The Eurobarometer, a survey since 1973 of economic and social indicators, operated by the European Commission, has found, once again, that Europeans love fish. European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella reacted to the most recent report by highlighting the importance of ensuring the sustainability of European fisheries so that “…our citizens can enjoy these tasty products in the long term.” Considerable progress has been made in this regard over the last years, he said, adding that aquaculture too played an important role, “farmed fish from the EU is a sustainable source of protein and other nutrients. In a low-carbon society, its role will only increase.” Europeans spend twice as much, per person, on fish than do Americans because, according to the survey of people’s opinion, most (74% of survey respondents) find it healthy, and tasty. Europeans also prefer the local fishmonger, who sells local fish, rather than other retail channels, where the fish may be imported, and where the seller may not be as acquainted with seafood, how to treat it, recipes, and so on. Fishmongers also often offer a more varied assortment of seafood, which the survey respondents also valued. Trust was another issue, the respondents also indicated they felt greater confidence in their seafood purchases because of the strict EU rules on product quality, labelling, and other benefits.
Fishermen in Northern Ireland (NI) are troubled by EU demands to allow EU vessels full access to UK fishing waters following Brexit. Harry Wick, CAO of the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation, who represents 75% of the NI fishing fleet, told the News Letter that the UK has the best fisheries waters in the EU but won’t have control over them, despite Brexit. His comments were made after the 27 remaining EU leaders published a statement that vowed to protect their own interests, on issues from fishing to fair competition and the rights of citizens. Calling the current situation unfair, Mr Wick noted that French and Spanish fisherman today take 15% of prawns from the Irish Sea; the French catch 85% of cod from the English Channel while the UK gets only 11%; the UK holds 70% of the Irish sea territory but is only allowed 30% of cod from it; EU vessels catch six times as much fish in UK waters as UK vessels catch in EU waters; and that more than nine of ten commercial fishermen in the UK voted for Brexit. As a response, EU fishermen argue that they have fished the areas for centuries and that their industries are heavily dependent on catches in UK water. They also point out that much of the UK’s own produce is exported to the EU. The French want the status quo to remain despite Brexit, said Mr Wick, but after Brexit we would expect our fair share from UK waters.
A 4-year collaboration agreement was signed by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) and UNE, the Spanish Association for Standardisation building on a history of close collaboration going back to 2006. The two organisations have been cooperating to standardise processes and products in the fishing and aquaculture industry. The purpose of the new agreement is to develop a set of regulatory documents in matters concerning traceability, consumer information, work conditions, food hygiene and safety, and the marketing of fishing and aquaculture products.
The technical standards are developed by the UNE Technical Standardisation Committees, one for fishing, the CTN 195, and another for aquaculture, the CTN 173, and will result in a set of guidelines that can be used by relevant associations and other stakeholders on a voluntary basis. The guidelines will be developed by leading experts in their respective fields.
Recommendations by The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) sees a drastic reduction in fishing opportunities for mackerel (Scomber Scombrus) in 2019. ICES recommended a reduction of 42%, which would seriously affect the Cantabrian coastal fleet.
Such a drastic reduction comes off the back of the latest ICES study on the population of mackerel. Scientists from ICES suggest that the total catches should not exceed 318 403 tonnes in 2019. For 2018, The European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands agreed to a quota of 816 797 tonnes. 550 948 tonnes above the limit recommended by ICES for 2019.
Reasoning behind such a drastic reduction is twofold. The decrease in the spawning biomass since 2011 and a fishing mortality that biologists consider is above the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
If these recommendations are followed it would leave the EU with approximately half of the 318 043 tonnes due to distributions it makes with Norway and the Faroe Islands. Due to EU allocations Spain would have 76 % of the total or equivalent to 11 927 tonnes.
Positive news for Spain, after intense negotiations between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Portuguese delegation an agreement was reached. This agreement enabled Spain to immediately dispose of an extra 3000 tonnes of horse mackerel from ICES zone 9a. This zone comprises the south of Galicia, the Gulf of Cadiz and the west of Portugal.
Beneficiaries of this deal are the local coastal fleets that include fleets from the Bay of Biscay and Northwest area, and the Gulf of Cardiz.
The Executive Committee of the Baltic Sea Advisory Council met on 6 November to discuss cod and herring management and a wide variety of administrative issues. Earlier that day, at an Extraordinary General Assembly, Esben Sverdrup-Jensen, chief executive officer of the Danish Pelagic Producers Organisation, was elected the Executive Committee’s new chairperson.
In response to the EU Council’s decisions regarding western cod, namely, to increase the TAC by 70% compared to 2018, which is within the range recommended by the BSAC, to lift the summer closure, and to set a bag limit at seven specimens, a number of concerns were raised by attendees. The impact of seasonal closures was debated with some voices saying they protect spawning stocks, while others felt they did not contribute substantially to sustainable exploitation. The eastern Baltic stock is not doing well and ways to assess it better will be discussed by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) at a meeting in February 2019. Decisions by the EU Council to reduce the TAC by 15% and at the same time restrict the closed period to one month for vessels above 12 m were met with dismay. Some fishermens representatives felt that the stock cannot be improved by solely reducing the fishing pressure as there are environmental factors which have a negative impact on the stock. Others felt that the eastern cod should be managed by other means than solely a TAC decrease and that the decision to lift the closures was not right.
A point was raised about the lack of impact the BSAC advice seemed to have on work by the Commission and the European Parliament, and that explanations were rarely forthcoming when these institutions chose not to follow the advice tendered by the BSAC. The speaker felt that If the BSAC could not show the effect of its work to its member organisations then perhaps its raison d’etre should be called into question. The time spent on procedural issues was also decried, but it was pointed out that steps to change this had already been taken with a decision by the general assembly to focus on substantive issues.
European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, and Mr Kim Young-Choon, Minister for Oceans and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea have agreed to collaborate closely to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The new alliance, in line with the objectives of the EU’s Ocean Governance strategy will;
- exchange information about suspected IUU-activities
- enhance global traceability of fishery products threatened by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, through a risk-based, electronic catch documentation and certification system
- join forces in supporting developing states in the fight against IUU fishing and the promotion of sustainable fishing through education and training
- strengthen cooperation in international fora, including regional fisheries management organisations.
On October 18, Spanish authorities with the help of EUROPOL, announced the arrest of nearly 80 men involved in an extensive operation of illegal bluefin tuna trading.
Authorities investigated and uncovered this large illegal network, which involved multiple fishing companies and distributors including one of Europe’s biggest seafood farming companies, the Spanish Ricardo Fuentes and Sons Group. The illegal catches were fished in Italy and Malta and entered the EU principally through Malta. Malta traded for twice the amount of illegal tuna than legal tuna for an annual profit of €12 5 million.
Although the European Union (EU) has taken measures to reduce these sorts of activities, this operation has uncovered the extent of illegal fishing in EU waters. According to Samantha Burgess who is the Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office, this level of illegal fishing and trading contradicts the leadership role of the EU on combatting the global fight against illegal fishing. She believes that member states need to take more responsibility when it comes to preventing illegal fishing and more needs to improve traceability, if Europe wants to achieve a legal seafood market and sustainable fisheries governance. Last year, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was the 6th most valuable crime globally.
On October the 24th, the commission outlined a proposal on the fishing opportunities in the Black Sea. It focused on the commercially most important species, sprat and turbot with Romania and Bulgaria sharing the catch limit and quotas.
The proposals include for turbot, a catch limit of 114 tonnes, that will be distributed equally between Bulgaria and Romania. There was also a recommendation to limit turbot fishing to 180 days per year and a complete ban over a two month period (April 15th to June 15th). The measures aim to increase the population of this Black Sea icon.
For sprat the commission suggests maintaining the catch limit of 11 475 tonnes of that Romania will receive 30% and Bulgaria the larger 70% share.
The Commission’s recommendations comes from a roll over from 2018 and advice giving from the Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). It follows the multiannual management plan for turbot fisheries in the Black Sea, approved in 2017 by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).
Member States will examine the proposals outlined by the Commission when they meet at the December Council on Agriculture and Fisheries (December 17-18).
For the first time ever, Latvia was present with a booth at the Busan International Seafood & Fisheries Expo 2018.
Busan is the second largest city in the Republic of Korea and annually holds this expo. The expo is one of the leading professional fisheries fairs in Asia. 1075 booths, including 25 national stands representing all continents participated in this year’s event.
The Latvian national stand was organized by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) and received support from the Embassy of Latvia in the Republic of Korea. During this event three companies displayed their products, PERUZA a manufacturer of seafood processing equipment, together with BANGA and FROZEN FOOD (the Amberfish brand) that are both fish processing companies.