Thursday,5 May,2011 09:37:50
There was an EU roundtable event on sustainable seafood at the European Seafood Exposition yesterday. EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki was there along with some EU heavyweights representing all sectors of the industry. They all gave their speeches which highlighted their commitment to a reformed EU Fisheries Policy and the Commissioner confirmed that all the paperwork was in finalization before going to Parliament. It was a happy occasion and everyone was very positive until it came to Q&A time.
The first question got right to the point of the policy from Mike Berthet (Brakes Seafood UK) who asked, "This is all good but can you get it passed?"
You can have the best reforms worked out, you can have the best systems ready to be put in place BUT if the whole process gets overtaken by politics you either have to drop sections and compromise until you resolve the issues. It is not a secret that many EU countries jealously guard their fisheries arrangements and getting them to tow the line for the good of all will be no easy pushover. All the Commissioner could reply was "We hope so."
I managed to get the last question to the Commissioner: "When can we expect the EU, if it is really serious about sustainability, to review its duties and tariffs to enable countries like Australia to compete on a level playing field?"
After all, if sustainability is the key to the future, should you not reward those countries that have applied themselves to the process and punish those that do not? What is the point of having duties (read Trade Barriers) unless they are being applied to what your own priorities are? Come on Europe let us get serious about this.
The answer was as you would expect "I met with your Fisheries Minister a short while ago and I understand the work that has been done in Australia but there is a long way to go re: tariff and duty issues so unfortunately I have no easy answer for you."
Meanwhile at the IAFI meeting, it was agreed that IAFI would conduct a feasibility study into IAFI having a Seafood Standards Equivalence Committee. Co-chairs will be Prof. Mike Dillon and Christopher Leftwich and I will be handling the Secretariat. People at the meeting committed to being involved on the electronic committee included Nigel Edwards (Seachill), Ivan Bartolo (Seafish Authority), Meaghan Dodd (Tesco), Ian Goulding (Megapesca), Peter Marshall (GT Cert). Others will be appointed to ensure good sectoral and global coverage. This will be an open and transparent process, it will be inclusive rather than exclusive and it will cover aquaculture and wild catch. It will aim to ensure that it does not 'reinvent the wheel' but it will be independent, realistic and professional. The feasibility report will be delivered at WSC in October in Washington, DC and be put forward to the IAFI Board.
Additionally, IAFI has agreed that it will establish a committee with the aim to create a "Seafood Professional" category. More on this soon.
Other items of note:
• Melanie Siggs is departing Seafood Choices Alliance
• Whilst the Australians have been at ESE, their products have increased in value due to the strong currency
• Seems to be a larger number of politicians making their presence at ESE
• The vibes seems to be positive, business seems to be in the air and it is exciting and satisfying
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