2030?" and, "Are we asking too much?"

19. At the conference 'Joining forces for the energy transition in EU fisheries and aquaculture', the Commission's DG MARE launched its Energy Transition Partnership for fisheries and aquaculture The initiative provides a platform for all actors in the sectors to share knowledge and solutions, and coordinate efforts in order to achieve a climate-neutral sector by 2050, as set out in the Communication on the energy transition in EU fisheries and aquaculture. It will aim to address professional skills, ensuring sufficient financing, and closing the gaps in knowledge, research and innovation.

20. The Commission approved an application to enter the name "Bohuslšns blŚmusslor" in the EU register of Protected Designation of Origin, applicable to Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) grown in the Bohuslšn archipelago of the Skagerrak. The Commission also approved the name "Novigradska dagnja" applicable to Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) grown in the from the Novigrad Sea, Croatia.

21. The Commission's Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries published a article on how a fish processing operator in Karlovac, in central Croatia has used EU structural funds to establish a modern processing and packaging factory to supply a better quality and increased range of seafood.

Fish Hygiene

22. During June 2023 there were 31 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 4 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 4 rapid alert notifications for cephalopod products, 7 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 16 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for gastropod products. These included 4 consignments of clam from Italy, 3 consignments of cephalopods from Albania and 4 consignments of shrimps from Ecuador.

23. DG SANT… of the Commission published a report on a remote assessment of the control systems in place in Serbia governing the production of fishery products intended for export to the European Union. The study found that there was in place a sound legal framework, and robust competent authority structure with relevant legal powers. However, several shortcomings were identified. Legislation on maximum levels of contaminants was not in line with EU limits. Freezing treatments to kill parasites were insufficient. The CA did not apply EU criteria on assessing compliance of histamine test results. There was poor and unstructured guidance and insufficient supervision of staff involved in controls and export certification. Furthermore, histamine testing was not conducted using the correct analytical method. The shortcomings noted were considered to compromise the validity of the health certificates. The Competent Authority, the Veterinary Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management (MAFWM) was requested to correct the deficiencies identified.

24. DG SANT… of the Commission published a report of an audit of the control systems in place in Jamaica, governing the production of marine gastropods intended for export to the European Union, conducted in February 2023. The audit found that the Competent Authority has a system in place for the delivery of official control at establishments involved in the conch sector. However, the system was found to have important shortcomings which compromise the controls over marine biotoxins. Amendments of the national legislation on marine biotoxins and their testing and control has not kept pace with EU legislation. A national area classification and monitoring protocol is not followed. The annual sampling programme is not designed based on risk assessment, nor is it representative. No results for important toxins were available, and some test results were only available months after sampling, and thus considered "of little value for risk management". Water samples were taken from the water surface (not at the sea bed). The accredited laboratory did not test for all of the required biotoxins and several deficiencies were noted in the testing method for lipophilic toxins. Proficiency testing was insufficient and unsatisfactory performance had not resulted in investigative or corrective actions. None of the HACCP plans of food business operators, all approved by the Competent Authority, considered marine biotoxins as a hazard. As a result of these deficiencies the audit concluded that the controls did not provide adequate guarantees to ensure compliance with EU requirements, as attested in the certificates. The report contains recommendations to the competent authority, the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to address the shortcomings identified.

25. The European Parliament has published a study undertaken on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries which study investigates the welfare of the main fish species reared in the European Union, and highlights current knowledge on fish welfare, knowledge gaps, fish needs and husbandry methods of concern for fish welfare. The study focuses on production systems and production phases in a species-specific way. Research includes a literature review, an evaluation of the regulatory framework, a stakeholders' consultation, case studies and a SWOT analysis. The study concludes that the concept of fish welfare has philosophical, scientific, and legal dimensions and public debate and multi-disciplinary research should be supported. More research is needed to gain a better understanding of EU farmed fish welfare needs, in relation to the different farming systems, production cycle, husbandry practices and managerial operations is required. Development of fish welfare courses that will support the training for veterinarians, fish health professionals and fish farm personnel is a high priority and there is a need to improve the EU legislative framework on fish welfare.

26. The DG SANT… published its annual report for 2022 on the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed network (RASFF), which now incorporates the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation network (AAC) and the Agri-Food Fraud Network (FFN). There were 4 361 RASFF notifications registered in 2022, of which 3 904 concerned food, 234 feed and 219 food contact material. In 2022, 41 notifications on foodborne outbreaks were transmitted in RASFF. From these 41 notifications, 12 identified Salmonella as the (probable) cause, 7 were linked to Listeria monocytogenes (including in fishery products), 5 were linked to histamine poisoning in fish, and 4 were linked to norovirus (in shellfish). In total, 7 notifications were related to a multi-country foodborne outbreak. Fish and products thereof were notified in 6% (153) of the 2 554 cases reported in the Assistance and Cooperation network, mostly concerning faulty labelling or claims (63) for non-compliant or missing indications of the weight (net or drained), water ice glaze, or storage conditions.

27. This month's EU Food Fraud Newsletter contains cases from Spain (Live eels), Italy (Octopus and Tuna), Lithuania (Fish). It also reports that the European Parliament and the Member States have agreed on measures to strengthen checks on traceability of fish catches, along with other controls to crack down on IUU fishing.

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