Damanaki to support EU fisheries in wake of Russian trade ban

IN the light of Russia’s trade ban on certain fisheries products which hit the European fisheries sector this summer, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, has reassured the Council and the European Parliament that the European Commission stands ready to support the European fisheries sector.

In a letter addressed to Italian Minister, Maurizio Martina, and the Chair of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, Alain Cadec, Commissioner Damanaki outlined that the EU can provide financial support to the sector as well as the possibility of shifting unused fishing quotas to 2015.

In her letter, Commissioner Damanaki called upon the EU governments concerned by the ban to make use ‘as quickly as possible’ of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which can provide financial help to producer organisations who are unable to sell their products to Russia.

This aid enables them to store the unsold products until new markets have been found. She underlined that no approval by the European Commission is necessary to unlock these storage funds.

Commissioner Damanaki also pointed to flexibility rules, which allow Member States to carry over up to 10% of their fishing quotas to the following year.

She underlined that, given the current circumstances, she has instructed her services to examine the possibility go beyond the 10 per cent quota flexibility.

The Commissioner said that she could take a positive stance on this option, under the condition that scientific examination confirms that such a proposal would not undermine long term sustainability.

Following Russia’s announcement on 7 August to ban imports of certain fisheries products from the European Union, the European Commission is working closely with Member States authorities to gather evidence on the impact of the Russian trade measures in the fisheries sector and to outline the available support to the sectors affected by the ban.

The fisheries products affected by the ban are live, fresh, chilled, frozen, salted, in brine and smoked fish, molluscs and crustaceans. The main Member States exporting these products to Russia in 2013 were Denmark, Latvia, UK, Ireland, Estonia, Spain and France.

In 2013, the total export value of the banned EU fisheries products was close to EUR 144 million, which represents two per cent of total value of the EU’s fish and aquaculture annual product.

Russia is the EU’s sixthlargest export market for fisheries products. In 2013, EU exports of fisheries products to Russia represented five per cent, or EUR 199 million, of total EU fisheries exports. In 2013, fisheries products represented 0.2 per cent of the EU’s overall exports to Russia.

Commenting on Commissioner Damanaki’s announcement, Javier Garat, President of Europeche, the Association of National Organisations of Fishing Enterprises in the European Union, said:

‘I welcome the reaction of Commissioner Damanaki, which came in response to the industry’s joint letter (sent by Europêche, Copa-Cogeca, EAPO, FEAP and EMPA) calling for the Commission services to offer action and support to mitigate the effects of the Russian ban on EU fisheries products, imposed one month ago.

‘The Commissioner has now finally come forward to address the impact of economic uncertainty within the European fishing sector. Our fishermen are incurring serious financial losses following the ban and were feeling frustrated.

‘Hopefully the Commissioner can quickly deliver what she promises with measures for storage aid and rules on flexibility allowing Member States to carry up to 10 per cent of their fishing quotas.

‘This is a step in the right direction and we trust that the Commission will work in close cooperation with industry to analyse the external and internal impacts of the ban in the EU market to assist the entire supply chain as well as the catching sector.

‘A stable market for fishery and aquaculture products is essential especially when our fishermen are still adapting to the radical changes following the recent reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.’