Fisheries and European standards

Nearly half of the world’s population rely on fish for 20% of their daily protein intake, with this rising to beyond 70% for some coastal communities. The market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated to be $3 trillion per year, which is roughly 5% of global GDP. This is hugely significant and demonstrates how the sea contributes to poverty eradication by creating jobs and sustainable livelihoods for communities and individuals. Overfishing is a big issue the oceans are facing. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that the amount of overfished stocks has tripled globally over the past half a century, and one-third of assessed fisheries in the world are being pushed beyond their biological capacity. In 2018, the European Commission began evaluating the marketing standards for fishery and aquaculture products, which had remained largely unchanged. Today EU member states must manage fish stocks in a sustainable way. In other words they must prevent overfishing. Marine fisheries must also comply with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) of the European Union (EU), which is aimed at sustainable management of fish stocks. The aim of the CFP is to ensure that fisheries and aquaculture are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. It is also concerned with maintaining employment and the sector’s economic viability. Catch limits allow fishers to maximise their catch while avoiding overfishing. Certain areas of the sea may also be closed to fishing. The Common Fisheries Policy also concerns the marketing and processing of fish. Sustainable fisheries policy also includes requirements for fishing vessels. Fishing vessels longer than 12 metres are required to report their logbook data, including catch data, electronically; have an approved satellite-based vessel monitoring system (VMS) on board. VMS data show, for instance, the effect of fishing on the seabed in a particular area. Fishing vessels longer than 18 metres are also required to have an automatic identification system (AIS) on board. What requirements must fish and seafood comply with to be allowed on the European market? Food safety is important in Europe. The EU has therefore set boundaries to regulate the import of seafood. With issues such as mislabelling, fraud and other illegal practices becoming more visible, the European Commission, businesses and consumers have responded. There is an increasing number of requirements (mandatory, market and niche), with which non UE product must comply, to be able to enter the European market. Products will have to be correctly labelled, with proof of source and with all necessary health certificates. Meeting all requirements starts in each country of origin. These requirements are enforced by local government through a competent authority accredited by the European authorities. For this reason, each country needs to have regulations and capacity in place to ensure that the fish and seafood exported will meet European food safety requirements, and pose no threat to European consumers. Maximum residue levels must not be exceeded for fish and seafood, depending on the species and the source (fisheries or aquaculture), it means to have systems in place in processing establishments but also upstream in the supply chain. It has also to be proven that fish and seafood come from legal sources (IUU) and all the wild fish products need to be sent with a catch certificate that is approved by competent authority in each country. The European authorities have committed to increasing their efforts to sustain the health of global oceans, which is reflected in the pressure that authorities put on all countries to comply with the IUU Regulation. Thailand, Vietnam and Ecuador have been confronted by yellow cards that require the authorities in the countries to take action against IUU fisheries. If the government does not take action, European authorities might impose a red card, which would mean a ban on European imports of fish and seafood from that origin. The EU the Registered Exporter System (REX) for guarantee of origin offer benefit from reduced or even removed import tariffs. This is the case if the country is listed as ‘Standard GSP’, ‘GSP+’ or ‘EBA’ (Everything But Arms) with regard to the European Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). However, this benefit is given only proving that the product exported originates from the country from which it is exported. The high-end retail niche market demands the use of new technology such as traceability or blockchain, and a much higher level of control of your supply chain. Consumers are more interested in the source of their seafood, which encourages traceability in retail and also stimulates the increase in organically certified seafood. The level of traceability can go as far as knowing which pond the shrimp came from or the name of the fisherman who caught the fish. As an exporter, it is not easy to fulfil these demands; however, it can provide with broader market access and premium prices. Traceability innovators are offering an increasing number of traceability services and the market is showing interest, even if it is mostly just a niche market.