On June 11th of this year, the General Secretariat of the Council of Europe issued a communication to the Permanent Representatives Committee outlining the draft proposal for the common organisation of markets in fisheries and aquaculture products. Feeding into Legislative deliberations at the Council of Europe since this communication, this draft proposal indicates very important steps are being taken at a European level towards the goals of the Labelfish Project. Of particular note, will be the requirement for mandatory information on gear type used in wild capture fisheries. While there are fishing areas designated in such a way as to limit the use of gears with higher environmental impacts, (e.g. the Cod recovery areas in the Irish Sea), and specific licence types within countries for boats using certain gear types, this type of information is not something that is provided at a consumer/retail level. Fishing strategies specifically mentioned in the text include the use of gears that prevent catch of under-size fish, thus reducing discards to a level in keeping with the Common Fisheries Policy. With further regard to the labelling, the document indicates the importance of consumers being allowed to make “informed choices” vis-à-vis origins and methods of production for fish products on sale in the EU. At a more general level, the document makes a very clear, explicit reference to the importance of having fully comprehensible information for consumers on labelling for fish products. This is of course clearly aligned with the Labelfish project’s goals.
Aside from the consumer protection proposed, the document makes special reference to a number of different areas of particular interest to the Labelfish Project. It also acknowledges the importance of the indigenous fishing industries in areas across European coastal regions, and particularly the importance of defending the European industry against unfair market threats from outside the EU bringing in products which may not be of a comparable standard to what is being fished within the EU. It references the importance of ensuring similar standards for products brought into the market in Europe from third countries (e.g. standards of food safety, sustainability and social standards) going so far as to say that “imported products entering the Union market [must] comply with the same marketing standards as Union producers have to meet”. Feeding into the Labelfish goal of a trans-national network of stakeholders in fish sustainability, labelling and genetics, the document sets out the importance of encouraging producer organisations between EU countries and not just within them. Vitally, in terms of the Labelfish Project, and the protection of consumer and producer rights in Europe, the communication highlights the obligation on member states to make full use of available technology, including DNA-testing, in order to deter operators from falsely labelling catches”.