News Digest n.6 / 2022
This month, MEPs adopted a deal with EU governments on providing EU fisheries and aquaculture sectors with financial support to alleviate the consequences of the war, by 620 votes in favour, 10 against and 9 abstentions. The measure would support fishers who had to cease their activities due to the war in Ukraine as well as producers and fishing and aquaculture operators whose activities were disrupted as a consequence of the Russian aggression. MEPs also agreed with the Council to amend the proposal to include also those operators and producers whose economic viability was negatively impacted by the war and the processing sector.
The EU welcomed the successful results in key areas of the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO concluded on 17 June, against a backdrop of heightened global trade tensions and a food security crisis caused by Russian's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. During the Conference, attended by the Trade Ministers of the 164-member organisation, a meaningful multilateral agreement contributing to the protection of the oceans was achieved. The agreement on harmful fisheries subsidies is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 (UN SDG). It includes a strong prohibition of subsidies contributing to illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing with unprecedented transparency provisions. Secondly, it includes an absolute prohibition of subsidies for fishing on the unregulated high seas. This is a landmark prohibition for the most vulnerable areas lacking an established and coordinated fisheries management regime. And thirdly, the provision on overfished stocks will bring sustainability rules for subsidies regarding most vulnerable stocks in the first phase of the agreement.
Aquaculture and fisheries concerns in the European Union are receiving additional funding as the European Commission finalizes Partnership Agreements with its 27 Member States. Partnership Agreements are strategic documents that program investments from the cohesion policy - the E.U.'s main investment policy – and the European Maritime, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) for 2021 to 2027. Denmark is to receive EUR 808 million (USD 864 million) for its cohesion policy investment strategy targeting competitive, innovative, and sustainable growth. Of that EUR 200 million (USD 214 million) of its EMFAF allocation will be used to improve resource efficiency and the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the aquaculture sector. Also included in the funding is the protection and restoration of marine and freshwater biodiversity, through innovation and development of selective fishing gear and river restoration.
communication on international ocean governance sets the path of EU ocean policies for years to come. Among the key policies, there’s a set of EU commitments to support the innovation, sustainability and competitiveness of the aquaculture sector. Those commitments are there for good reason: aquaculture is one of the most prominent food industry sectors in Europe and contributes vitally to food security. Yet there are still many obstacles to the expansion of the aquaculture sector, which the EU is striving to overcome, both at policy and technological level, by supporting innovative ideas and digitisation. The EU-financed SEASTAR (SurvEillance of Aquaculture farmS with neTworks of underwAter sensoRs) project is precisely one of those innovative ideas with the potential to change the way that the aquaculture sector works. SEASTAR addresses the lack of full digitalisation in the sector, which forces the aquaculture operators to perform daily tasks and monitoring activities manually or with costly in-situ interventions.
France and Spain are set to roll out stricter measures in the Gulf of Lion to protect precious fish stocks and habitats as part of conservation efforts supported by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). From the last week of June, in an area of 45 square kilometres in the Gulf of Lion, all fishing of demersal stocks (i.e. fish living and feeding on or near the bottom of the sea) carried out in a way that could endanger their sustainability is banned. Specifically, this means recreational and professional fishing with towed and bottom-set nets and bottom and mid-water longlines is prohibited. In the surrounding area – of 2017 square kilometres - fishing will be banned between November and April, whilst during the rest of the year, fishing effort (number of vessels and days at sea) cannot exceed levels established in 2008. The area offers a safe haven ("refugia") for spawners of species of high commercial value that are currently overexploited according to scientific assessments. The protection of this spot will allow for new generations of fish to come.
The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) unveiled MedSea4Fish – an ambitious long-term programme that will serve as a blueprint for making fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea more sustainable. MedSea4Fish aims to better equip and skill over 20 GFCM countries as well as spur actions at the national, subregional and regional levels so that the GFCM and its partners can continue turning the corner on overexploitation in the Mediterranean Sea. The MedSea4Fish guiding document was endorsed at the twenty-third session of the GFCM Scientific Advisory Committee on Fisheries (SAC), an annual meeting that kicked off last month. Around 110 people participated in the SAC session (21–24 June), including scientists, government representatives and other partners from across the Mediterranean.
A grant of €9 million has been awarded to operators upscaling ocean seaweed production and their market applications across Europe. Financed by the EU’s key funding program Horizon Europe, the SeaMark project is looking to expand circular seaweed cultivation and land-based, integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems. The project – started this month – will develop novel processing methods involving fermentation and biotransformation into twelve innovative seaweed-based products. The SeaMark consortium is led by “blue growth” company Ocean Rainforest and comprises 25 international, cross-disciplinary partners.
In Seychelles, an archipelago nation in the southwest Indian Ocean, fishing is the main source of food and income for many small communities like La Retraite on the island of Mahé. Every afternoon, local fishers return with their catches to sell them fresh at their new marketplace. This clean and well-equipped facility was built thanks to agreements the European Union has been making with countries like Seychelles - which allow EU vessels to fish in their territorial waters, in return for support given to the fishing sector.