Control of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, recognized as a significant problem that affects fish stocks globally, was the focus of the event in Edinburgh, which was addressed by the European Commissioner Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which hosted the event, said that the aim of the meeting was to make the Commission more aware of the work currently being done in the UK towards preventing IUU prior to EU regulation on the issue in 2010 and the review of the EU fisheries policy in early 2009.
“The EU is currently implementing regulations to control IUU fishing and its development and implementation were discussed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and DG Mare at the meeting.
“From the AIPCE whitefish study, it is clear that the EU is dependent on fishery product imports to the extent of some 60 per cent and this is true also for the UK at national level,” said Cliff Morrison, chair of the FDF’s seafood group.
Commissioner Borg said that for fishing to remain a viable economic activity and one that can deliver stable supplies at good prices, it must be carried out in a responsible fashion.
“Changes in consumption patterns in Europe have increased the consumer appetite for information on fishery products and sustainable sourcing,” claims Borg.
He said an appropriate balance between supply and demand and preference for EU production without damaging the growing demands of the processing industry have been the key goals of the Common Market Organisation (CMO), itself a key element of the Common Fisheries Policy.
According to Borg, processors, traders and importers engaged in operations with legally caught fish will benefit from the EU catch certification scheme, as it will prevent illegal catches and operators from accessing markets and gaining an edge through lower operational costs.
He said in tandem with the IUU Regulation, the Commission is taking steps in other areas such as fuel prices and that the forthcoming reform of the control system will contribute to conservation efforts, as well as providing reassurance for businesses and consumers that the fish they buy has been caught legally.
He added that the Commission is evaluating eco-labelling and is planning to set up a public-private partnership to define the minimum standards for a sustainable fishing label.
Purchasing risk management
A spokesperson for the FDF told FoodProductionDaily.com that AIPCE members outlined the positive steps being taken to address IUU fishing and she said that a tool to develop a risk management protocol for international seafood purchasing sparked a lot of interest from participants at the event.
Seafish, an agency that was set up to deliver expertise and support to the UK seafood industry, said that its new risk protocol can determine where there are risks in the seafood supply chain and how can they be mitigated.
The group said it is particularly looking at guaranteeing safe and legal fresh tuna supply chains into the UK, and that it expects to trial the tool with some of the UK’s leading retailers in the coming weeks.
“This is a precautionary approach as there is no evidence to show that illegally imported fish is being brought into the UK; however, we believe the use of this protocol will copper-bottom the supply chain,” said Jon Harman, developmental director at Seafish.
The FDF said the protocol is an example of UK best practice that could be applied throughout the EU.