January 21, 2004



EU Fishery Products Outlook




Important decisions on fisheries management are taken each year at the December Fisheries Council.  Like last year, the Council had to negotiate fishing quotas against a background of scientists' advice that fishing for cod and other endangered species should be suspended completely.  In addition to setting fishing possibilities for 2004, the Fisheries Council had to decide on the establishment of recovery plans for cod and Northern hake stocks.  As an alternative to the recommended moratorium on fisheries of endangered stocks, the Commission proposed drastic cuts in fishing possibilities for a number of stocks as well as fishing effort limitations and control measures to ensure their proper implementation


The Fisheries Ministers agreed on the 2004 fishing quotas, a long-term recovery plan for cod, the basic principles for a recovery plan for sole, southern hake and lobster and reached political agreement on a recovery plan for northern hake.


In 2003, EU trade primarily comprised unprocessed fishery products.  81% of total EU fish imports were non-processed fishery products.  Due to the severe reductions in catch quotas, the EU fish processing industry is increasingly sourcing fishery products from non-EU countries.


In the summer of 2003, the U.S.' seafood inspection system was audited by the EU's Food & Veterinary Office.  The EU inspection team found that the U.S. does not meet the EU's equivalency requirements and recommended the submission of an action plan outlining measures to rectify the deficiencies.






EU Fish Catches


In 2001, the EU-15 reported catches of 6.2 MMT of fish and fishery products, representing 6.7% of 2001 world catch.  Total EU catches went up by 3% compared to 2000.  24% of total EU catches was by Denmark, followed by Spain (18%), the U.K. (12%) and France (11%).  Fish catches in 2001 increased in Germany, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands but decreased in most other member states.  About 75% of the EU catches originate in the Northeast Atlantic.  The most significant increases occurred in Southwest Atlantic region (42%) and in the West region of the Indian Ocean (37%).


Sandeels, Atlantic herring, sprat and mackerel, mainly intended for the processing industry, are the major species in the EU-15 catches in 2001.  Unsurprisingly, as a result of the reduced catch limits, catches of traditional food fish such as cod (-5%) and hake (-26%) decreased again in 2001.




Aquaculture plays an important economic role in the EU.  It helps to compensate for the reductions in EU catch quotas and generates jobs in areas which generally lack other industries.  Four species dominate EU production:  trout, salmon, mussels and oysters.  As a result of increased expertise, fish farmers have been turning their attention to more exotic species such as sea bass, sea bream and turbot.  Aquaculture projects can benefit from EU financial support.


In spite of its rapid growth in recent years, aquaculture has run into a number of problems such as increased competition and fluctuation in demand.  Greater public awareness of environment protection and increased food safety requirements such as the requirements for additives, hygiene, packaging and labeling, has resulted in a more complex regulatory context.  New aquaculture projects as well as some day-to-day operations require permissions from various authorities.  Technical problems and animal diseases also add to the vulnerability of the industry.


In 2001, the EU-15 produced 1.3 MMT of fishery products from aquaculture, accounting for 17.5% of the total fisheries production in the EU.  Major producers are Spain (312 647 MT), France (252 062 MT) and Italy (221 269 MT).  Main species produced in the EU are mussels (535 623 MT), rainbow trout (226 549 MT), Atlantic salmon (162 267 MT) and oysters (133 551 MT).  Oysters and mussels represent 76% of these three countries' production.  The UK is the biggest fish producer:  89% of its total production is of fish. 




In November 2003, Fisheries Commissioner Fischler presented the European Commission¡¯s analysis of the latest scientific advice delivered by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF). 


According to scientists, cod, whiting and southern hake stocks are in such an alarming condition that an outright ban should be imposed.  ICES advised a moratorium on fisheries of cod in the North Sea, Skagerrak, Eastern Channel, Irish Sea and West of Scotland and on whiting in the Irish Sea.  In the case of hake from Ireland down to Portugal, ICES recommended rebuilding plans and zero catch for southern hake.  Rebuilding plans were also advised for plaice in the North Sea, cod and plaice in the Celtic Sea and sole in the western Channel and Bay of Biscay.


ICES' report was not all negative.  North Sea haddock stocks are at the highest level in thirty years and stocks of mackerel and saithe are also in good condition.


Commissioner Fischler concluded that fisheries management by Total Allowable Catches (TACs) alone is not sufficiently effective in controlling the rate of exploitation in mixed demersal (living close to the sea floor) fisheries.  Fishing effort has to be controlled to reduce fishing mortality and to rebuild endangered stocks.




The European Commission negotiates fisheries agreements with third countries on behalf of the member states.  Fisheries agreements become more and more important due to the imbalance between on the one hand, European demand for fish and the fishing capacity of the EU fleet and on the other, the dwindling fish stocks in European waters.  The nature of the fisheries agreement varies in terms of the partner country.  Reciprocity agreements - exchanging fishing opportunities in their respective waters - are usually concluded with Northern European countries which have the capacity to fully exploit their resources.  With other countries which do not fully exploit their fishery resources, in particular African and Indian Ocean countries, the EU pays a financial contribution to access their fishing zones.  Criticism on the EU's CFP being flagrantly incoherent with EU development policy objectives prompted the Commission's publication of a Communication announcing a move from purely commercial arrangements to partnership agreements.  The aim of these new partnership agreements is to gradually develop a policy leading to sustainable fisheries while achieving the development objectives.




Third countries exporting fisheries products to the EU must have public health legislation and inspection systems in place equivalent to those in the EU.  A guidance document for third country authorities on the procedures to be followed when importing live animals and animal products into the EU was published on the Internet in October 2003.


Third countries authorized to export fishery products and bivalve mollusks to the EU are classified into two categories.  The first category includes "fully harmonized" countries which have been audited by an EU inspection team and for which a specific decision has been taken under Council Directive 91/493/EEC (directive on production standards for fishery products).  A list of establishments (processing plants, factory vessels and freezer vessels) is included in these specific decisions together with the format of the health certificate.  The second category includes "pre-listed" countries which, although not yet inspected by the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office, have supplied sufficient guarantees concerning their inspection systems and sanitary requirements to be judged equivalent.  Imports from such countries may only be marketed in the importing member state.  In order to move from the "pre-listed" country group to the "fully harmonized group", the U.S. was audited in the summer of 2003.






EU consumers have a taste for cod, hake and sole, which are endangered fish species.  Their unfamiliarity with certain fish species that could be supplied from sustainable fish sources makes them want to stick with the traditional species.


EU per capita supply data for 1999 are the most recent data available.




The EU recorded the world's second highest trade deficit, behind Japan, in fishery products.  In value, imports in 2002 totaled EUR 12.1 billion while exports totaled EUR 2.1 billion, a trade deficit of EUR 10 billion.  In volume, the EU imported 3.8 million MT and exported 1.4 million MT, a deficit of 2.4 million MT.  Norway is still the EU¡¯s main supplier of fishery products, accounting for 15.7% of the EU's total fishery products imports.  With the exception of Ireland, all EU member states have a negative trade balance in fishery products. 


The EU's main trading partners for imports are Norway, U.S., Iceland, Russia, Argentina, Morocco, Faroe Islands, Thailand, Canada, India and China.  The EU's main export destinations are Japan, Switzerland, U.S., Russia, Nigeria, Norway, China, Poland, Ivory Coast and Egypt.  The EU ban of Chinese shrimps treated with antibiotics resulted in a significant drop in 2002 in EU imports from China (-47% in volume and -51% in value compared to 2001).


Trade - Total EU


In 2002, total EU imports of fishery products amounted to 3.8 million MT.  Spain retains its first place as the major importing member state (25%), followed by Denmark (14%), the U.K. (12%), Germany (12%) and Italy (9%).  The Netherlands (32%) and Spain (20%) are the biggest exporting member states.


EU trade primarily comprised unprocessed fishery products.  81% of total EU fish imports were non-processed fishery products.  Due to the severe reductions in catch quotas, the EU fish processing industry is increasingly sourcing fishery products from non-EU countries.  Representing 22% of total EU fish imports, fish fillets and other fish meat (HS code 0304) are the main imported fishery products.  Of the major EU importing member states, Spain is mainly importing crustaceans, mollusks and frozen fish (75% of its imports); Denmark fresh or chilled fish (49%); U.K. prepared or preserved fish (36%); Germany fish fillets & other fish meat (62%) and Italy mollusks (37%).


Trade - EU/US


In calendar year 2002, the U.S. was one of the main suppliers to the EU of canned salmon, groundfish fillets and lobster.  EU imports from the U.S. and its share of total EU imports were as follows:  salmon 17,160 MT (6%), canned salmon 23,082 MT (68%), groundfish 15,582 MT (5%), groundfish fillets 83,214 MT (22%), flatfish 324 MT (1%), lobster 6,688 MT (32%) and squid/cuttlefish 12,220 MT (5%).


EU imports of groundfish fillets from the U.S. almost doubled (+90%).  Frozen fillets of Alaska Pollack account for 95% of imported U.S. groundfish fillets and were mainly imported by Germany (47,720 MT) and France (14,189 MT).


EU imports of U.S. lobster remained stable while imports from South American countries increased considerably:  Cuba (+27%), Bahamas (+28%) and El Salvador, Peru and Nicaragua (newcomers in the top-10 origins).


Although total EU imports of canned salmon decreased by 24%, imports from the U.S. rose by 6% while imports from Canada were halved.  EU imports of fresh U.S. salmon dropped by 23%.  The U.S.' main competitors are Norway, the Faroe Islands, Canada and Chile, the former representing 81% of the EU¡¯s total imports.  Increased competition between those countries has led to a decline in prices.



Source: USDA

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