FishFilesLite Newsletter
October 2023

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Common Fisheries Policy

1. EU adopts a new Fisheries Control Regulation; VMS and e-reporting for all vessels
2. Commission proposes management measures for the Mediterranean and Black Seas
3. EU updates regulation on GFCM measures addressing Mediterranean and Black Seas.
4. Commission proposes TACs and quotas for EU fish sticks for 2024, 2025 and 2026
5. EU Council reaches agreement on TACs and quotas for the Baltic Sea for 2024
6. NEAFC parties agree 2024 TACs; quotas to be discussed
7. Stop fishing notices published for marlins and undulate ray.
8. EU and Kiribati sign new 5-year Protocol, with fishing days limits
9. EU Mauritania FPA joint committee publishes annual scientific report
10. Commission amends control programmes for fishing in third country waters
11. EU and riparian states review 2017 MedFish4Ever Declaration; EU pledges EUR8M
12. European Parliament workshop on impacts on fisheries of the European green deal
13. Commission amends definition of de minimis state aid for the fishery sector
14. EU's FAMENET service publishes guidelines for M&E of EMFAF subsidies
15. European Maritime Day 2024 to take place in Svendborg, Denmark (30 May 2024)

Fish Hygiene

16. Rapid alerts were notified for 51 consignments of fishery products
17. DG SANTÉ audit: Bulgaria's molluscan shellfish; no CA designated and no controls
18. DG SANTÉ audit: Thailand's fishery/aquaculture products; 922 shrimp farms not under official control
19. DG SANTÉ audit: Viet Nam; widespread shortcomings, source of illegal irradiation not identified
20. DG SANTÉ audit: Cote d'Ivoire; controls weakened, dispute prevents use of TRACES
21. DG SANTÉ audit: Latvia; deficiencies in vessel controls, incorrect histamine testing
22. DG SANTÉ audit: Lithuania; deficiencies in vessel controls, weak own checks on ready to eat products
23. EU Commission publishes September edition of the EU Food Fraud Newsletter
24. EU Farm to Fork Policy emphasises role of aquaculture in EU food security

Common Fisheries Policy

1. The European Parliament adopted a new Fisheries Control Regulation updating the requirements for fisheries monitoring, surveillance and control, setting out obligations of operators and relevant competent authorities. Under the revised system all EU fishing vessels will be monitored and their catches reported electronically, to ensure full traceability. Recreational fishers will also have to report catches digitally. Masters of vessels under 12 meters will be able to complete and submit a simplified declaration at the end of the fishing day, once they are safe in port and before landing. All boats will need to carry on board a tracking device enabling national authorities to locate and identify them at regular intervals (the requirement may be derogated for some small vessels). To eliminate wide disparities between Member States in penalties for contraventions the value of fishery products caught by a vessel will now define the minimum level of fines applied to it in case of serious infringement of the rules.

2. The Commission has adopted the proposal for a Council Regulation setting the TACS, quotas and management measures for the Mediterranean and Black Seas. In the Mediterranean Sea, the proposal keeps unchanged the measures for red coral. For blackspot seabream and deep-water shrimps this year's proposal continues a gradual reduction in catches for both species, in line with the newly agreed GFCM management plans from 2022. In the Black Sea, for sprat, the Commission proposes to maintain the 2023 catch limit. For turbot, the levels of total allowable catches (TAC) and quotas will be set and adopted at the 2023 GFCM annual session.

3. The EU has recast and updated its Regulation setting out the rules for the conservation, management, exploitation, monitoring, marketing and enforcement measures for fishery and aquaculture products, adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) since 2018. The regulation applies to both EU commercial operators and recreational fishers in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. It contains special provision for no-catch zones for the European eel, as well as a range of technical measures providing for management of stocks of giant red shrimp, blue and red shrimp, and demersal fish and other species in general. It also provides a framework for the management of the harvesting of red coral. Annexes specify port state inspection procedures for fishing vessels, fleet segmentation and methodology for determining fishing effort in each case. The regulation also delegates to the Commission the power to adopt future amendments to EU regulations to keep in line with measures adopted by the GFCM.

4. The European Commission has published its proposal for fishing opportunities (TACs and quotas) for many of the EU's main fish stocks, including under RFMOs, for 2024, 2025 and 2026. The proposed fishing opportunities are set considering scientific advice, including from ICES, and the rationale for specific proposals is set out in an explanatory memorandum. For the first time, the Commission is proposing to set nine multiannual TACs (for two to three years). The Commission is proposing to set 12 TACs at MSY resulting in increases to catch limits for five stocks: megrims, anglerfish, hake, horse mackerel in Iberian waters and plaice in Kattegat. The regulation also sets out the procedure to be followed with respect to quota transfers by EU Member States with the UK (the Commission has power to veto).

5. The Council of the EU has agreed on the TACs and quotas for the Baltic Sea for 2024, following the Commission proposal made in August this year. The Council has followed the proposal as regards the total allowable catch (TACs) for three stocks - plaice, salmon in the Gulf of Finland (+7%) and main basin salmon (-15%). The Council decided to set by-catch only allowances for the stocks of western herring, western cod and eastern cod, which means they can only be taken when accidentally. The Council also decided to allow targeted fisheries on central Baltic herring and Bothnian herring, with TACs of 40,368t and 55,000t respectively. For central herring a 30-day closure is introduced to protect aggregation of spawners.

6. Within the framework of NEAFC, the delegations of the European Union, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Norway and the United Kingdom reached an agreement on the management measures for mackerel, blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring in the North-East Atlantic for 2024. All three stocks have a total allowable catch (TAC) for 2024 set at the recommended scientific advice provided by the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES). For mackerel, the TAC is 5% lower than the TAC agreed for 2023. For blue whiting, the TAC corresponds to an increase of 12.5% compared to 2023. For the Atlanto-Scandian herring, the TAC represents a decrease of 24% compared to that set for 2023. The delegations agreed to address the issue of quota-sharing arrangements for all three stocks as soon as possible, and no later than in early 2024.

7. Stop fishing notices were published by the Commission due to exhaustion of quota by Spanish vessels fishing for marlin and Blue marlin in the Atlantic ocean and Portuguese vessels fishing for undulate ray.

8. The EU and Kiribati have signed a new Protocol to their Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which will have a duration of five years. For the first time in a so-called "tuna agreement", fishing opportunities are defined by an effort management regime (based on no. of vessels and fishing days) instead of a regime based on catch management (reference tonnage). This approach is considered by the parties to be better aligned with Kiribati's domestic legislation and in line with the way the WCPFC manages its purse seine tropical tuna fisheries. The new protocol will allow four Union purse seiners to fish up to a total of 160 fishing days annually within the Kiribati EEZ, with the possibility for the ship-owners to buy additional days (subject to stock status). MCS and reporting obligations are also defined. The EU allocated the fishing opportunities for EU vessels targeting tunas under the Agreement to Spain (3 vessels) and France (1 vessel).

9. The Joint Scientific Committee appointed under the EU Mauritania Fisheries Partnership Agreement has published its annual report on the utilisation and status of the stocks exploited by EU vessels under the Agreement. It sets out the utilisation of the EU fishing opportunities across different species and fleet segments (shrimp, hake, other demersal species, and small pelagics) as well as catches by Mauritanian and other operators. It considers in each case the sustainability of the fishing opportunities defined, as well as several questions posed by the Commission, concerning for example, supplies into fishmeal plants, demand for experimental fishing, fish livers and oil from the hake fishery, and bycatch limits.

10. The Commission has adopted a regulation amending control and inspection programmes for certain fisheries undertaken under bilateral agreements in the waters of third countries, in the North Sea, the North-East Atlantic and in the Indian Ocean. The measures include requirements for risk assessment (of non-compliant activity), electronic reporting, and joint monitoring, inspection and surveillance with 3rd country authorities.

11. Twenty Mediterranean states and the EU met in in Malta to review progress and renew their commitment to the 2017 MedFish4Ever Declaration. The meeting heard that significant progress has been achieved towards reversing overfishing, as demonstrated by latest scientific data, but that much still remains to be done to complete the 10-year road map. The meeting recognised several seminal projects to improve fisheries management, implemented by GFCM members states. It also considered future challenges in pursuing sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, especially considering financing of investments for improved sustainability. The EU reconfirmed its financial support through the dedicated GFCM Grant of EUR8 million and called upon new donors to join. Former Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella, speaking on behalf of the Commission said: "Halfway through the 10-year roadmap, we can say with confidence that MedFish4Ever has changed the way we manage our fisheries in the Mediterranean."

12. The PECH Committee of the European Parliament attended a Workshop to present the findings of a series of three research studies on subjects related to the European green deal, prepared by consultants. The three papers addressed:
i. Challenges and opportunities arising from the application of the European green deal to European fisheries, considering current solutions regarding decarbonisation and circular economy practices in fisheries and strengths and weaknesses of the regulatory framework.
ii. Challenges and opportunities for the EU fisheries and aquaculture sectors in ensuring the marine biodiversity aspects of the European green deal. It explores two case studies concerning potential cohabitation between offshore wind farms, marine protected areas and fishing activities and the interactions between fishing and protected marine species.
iii. Impact of the European green deal on food security in fisheries and aquaculture, under the EU's the farm to fork strategy's aim of sustainable food production (see below). This indicates prioritising low trophic species like bivalves and algae, as well as greater fuel efficiency and a transition to clean energy by the fishing fleet. The study predicts a net positive long-term impact on food security from sustainable production but points out that global impacts may be limited since two thirds of the EU's seafood consumption is currently imported.

13. The Commission has amended its definition of de minimis state aid for the fishery sector of EU Member States. The de minimis aid ceiling per company engaged in primary production of fishery and aquaculture products will increase from EUR30,000 to EUR40,000, subject to the establishment of a central national register. Some investments in the EU's Outermost regions (such as safety improvements to fishing vessels) may be exempted from State Aid limits.

14. The Commission's FAMENET service (Fisheries and Aquaculture Monitoring, Evaluation and Local Support Network) published a working paper on the monitoring and evaluation framework for subsidies awarded under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund. FAMENET operates under DG MARE and supports stakeholders in the implementation of the EMFAF. It replaces the functions of FAME and FARNET in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the EMFAF and the EMFF, implementing community-led local development (CLLD) in fisheries and aquaculture and communicating on the results of the EMFF and EMFAF.

15. The Commission announced that European Maritime Day 2024 will take place in Svendborg, Denmark on 30 and 31 May 2024. It will feature a large number of speakers, thematic sessions, stakeholder workshops and pitch sessions organised by stakeholders and the European Commission. The EMD targets professionals from businesses, governments, public institutions, NGOs and academia as well as EU citizens interested in the sea.

Fish Hygiene

16. During October 2022 there were 51 rapid alert notifications for fishery products. There were 21 rapid alert notifications for bivalve mollusc products, 9 rapid alert notifications for crustacean products, 21 rapid alert notifications for other fishery products and no rapid alert notifications for cephalopod or gastropod products. These included 4 consignments of live mussels from Spain, 3 consignments of clams from Italy, 5 consignments of oysters from France, and 3 consignments of shrimp from Ecuador.

17. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit of Bulgaria food safety control systems in place governing the production and placing on the market of live bivalve molluscs and marine gastropods conducted in May 2023. The audit found that there was no designation of a Competent Authority for control of production areas and no system of official controls. The majority of the requirements of EU legislation are therefore not met. There is no legal clarity or agreement regarding the mandate of different central and regional authorities involved. There is no designated laboratory for phytoplankton identification, and testing for E. coli by the National Reference Laboratory did not follow the correct procedure, risking inaccurate test results. The Bulgarian Food Safety Authority was requested to address the deficiencies in a plan of corrected actions agreed with the Commission.

18. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit of Thailand's food safety control system governing the production and placing on the EU market of fishery products, conducted in May 2023. The audit found that, overall, the official control system in place provides an adequate and sound basis for the competent authority to issue EU official certificates. However, although 208 processing establishments and 5 reefer vessels are authorised for EU export, not all establishments participating in the production chain for EU exports were subject to approval. Legislation setting standards for fishing vessels (primary production and non-primary production) and auction halls/wholesale markets was not in line with EU requirements. Numerous structural and hygiene deficiencies were found in fishing and freezer vessels and establishments. Fresh fish was transported in trucks at -11°C. About 4% of around 21,000 aquaculture farms supplying EU exports, were required only to have voluntary certification from a private operator for Good Aquaculture Practices. They are not therefore controlled by the CA at all, insofar as food safety conditions, thus undermining the validity of the attestation in the export certificate. Checks on traceability of products exported to the EU manufactured with imported raw materials found that an adequate system of control of sanitary conditions along the supply chain to the point of origin was effectively implemented. In 16 laboratories which undertake testing for official control of heavy metals in fishery products, 11 instances of methodological errors were identified, thus undermining the decisions based on the results. The Competent Authority, the Department of Fisheries, was requested to address the deficiencies in a plan of corrected actions agreed with the Commission.

19. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit of Viet Nam's food safety control systems governing the production and export to the EU market of fishery products, conducted in May/June 2023. Whilst key elements of a control system are in place, the audit found that its effectiveness and reliability is impacted by weak management and shortcomings in implementation. Branch offices of the CA and business operators were not implementing the CAs instructions in relation to the eligibility requirements for imported raw materials and freezing method of tuna. Numerous deficiencies were noted in approved establishments. The audit found an absence or ineffective pest control measures, unusable toilets, and non-compliance with temperature requirements for the storage of frozen fishery products. The audit identified that establishments with known and persistent hygiene deficiencies were allowed to continue operating, and more than 2100 establishments (such as collector premises) were not subject to approval and control. In some cases, the CA incorrectly accepted certification by a third-party assurance as evidence of compliance. Imported raw materials for use in EU supply were not accompanied by an official health certificate; some were derived from countries not authorised to supply the EU; some consignments from authorised sources were not accompanied by the correct attestation required for EU certification. RASFF follow ups were not conducted adequately in respect of aquaculture products. A series of six notifications for products from one establishment for use of irradiation on fishery products was unable to establish where the irradiation had taken place. In another case concerning residues of banned substances, the CA delegated the investigation to the exporting establishment. Weak and non-dissuasive enforcement measures (e.g. limited to guidance and recommendations for farmers) were applied to the detection of unlawful residues through residue monitoring in the production chain. The audit concludes that these shortcomings have significantly and negatively impact on the reliability and veracity of the public health attestations made in the European Union official certificates issued by the competent authority, the National Authority for Agro-Forestry-Fishery Quality, Processing and Market Development. The CA was requested to address the deficiencies in a plan of corrected actions agreed with the Commission.

20. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit of Cote d'Ivoire's food safety control systems in place governing the production and placing on the EU market of fishery products, conducted in March 2023. The audit also checked on the implementation of the recommendations of the previous DG SANTE fishery products audit report of 2019. The mission found that many of the deficiencies had been addressed, but that a number of outstanding shortcomings remain and undermine the validity of the attestation in the EU export certificate. Several valid measures in subsidiary legislation were repealed, leaving the CA with weaker controls, especially in relation to poisonous fish. The CA failed to appoint a National Contact Point (NCP) in charge of using a new interactive module in TRACES NT, and since 2021 the CCA was prevented from accessing TRACES by the Ivoirian Border Inspection and Sanitary Control Services. As a result communication of updates to the EU approved list could not be implemented. Recommended changes to the control plan and annual audit programme were designed but not implemented. Export certificates consistently failed to identify Cote d'Ivoire as country of despatch for non-originating product. In addition, the audit noted that an establishment not included in the EU-list was indirectly supplying the EU market. There were no checks at certification on the EU-eligibility of imported raw materials and manual certification outside of TRACES gave rise to several errors. Legal uncertainty in the mandate for SICOSAV (the Border Inspection and Sanitary Control Services) and absence of cooperation undermines the relationship with the Central CA, the Directorate for Veterinary Services. This impacts on the capacity of the system to correct any shortcomings. The audit concluded that these uncorrected shortcomings have a negative impact on the overall guarantees provided by the official control system. The CAs were requested to address the deficiencies in guaranteed plans for corrected actions agreed with the Commission, in some cases submitted during the mission.

21. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit of Latvian food safety control systems in place governing the production and placing on the market of fishery products, conducted in April 2023. The audit found that overall, the official control system can verify operators' compliance with the relevant European Union requirements along the production chain of fishery products. However, the system was undermined by several deficiencies; not all registered freezer and fishing vessels were subject to sanitary approval and thus remained out of the scope of official controls. Hygiene deficiencies were not always detected by the Competent Authority including unhygienic handling of fishery products in fishing vessels and the absence of temperature-recording devices in cold stores. Furthermore, the mission found that testing for official control of histamine producing species did not follow the reference method. The Central Competent Authority, the Food and Veterinary Service (FVS) was requested to address the deficiencies in a plan of corrected actions agreed with the Commission.

22. DG SANTÉ published a report of an audit of Lithuanian food safety control systems in place governing the production and placing on the market of fishery products, conducted in June 2023. The audit found that overall, the official control system in place met the requirements of EU Legislation. However, the effectiveness of the system is undermined by shortcomings with respect to the cessation of inspections of larger fishing vessels operating remotely, the lack of obligation for operators to have automatic temperature registration in their cold stores and ineffective controls over food business operators own checks concerning Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat products. The Competent Authority, the State Food and Veterinary Service was requested to address the deficiencies in a plan of corrected actions agreed with the Commission.

23. The EU Commission published the September edition of the EU Food Fraud Newsletter. Authorities in the Czech Republic detected under-weight packages of shrimp. In China 1.1 tons of smuggled live lobsters and 400 kg of other seafood were detected (with a total value of 490 000 Euros).

24. The European Union issued a press release on the May 2020 Farm to Fork policy for healthy and sustainable food. Under this a range of new measures have been adopted. The framework places a considerable emphasis on sustainable, resilient and competitive EU aquaculture as one of the pillars of the EU food security strategy. Other actions will address extending production of organic products, and creation of a European food security crisis preparedness and response mechanism. The Commission has also called for greater integration of sustainability concerns in the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission regarding standards.


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