Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Sixth Report

13 Health requirements for aquaculture



COM(05) 362

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Draft Council Directive on animal health requirements for aquaculture animals and products thereof, and on the prevention and control of certain diseases in aquatic animals.

Draft Council Decision amending Decision 90/424/EEC on expenditure in the veterinary field.

Commission Staff working document: Annex to Council Directive on animal health requirements for aquaculture animals and products thereof, and on the prevention and control of certain diseases in aquatic animals, and to the draft Council Decision amending Decision 90/424/EEC on expenditure in the veterinary field.

Legal baseArticle 37EC; consultation; QMV
DepartmentEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 10 July 2006
Previous Committee ReportHC 34-viii (2005-06), para 3 (2 November 2005)
To be discussed in CouncilSeptember 2006
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared; but further information requested


13.1 According to the Commission, existing Community legislation dealing with aquaculture[43] was developed two decades ago when there were only 12 Member States, and its primary aim was to protect the main elements at that time, namely salmon and trout and oyster farming. It now believes that these measures need to be updated to reflect the broader range of aquaculture practices and species found in the enlarged Community, and to take into account of the developments which have taken place within the industry, of scientific advances in this field, and of relevant international agreements and standards.

13.2 It therefore put forward in August 2005 this proposal, which is described as primarily a deregulatory framework measure with the capability, through more flexible provisions and increased reliance on Community secondary legislation, to enable Member States and the Commission to be more responsive to future developments in aquaculture and aquatic animal health. In particular, although the proposal maintains many of the principles laid down in the current legislation, its principal aim will be the prevention rather than the control of disease.

13.3 As a consequence, it introduces changes in a number of areas set out in paragraph 3.3 of our Report of 2 November 2005, notably the authorisation of aquaculture production businesses and processing establishments; the application of a risk based animal health surveillance scheme; the centralised electronic recording of aquaculture animal movements; restrictions on the placing on the market of aquaculture animals which are sourced directly from stock subject to increased mortality or a clinical outbreak of disease in the preceding 31 days; the freedom to trade in species not defined as susceptible to one or more of listed diseases; the ability of individual Member States to declare disease freedom for zones or compartments within their territories; and provision for a Member State to adopt measures to control diseases of national importance.

13.4 We were told by the Government that the UK currently enjoys high fish health status, compared with much of continental Europe, and that it is important that any changes to the current regime should not jeopardise that status. In addition, our attention was drawn to a number of specific concerns, notably:

  • that devolving to a Member State the facility to declare zones or compartments within its territory to be disease-free would make it easier to have a large number of such zones within an area where a disease is endemic: consequently, in order for the new system to operate satisfactorily without increasing the risk of introducing disease, it would have to be transparent, and applied rigorously by Member States;
  • that gyrodactylus salaris (Gs)[44] had not been included in non-exotic diseases listed in Annex III of the proposal as requiring control measures to be taken: the UK is currently recognised as having freedom from this parasite, and it therefore intended to press for its listing in Annex III, and for the retention of the safeguard measures which currently operate to prevent its introduction; and
  • that implementation of the measures could potentially lead to markedly increased costs: the UK will therefore be concerned to ensure that these requirements are proportionate to the risk faced, and that the measures taken will not give rise to any additional Community funding, since this would have to come from a Member State's allocation under the European Fisheries Fund, and would thus require it to reduce expenditure in another area.

13.5 Although the Government had provided an initial Regulatory Impact Assessment, which suggested that the cost of the measure cannot be assessed fully at this stage because many of the details of the new regime will be elaborated through secondary legislation to be adopted by the Commission, it had identified two potential areas of financial impact. These were the administrative burden due to the authorisation of businesses and the inspections required under a risk-based surveillance scheme. In view of these concerns, we said that we intended to hold the document under scrutiny, pending an indication of whether, and how far, it proved possible to allay them during negotiations in Brussels.

Minister's letter of 10 July 2006

13.6 We have now received a letter of 10 July 2006 from the Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Ben Bradshaw), in which he says that, as a result of discussions in Brussels:

  • a mechanism has been written into the proposal whereby other Member States will have 60 days to consider the evidence supporting a Member State's declaration of disease-free zones within its territory: where those Member States have significant concerns about that evidence, this period may be extended to 90 days, and any continuing concerns can then be referred to the Commission for arbitration, with a provision to suspend a declaration via comitology if the evidence is found to be defective; and
  • although it has not proved possible either to include Gs in the list of diseases in Annex III, or to include a specific reference in the main body of the Directive to the importance of controlling it, the UK has secured an amendment permitting national provision for unlisted diseases such as Gs where they constitute a significant risk to wild aquatic and aquaculture animals, and current safeguard measures for Gs contained in a Commission Decision[45] pending the adoption of measures under the new Directive will continue: in addition, the Commissioner has stated that it is the Commission's intention within the framework of the new Directive to ensure the future protection of UK rivers against Gs in line with internationally accepted risk mitigation.

13.7 The Minister says that the first of these steps should ensure that Member States, such as the UK, with high fish health status can ensure that movements of fish from newly declared disease-free areas are based on robust risk mitigation principles and requirements, whilst the second effectively maintains current health guarantees. More generally, he says that the proposed measure contains most of the mechanisms needed to ensure that there is no greater risk than at present of introducing disease to the wild and farmed environment, though, since a number of areas remain to be elaborated by secondary legislation to be adopted by the Commission, this will depend on the extent to which robust measures can be negotiated at that stage. Similarly, the need for such legislation makes it difficult to assess fully at this stage the cost of the measure and its likely impact on business, though the Government will be aiming to minimise these where this is practically possible and consistent with adequate risk mitigation. Overall, he says that the Government is broadly content with the main thrust of the proposal, and is satisfied that it has achieved as much as it could in the time allocated for discussion of the proposal in Brussels.


13.8 We note that the Government has now secured amendments which meets its earlier concerns over possible risks which this proposal might pose to the UK's fish health status, and that it is now content with the broad thrust of the measures proposed. Consequently, although it will not be possible to provide a definitive assessment of the proposal's costs and impact until secondary legislation has been adopted by the Commission, we are content to clear the document. We would, however, be glad if the Government could let us know in due course when those aspects of the proposal have been clarified.

43   Council Directive 91/67/EEC on the animal health conditions governing the placing on the market of aquaculture animals and products; Council Directive 93/53/EEC introducing minimum Community measures for the control of certain fish diseases; Council Directive 75/70/EC introducing minimum Community measures for the control of certain diseases affecting bivalve molluscs. Back

44   A parasite which affects wild salmon populations. Back

45   2004/453/EC. Back

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