The European Parliament’s fisheries committee has voted on the future EU Common Market Organisation (CMO). In its September 2012 session, the European Parliament plenary will vote on this opinion, as part of the reform process of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which is to be decided jointly by the Parliament and the Council, and is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2013.
The approved text underlines that, in order to improve information to consumers, all fish and aquaculture products will have to specify the fish stock and the area where it was caught or farmed, as well as the date of landing for fresh fish products. Fish products previously frozen, but sold as fresh, will have to carry the words ‘defrosted products’ on their labels. The fisheries committee also called on the Commission to table a legislative proposal by 1 January 2015 to introduce a new EU eco-labelling system for fisheries products. The fisheries committee’s opinion also addresses the issue of the marketing of discards, which will be sold, at market rates, to the processing sector for fishoil, fishmeal, pet food and bait.
The EU Fish Processors and Traders Association (AIPCE-CEP), which represents 4,000 enterprises, welcomed the vote and highlighted that they ‘look forward to a final outcome which enables processors to continue to deliver sustainable supplies of quality fish to consumers at prices they can afford’.
Seafood Source reports that the introduction of an EU eco-label could possibly be ‘in association with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council’. In a further interview, it also asked the rapporteur how this opinion would help the EU to achieve the level playing field that has long been requested by the EU fishing sector, which claims that it has to face unfair competition from imports. The rapporteur highlighted that ‘because smaller inshore vessels can catch and land within half a day, I proposed a landing date to create a level playing field ... As an EU eco-label became increasingly sought after by consumers, it would be introduced to non-EU fisheries if they abided by the same EU hygiene, welfare and even socio-economic rules’.
The EP fisheries committee proposals, if adopted in the context of CFP reform, will have implications for ACP fish trade with the EU. Information such as the area in which ACP fish have been caught are already available through the IUU catch-certification scheme, but measures will have to be taken so that such information finds its way onto the label, rather than duplicating the information collection through another scheme that would add to the administrative burden for ACP producers. The introduction of an EU eco-labelling system needs further consideration, particularly as to whether it will cover environmental aspects of the production (in a similar way to the MSC) or whether it would also include welfare and socio-economic criteria, as suggested by the rapporteur.