SEVENTH SPECIAL REPORT
The Agriculture Committee has agreed to
the following Special Report:
The Committee has received the following memorandum
from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in reply
to the Eighth Report from the Committee of this Session, Sea
Fishing, made to the House on 27 July 1999.
* * * *
i. This response to the Commons Agriculture
Committee's report on Sea Fishing has been prepared by the Ministry
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in consultation with
other Government Departments. The devolved administrations have
also been consulted in its preparation because of their responsibilities
for sea fishing. The response takes account of their views but
it does not bind them to specific positions in relation to devolved
ii. As the Committee recognised fisheries
management is one of the functions of the devolved administrations.
The expectation is that there will be a close and collaborative
approach between all the fisheries departments of the UK and that
the need to sustain a unified approach to the management of fish
quotas and the fishing fleet will continue to underlie the day
to day arrangements. Although not necessarily mentioned at every
point in this document, it can be taken that close consultation
will take place between the several administrations in developing
and implementing policy throughout the UK.
iii. Each of the Committee's recommendations
is shown below in bold and is followed by the response. For convenience
the term "Fisheries
Departments" is used to describe
all the administrations responsible for fisheries both in the
UK Government and in the devolved administrations.
Government strategy and objectives
1. Our own conclusions based on this inquiry
suggest five essential objectives of any fisheries management
system. It should:
sustainability of resources to safeguard the long term success
of both the stocks and the industry:
that the stocks are exploited in the most efficient way, so that
fishermen are not drawn into a race for fish;
the profitability and competitiveness of the fishing industry
from vessel to retailer;
- minimise both the cost to the public purse
and the level of Government intervention; and
the complexity of regulation while maximising the responsibility
for that process given to the industry consistent with securing
In some of these respects we are not our own masters,
being dependent, particularly for the second, on European decisions
under the Common Fisheries Policy. Yet there are other important
criteria which the Government should consider, such as rationalising
the fleet, securing a way of life for the more vulnerable fishing
communities where there are few alternative sources of employment,
and maintaining fishing centres with the necessary concentration
of services and facilities. These depend upon the Government first
deciding on the type of industry it wishes to see and the level
of intervention it wishes to retain. We support the concept of
regulation by the industry itself as far as is consistent with
the acknowledgement that there is a common interest in protecting
the sea and its resources. However our overriding concern is that
the Government establish a settled, transparent long-term strategy
for management of fisheries which takes into account the competitive
position compared to other EU countries and within which the industry
can plan, confident that any necessary changes will apply equally
and be introduced fairly, with proper consultation and with regard
to clear and agreed objectives. There is a very bright future
for the UK sea fishing industry and the Government has to play
its part in helping to bring this about (paragraph 3).
2. We recommend that the Government establish
for the first time a clear, agreed and coherent strategy for the
management and development of the UK fishing industry which will
unite all concerned in working towards greater efficiency and
competitiveness (paragraph 193).
The Government welcomes this thorough and constructive
report and agrees with the importance of the five objectives for
fisheries management suggested by the Committee. The Government
notes the Committee's suggestion of drawing up an agreed long
term management strategy, covering inter alia rationalisation
of the fishing fleet and fishing ports, and will consider this
with the industry. There has been a productive relationship with
the industry in developing fisheries policy in a number of policy
areas, including the recent introduction of fixed quota allocations
and designated port arrangements. The Government will continue
to involve the industry fully in determining the future direction
of fisheries management so as to maximise efficiency and competitiveness.
The Committee also recognises some of the constraints
on the scope for drawing up a UK strategy, including our obligations
under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Paragraphs 1.1-1.3 of
the MAFF Memorandum to the Committee set out the Government's
broad objectives for improving the CFP, namely:
environmental considerations more fully into the CFP to make it
a more effective instrument for the conservation of fish stocks
and the wider marine environment;
more effective and consistent enforcement of fisheries rules across
structural and conservation measures in a way that achieves a
sustainable future for the UK's sea fishing industry and enhances
economic opportunity in coastal communities;
the participation by fishermen in the development of fisheries
policy and in parallel increasing the regional dimension of the
CFP so that it is more sensitive to local differences.
A UK strategy will also need to take account of the
devolution of responsibility for fisheries policy which means
that it will also need to be agreed with the devolved administrations.
The Government will therefore wish to involve the devolved administrations,
and representatives of their national fishing industries, fully
in considering the way forward. In tackling this recommendation,
as with the subsequent recommendations, account will have to be
taken of the resources available both to the various parts of
Government and to the representatives of industry organisations
3. We recommend that the Government commission
regular research into the profitability of the sea fishing industry
for use in determining management policy (paragraph 13).
Information on the industry's costs and earnings
is already collected on a voluntary basis by the Sea Fisheries
Industry Authority. We will consider with the industry and the
SFIA the value and possible mechanisms for developing these or
Advice on TACs
4. We recommend that the Government encourage
ICES to present its advice on TACs in a more generally comprehensible
form and to improve its efforts to communicate the advice to the
fishing industry (paragraph 19).
The Government agrees with the Committee that TACs
and quotas should be based on sound scientific analysis. ICES
advice is directed firstly at the scientific experts who advise
fisheries managers. However, the Government notes that ICES has
made greater efforts recently to improve the layout of its advice
to make it more comprehensible and accessible to non-scientists
and UK representatives on ICES will continue to press for greater
clarity. UK scientists will also seek to improve existing efforts
to explain the advice to the industry, building on the programme
of meetings and articles in the fishing press.
5. We recommend the formal inclusion of economic
analysis of the implications of TACs and national quota allocations
at an earlier stage in the annual cycle. However, we caution strongly
against the temptation to use economic and social criteria to
"invent fish" in the interests of the political
convenience either of Ministers or the industry (paragraph
The Government has sympathy with the Committee's
view that there should be earlier and more systematic economic
advice provided as part of the annual TACs and quotas cycle. The
Government agrees with the Committee that the objectivity of the
scientific advice on the state of fish stocks must not be compromised
by requiring ICES to include economic considerations in its reports
and that economic and social criteria must not be used to "invent
fish" to satisfy political expediency. As the Committee observes,
the European Commission already obtains economic advice from its
Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF)
before issuing its formal proposals on TACs and is continuing
its efforts to develop the economic component of the process.
In practice, the timing of the ICES advice restricts
the scope for full economic analysis at an earlier stage in the
annual cycle. And, in any event, it is difficult to quantify the
economic effects, for example, of quota cuts given the diversity
of circumstances of the fishermen involved, changes in costs and
prices and the scope for diverting fishing activity onto other
stocks. The Commission already seeks to take account of socio-economic
effects by, for example, not normally proposing TAC reductions
exceeding 40%. We will explore with the Commission whether there
are further refinements which might be made to improve the extent
to which economic considerations are reflected in the process.
6. We recommend that the Government support
the European Commission's proposals for earlier notification of
the recommendations for TACs so that the fishing industry has
more time to prepare for changes in quota. In the longer term,
we recommend that TACs be set on a multi-annual basis where stocks
are not threatened (paragraph 21).
The Government supports the proposal made to ICES
by the European Commission for earlier notification of its annual
advice on TACs and quotas. We hope that ICES will give this matter
serious consideration. However, it may not be readily applicable
for all stocks and we would not want earlier advice to be at the
expense of accuracy, which would entail introducing greater uncertainty
or requiring excessive levels of caution in recommending TACs.
The Government agrees with the Committee that multi-annual
TACs would be helpful to the industry but continues to believe
that they are not feasible for most stocks until these are in
much better shape. In practice, for stocks in good shape, TAC
levels tend not to change much from year to year and so there
is already an element of multi-annual stability there. The Government
is supporting the development of multi-annual management strategies,
based on precautionary reference points, as a means of keeping
stocks well away from levels at which they risk collapse and to
restrain fishing effort so as to rebuild them to more sustainable
levels in future. Long term management strategies are being pioneered
by the EC and Norway for stocks which they jointly manage and
the first such strategy, for North Sea herring, is making a major
contribution to the continuing recovery of this stock from its
near collapse in 1996.
The precautionary approach
7. Whilst we endorse the precautionary approach
to fisheries management, we believe that much more planning, consultation
and forethought should have been put into its implementation by
the ACFM. As it is, we deplore the damage done to the relationship
between scientists and fishermen by the abrupt introduction of
this method and we recommend that the Government ensure that any
future changes in the approach, as are inevitable as the system
beds down, be made only once they have been fully explained to
the industry and its views taken into consideration (paragraph
The Government welcomes the Committee's endorsement
of the application of the precautionary approach to fisheries
management and agrees with the Committee that, in hindsight, its
introduction could have been better presented. This (and other
relevant recommendations) have already been brought to the attention
of ICES. We agree it is important to develop continuing productive
relations between scientists and fishermen. CEFAS, FRS and DANI
scientists are therefore seeking to explain fisheries science
to fishermen, including the principles and benefits of the precautionary
approach, in the course of their regular meetings, through articles
in the fishing press and in practical involvement in research
activity. The Government will also seek to ensure that the industry
is kept properly in touch with any refinements to the new system
as it beds down.
Co-ordination of research programmes
8. We believe that with devolution altering
the management of some of the programmes it would be wise to review
arrangements for co-ordination of fisheries research in the UK
to make sure duplication does not occur. We recommend that this
be done (paragraph 28).
Mechanisms are already in place - in particular,
the Fisheries Science Customer Group - to provide for co-ordination
of research between Fisheries Departments. The need for any changes
following devolution will be kept under review.
9. We were reassured by the evidence of international
collaboration between scientists. Given the international concern
for the sustainability of stocks and the recognition that the
principles of fisheries management extend beyond domestic boundaries,
it is vital that scientists work together to improve their knowledge
of the sea and to develop the least environmentally damaging methods
of catching fish. We are pleased that the UK is playing such a
strong role in collaborative research (paragraph 29).
The Government welcomes the recognition of the outward
looking approach of UK scientists and will continue to encourage
UK research institutes to undertake collaborative research with
Funding of research
10. We recommend that MAFF guarantee funding
for research into fish stocks of at least current levels for the
remainder of this Comprehensive Spending Review period and that
it give an undertaking that funding for such research will remain
a priority thereafter (paragraph 35).
Monitoring and stock assessment work is adequately
provided for during the CSR period and will continue to remain
11. We recommend that multi-species research
be applied more thoroughly in waters around the United Kingdom
other than the North Sea (paragraph 38).
Multi-species work poses considerable scientific
and practical problems and is expensive. It is being advanced
in the North Sea to develop the range of scientific methods necessary
to understand, and predict, the consequences of management actions
in a multispecies context. As such work bears fruit - and as resources
permit - it can be transferred to other regions where it is believed
multi-species interactions are significant to our fisheries.
Research into new fisheries
12. We believe that it should be part of the
role of CEFAS and FRS to assist in the development of new fishing
grounds through proper stock assessments. We also believe that
as part of that research the scientists should ensure that the
environmental impact of fishing for new species or in new grounds
should be taken fully into account (paragraph 39).
The Government agrees that the development of new
fisheries can raise environmental issues which need to be properly
assessed by scientists. The question of stock assessments in new
fishing grounds will be discussed with the industry.
Future research needs
13. We recommend that MAFF commission a study
of the research needed to fulfil the UK's obligations on stock
assessments over the next ten years, taking into account developing
fisheries, the existing number of precautionary TACs and new,
more accurate methods of conducting such research. We further
recommend that this study include comparisons with the funding
and scope of CEFAS's counterparts in the other EU and ICES member
states and that it highlight areas where further collaboration
might be encouraged (paragraph 41).
We are already considering future fisheries science
needs in the context of the ongoing review of MAFF funding. Approval
of funding for the new CEFAS research vessel signals the commitment
to fisheries research in the long term. An additional study of
the type proposed would divert resources from other scientific
activity and it is not clear that it would yield any additional
benefits not available from the current review arrangements.
Fishermen and scientists
14. We recommend that MAFF consult with the
scientific community and the fishing industry on the best way
to establish a permanent formal procedure for collaboration and
consultation on fisheries research. We further recommend that
MAFF encourage its counterparts in Scotland, Northern Ireland
and Wales to participate in developing such procedures (paragraph
The Government agrees this recommendation and Fisheries
Departments and scientists are already in touch with the industry
to improve contacts on science and research and to establish a
more formalised approach.
15. We conclude that, although in the present
circumstances it would not be appropriate to charge the industry
for research, fishermen's organisations should be encouraged to
invest in their own scientific projects and be assisted in applications
for European funding for this purpose (paragraph 50).
We note the Committee's conclusion and will be talking
to fishermen's organisations about taking their ideas on research
forward. Guidance on the procedures required to obtain EU funding
is available and there could be a possibility of participation
in joint projects.
16. We recommend that the Government fully
support any proposals for stronger sanctions on Member States
to ensure compliance with MAGP targets and for greater transparency
as to the cost of restructuring measures to public funds in the
different Member States (paragraph 57).
The Government fully accepts the importance of compliance
with MAGP targets and agrees with the Committee's recommendation.
Safety at sea
17. We conclude that the linkage between an
ageing fleet and an unsafe fleet is unproven but we recommend
that further research be conducted in this area and the results
published and distributed to the fishing industry. Safety at sea
is vitally important. The existing data do not sustain a case
for the industry to be given public money for building new vessels
on safety grounds alone (paragraph 63).
The Government agrees that safety at sea is vitally
important. While the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is investigating
the causes of the accident rate for vessels over 12 metres in
length, the Government is also concerned with the safety of the
smaller vessels, which make up the bulk of the UK fishing fleet.
The Government has looked again at the safety regime applying
to these vessels and is finalising proposals for the introduction
of a Code of Practice for fishing vessels under 12 metres in length.
MCA is already carrying out investigations into factors
which affect safety at sea for fishing vessels. This work will
include an assessment of the possible links between age and safety
of the fleet, but will also need to examine other factors which
contribute to accidents. MCA will discuss the scope of its current
investigations with the fishing industry through the Fishing Industry
Safety Group (FISG). If the industry and MCA agree that further
research work is needed into the relationship between the age
of the fleet and its safety record, this will be taken forward
and the fishing industry will be encouraged to participate fully.
The results of all work in this area will be discussed by FISG.
18. We recommend that the vessel safety equipment
grant scheme be reinstated (paragraph 71).
Safety at sea is an important issue and the Government
is concerned for the fishing industry to improve its record. The
Government is currently considering the issue of reinstating a
scheme of grants for safety equipment for vessels, in particular
in the context of any funding available for the programme of structural
measures for application during 2000/2006 for which the Fisheries
Council is negotiating the implementing regulation.
Grants for new build
19. We have sympathy with the complaints of
the industry about the money received by their counterparts in
other EU states for building new vessels. We support the Government
in its attempts to tighten up the rules for such assistance. Nevertheless,
we do not recommend that the Government adopt an industry-wide
scheme to aid the construction of new fishing vessels, whether
or not under a scrap and build approach (paragraph 75).
The Government shares the Committee's conclusion.
We do not believe that the Government should subsidise investment
in building new vessels which the industry cannot itself finance
from the returns from sustainable fishing.
20. We recommend that any publicly-financed
grant scheme for the modernisation of vessels working within low-impact
fisheries meet the criteria of the continual reduction of fishing
capacity in line with available fish stocks, safety, the sustainability
of the fishing method and that short-term targeted assistance
would be effective (paragraph 76).
The Government agrees that strict criteria would
be needed in any grant scheme directed to fleet modernisation;
and, as the Committee acknowledges in paragraph 3 of its report,
there is a need to minimise the cost to the public purse. We would
need to consider carefully the case for any modernisation aid,
against the Government's overall spending priorities.
Licences and quota
21. We recommend that MAFF provide clear guidance
on the legal title to licences and quota in the context of transactions
between individuals and/or organisations (paragraph 86).
The arrangements for the renewal, transfer and aggregation
of fishing vessel licences and the allocation of quota, are the
subject of close consultation between industry and Fisheries Departments
in the UK and are understood by most fishermen. There are no plans
to change the existing position whereby licences and quotas apply
at the discretion of Ministers but with fishermen's interests
protected by the legal concept of legitimate expectation. Nevertheless
the Departments will consider, in consultation with fishermen's
representatives, if any further steps might be taken to clarify
entitlement to licences and quotas under present legislation.
22. We believe that there is a strong case
for taking certain low-impact fisheries such as mackerel hand-lining
out of the quota system altogether which would encourage new entrants,
and we urge MAFF to examine this possibility with care (paragraph
The scope for excluding any fisheries from quota
management is limited because under the provisions of the CFP
all catches of TAC species have to be counted against quota. A
change to the quota system would require Commission support and
acceptance by other Member States. The Government will continue
to explore the possibilities including the scope for change in
the context of the 2002 review. The Fisheries Departments are
also reviewing national arrangements for the management of the
under 10 metre fleet to see how these can be best improved.
As regards measures to encourage new entrants, with
fish stocks limited and industry rationalisation continuing to
take place, it is necessary to be cautious with measures which
might add to pressures on existing participants in the industry.
The Government will take the opportunity to discuss with the industry
the steps that might be taken to encourage new entrants within
the framework of present licensing and quota management arrangements.
23. We recommend that, in conjunction with
representatives of the fishing industry, the Government devise
proposals for managing the existing trade in licences and quota,
with a view to introducing them as a matter of urgency (paragraph
24. We recommend that the Government consult
the fishing industry on the merits and drawbacks of tradeable
quotas and the most appropriate form for their introduction in
the UK, including the future management role of the POs and the
extent of safeguards, for example to protect fishing-dependent
communities, and report on the outcome of these consultations
within a year (paragraph 101).
As noted above in the response to recommendation
21 the arrangements for managing the UK's quotas and licensing
fishing vessels are the subject of close and on-going consultation
with industry. On the basis of proposals from the industry itself
significant changes have recently been made with the introduction
in 1999 of fixed quota allocations. With the new system fishermen
and their producer organisations have greater certainty regarding
quota allocations and more flexibility to adopt quota management
arrangements best suited to their needs. In the light of the Committee's
recommendations the Fisheries Departments in the UK will seek
the views of the industry on whether further changes should be
made to quota management and what measures might sensibly be taken
to manage the existing trade in licences and quota.
No take zones and closed areas
25. We support the principle of no take zones
and closed areas and we recommend that MAFF sympathetically consider
and encourage research into specific proposals brought forward
by the industry. However, we emphasise that under the CFP these
measures would have to be non-discriminatory and apply to all
vessels not just UK fishing. They would therefore have to be agreed
on a European basis (paragraph 106).
There are already significant areas where fishing
is restricted in some measure in the interests of conservation
(e.g. the plaice box and the mackerel box). MAFF is keen to support
further well based proposals to improve conservation and has already
encouraged collaboration between CEFAS scientists and the industry
on the possible closure of the Trevose Bank off Cornwall, during
the winter spawning period. In the light of their conclusions,
consideration will be given in the Fisheries Conservation Group
(representing UK fishermen, scientists and administrators) to
taking forward such an initiative. If this is agreed we will press
the European Commission to take appropriate action on a Community-wide
basis. Other proposals for new closed areas will also be given
Non-profit sale of over-quota fish
26. We recommend that MAFF examine the feasibility
and effectiveness of introducing in the UK a similar system to
the Icelandic arrangements for the non-profit sale of over-quota
fish (paragraph 108).
The Government is grateful for this constructive
suggestion. It has to be recognised that it would be more difficult
to operate the Icelandic arrangements in the UK, given the difficulty
of enforcing a mandatory discard ban in the mixed fisheries in
EC waters and the far greater number of landing points in the
UK compared to Iceland. Such arrangements would require an amendment
to CFP regulations. The Government will nevertheless give this
idea further consideration and will discuss it with the industry,
the devolved administrations and with the European Commission.
27. We recommend that MAFF consider measures
to reduce discards through more flexible quota management and
that it continue to promote within Europe the use of more selective
fishing gear (paragraph 109).
Measures are already in place to allow flexible management
of quotas including an annual system of 'banking and borrowing'.
The UK has not made use of this arrangement thus far because the
industry has taken the view that it provides little advantage
when quotas are in any case fully utilised. Also, it must be borne
in mind that a high proportion of discards are due to undersized
fish being caught.
The new technical conservation measures which apply
Community-wide from 1 January 2000 are designed to make fishing
gears more selective and should therefore reduce the scale of
discarding. In the light of practical experience of these changes,
consideration will be given to further improvements both nationally
and at EU level.
In collaboration with the Commission, the Government
has recently embarked on a major piece of research into the economic
aspects of discarding. This will provide further guidance into
possible measures to reduce the volume of discards.
28. We recommend that the Government attend
to the publication of the concordat on fisheries management as
a matter of urgency (paragraph 111).
In order to reassure the fishing industry about the
impact of devolution, Fisheries Departments wrote in June to all
UK fishermen to explain the changes in vessel licensing, quota
management and fisheries enforcement arrangements consequent on
devolution. As a result there have been few questions from the
industry about the consequences of devolution. The Government
notes the Committee's wish for urgency in concluding the subject
specific concordats on fisheries management between MAFF and the
devolved administrations. Publication of these documents must,
however, be subject to prior agreement on overarching general
concordats between the Westminster Government and the devolved
administrations; and on bilateral departmental concordats between
MAFF and the devolved administrations, which have yet to be finalised.
29. We recommend that the jurisdiction of
the Sea Fisheries Committees and the Environment Agency be reviewed
to ensure consistency of approach within individual fisheries
The jurisdiction of the respective organisations
will be reviewed in the context of the current enquiry being carried
out by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review Group and in
the follow-up to the Association of Sea Fisheries Committees'
paper "2000 and beyond" (see recommendations 44 to 46).
30. We recommend that the Government set out
its objectives for the future role of POs, including the devolvement
of further responsibilities in order to streamline the management
process, taking into account the cost and ability of POs to take
on those responsibilities, and the position of the non-sector
fleet. Duplication of tasks between willing POs and MAFF should
be eliminated, subject to appropriate audit checks (paragraph
The Government agrees the need to develop objectives
for the future role of POs. This is timely because the European
Commission have published proposals for the reform of the fish
marketing regime which, inter alia, seek to redefine the responsibilities
of POs and provide an enhanced legal framework to enable them
to play an expanded role. We shall be taking this forward in consultation
with the fishing industry. In this context we will seek wherever
possible to develop management systems which avoid duplication
of tasks between POs and Fisheries Departments.
31. We recommend that the Government make
more use of electronic communications in licence issues, particularly
with regard to the single licence rule for the pelagic fleet (paragraph
Electronic and IT systems are extensively used in
most aspects of fisheries management and there is a commitment
to increase the benefits this can give to fishermen in prompt
and efficient communications and data handling. The arrangements
for managing the UK's pelagic fisheries, which have been necessary
to assist the recovery of North Sea herring stocks from the low
levels occurring in 1996, are being reviewed jointly by the Fisheries
Departments and industry. Decisions on whether there should be
any changes in these arrangements will be taken in good time for
the year 2000 herring fisheries. Regulations already provide for
the electronic transmission of licences and subsequent variations
to them. Some use has been made of this facility but the Fisheries
Departments will consider the scope for its more widespread use
in the light of the experience gained from satellite monitoring
which becomes mandatory for vessels over 24 metres from 1 January
32. We recommend that the Government prepare
an audit of all regulations and their compliance costs relating
to the UK fishing fleet and that this work be used as a database
which can be updated to provide accurate and accessible information
on the regulatory burden when considering new measures. We also
recommend that similar audits and databases be established for
compliance cost with regulations in each of England, Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland (paragraph 119).
33. We recommend that the Government either
commission itself or bring pressure to bear on the European Commission
to initiate research into the comparative costs to the fishing
industry of compliance with the regulatory framework in the different
Member States, of other charges pressing on it and the comparative
levels of support (paragraph 120).
34. We recommend that UK diplomatic posts
be charged with monitoring the means of implementing EU directives
and the costs pressing on the industry in other Member States
and that this information be disseminated to the UK industry.
Where there are clear discrepancies in approach, the UK Government
should provide an explanation for the additional requirements
it has introduced, although the presumption should always be in
favour of ensuring UK fishermen are treated equally with their
counterparts in other Member States. The approach to regulation
should always be guided by the principles we set out in paragraph
3 of this Report (paragraph 122).
35. We recommend that the Government continue
to review all regulations imposed on the fishing industry with
a view to ensuring that the regulatory system be streamlined and
restrictions removed unless there is reason for their continuance
consistent with the objectives we have set. However, we recommend
the continuation of the designated ports scheme as a means of
concentrating the industry and ensuring more effective management
The Government agrees with the Committee's concerns
that regulations applied in the UK should always be the minimum
necessary and should be targeted to the exact need. The Government
endorses the Committee's objectives in paragraph 3 of its report
of minimising the level of intervention and the complexity of
regulation and maximising the responsibility given to the industry
consistent with securing compliance. The Government also agrees
that the way in which regulations are applied in other Member
States is important if the CFP is to operate equitably.
The Government's Better Regulation policy is being
applied with the objective of ensuring that implementation in
the UK is fair in comparison with the situation in other Member
States. The Fisheries Departments regularly review the operation
of regulations and make changes where possible to meet the concerns
of the industry. The Committee itself draws attention to the value
of the new requirements of the designated ports scheme and the
way in which its impact was swiftly modified to make it better
aligned with industry practices. Equally, the new arrangements
for fixed quota allocation were introduced in response to industry
requests and are being kept under review. The same approach will
continue to be applied in future.
More generally the Government's regulatory impact
assessment procedure is applied to all new regulations and requires
compliance costs to be assessed and published. Fisheries Departments
will be discussing with the industry how these compliance cost
assessments can be used more effectively.
So far as the situation in other Member States is
concerned, it is the European Commission which has the responsibility
for monitoring the adequacy of implementation by Member States
and the Government will be pressing the Commission to clarify,
and as necessary initiate new work on, the comparative costs of
compliance and levels of support in different Member States. Where
specific examples of important differences in implementation come
to light the Government will examine whether they indicate that
domestic arrangements should be changed and whether the Commission
should be asked to investigate further.
36. We recommend that if the satellite monitoring
requirements are extended to vessels under 24 metres in length
the Government either take up any EU funding available to subsidise
the installation of the necessary equipment by the industry or
produce reductions in the regulatory burden on fishermen to balance
the costs (paragraph 127).
The EU is due to decide before the end of 2001 whether
satellite monitoring should be applied to vessels between 18 and
24 metres in overall length. It is not possible to anticipate
at this stage any of the detailed terms of such a decision. However,
the possibility of taking up any EU scheme would be considered
in the light of circumstances. In any event, the Fisheries Departments
will be looking to see how the regulatory burden on fishermen
can be reduced in the light of the experience gained from the
satellite monitoring of fishing vessel activity from 1 January
37. We recommend that the Government commission
a review of how the prosecution process for fishing offences could
be made more efficient, more speedy and more consistent (paragraph
Separate legal systems operate in England and Wales,
Scotland and Northern Ireland. In England and Wales fisheries
offences are generally brought before the Courts as quickly as
most other regulatory offences. Prosecutions of non UK nationals
are usually dealt with on a fast track basis because of the legal
and practical difficulties if they are not resident in the UK.
In other cases the Sea Fisheries Inspectorate and the Ministry's
Legal Department recognise the importance of dealing with suspected
infringements promptly and issuing summonses through the Courts
in good time. The criminal justice departments are working to
speed up the system consistently with the interests of justice.
Where, for instance, in a contested case, the witnesses are temporarily
out of the jurisdiction, it may not be practicable to speed up
38. We recommend that the penalties for serious
breaches of fisheries regulations be increased and that information
tables be published on the fines levied in different courts to
ensure common levels of charges. We also recommend that licences
be revoked for second offences (paragraph 136).
For most infringements, legislation in all parts
of the UK provides for a maximum penalty of £50,000 for each
offence: the remaining offences generally carry a maximum fine
of £5,000. Additionally, there are powers for the confiscation
of gear and catch or a fine up to the value of the illegal catch.
Potentially very high penalties can already be imposed where several
offences have been committed because it is open to the court to
apply fines up to the maximum for each of the offences. Also,
unlimited fines apply on indictment.
In England and Wales magistrates receive training
in following a structured approach to sentencing and there are
many factors which might quite properly reduce the level of fines
such as a discount for a guilty plea, mitigating circumstances
and the requirements of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 which requires
the amount of any fine to reflect the seriousness of the offence
taking account of the offender's financial circumstances.
In sentencing, a court will be made aware of the
maximum penalties that may be imposed and the full significance
of the offence but the decision on the level of penalty to be
applied rests with the court having regard to the circumstances
of the individual case rather than the generality of penalties
imposed in other cases. For offences involving breaches of fishing
vessel licence conditions, the courts may order the owner or charterer
of the vessel to be disqualified for a specified period from holding
a licence in respect of that vessel.
Enforcement in other EU Member States
39. We recommend that to increase transparency
the Government propose that the European Commission speed up publication
of its reports on enforcement so that both areas of difficulty
and improvements, in general and in individual Member States,
are highlighted in a timely fashion (paragraph 139).
40. We urge the Commission to ensure more
regular inspections of European port practices and to produce
an annual report to the European Parliament (paragraph 139).
The Government has previously emphasised to the Commission
the importance of prompt publication of reports on enforcement.
The Government will draw these specific recommendations to the
attention of the Commission.
41. We recommend that MAFF encourage reciprocal
visits by fishermen to other Member States in order to build up
trust between fishermen and to encourage the sense of a common
purpose. Furthermore, we recommend that the Government promote
visits by its own regulators to other Member States to exchange
knowledge on best practice. We also recommend that the Government
monitor the standards of enforcement applied in the Member States
through its embassies and rigorously pursue any breaches with
the European Commission (paragraph 141).
We agree with the importance of promoting contact
and understanding with other Member States and will be drawing
this recommendation to the attention of our fishermen's organisations.
Many fishermen and fishermen's organisations already enjoy close
contact with their European counterparts. This arises because
of contacts in the course of fishing activity as well as (increasingly)
meetings of various kinds at the initiative of numerous different
organisations which bring fishermen together to discuss matters
of common interest. UK officials have considerable contacts with
their counterparts in other Member States. In addition to discussions
which take place on a formal EU basis, frequent meetings take
place with officials from Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium,
France, Ireland and Spain on enforcement and other issues. Reciprocal
visits of inspectors are organised along with regular exchanges
of intelligence and joint enforcement operations. Information
on fisheries issues is provided by UK Embassies. However, the
primary responsibility for monitoring compliance with the rules
and regulations of the Common Fisheries Policy rests with the
Commission which has its own Fisheries Inspectorate, which has
the resources, powers and expertise to inspect activity within
all Member States.
Enforcement in the UK
42. We conclude that in general the UK is
providing an acceptable standard of enforcing regulations and
that it has taken steps to address areas of weakness identified
by the European Commission (paragraph 142).
43. The Minister pointed out that enforcement
"is about sustainable management". This message has
to be brought home to the industry but this can only be achieved
where there is trust between the two sides. We can offer no easy
solutions to this problem, only a reiteration of our conviction
that the Government must set out a clear framework for its strategy
on fisheries and must work with the industry to ensure parity
of treatment within the EU. It should also seek to transfer a
proportion of the regulatory task to fishermen so that ownership
of the process is genuinely shared (paragraph 143).
Effective enforcement protects the investment which
fishermen have made in the industry and is essential for the long
term future of fishing. The Government therefore welcomes the
Committee's confirmation that the UK is providing an acceptable
standard of enforcement. Sustainable management is the objective
underlying its present policy of a robust approach towards control,
coupled with a determination to eliminate illegal activity and
to secure more consistent and transparent standards of enforcement
across Europe. This will continue to form part of the strategy
to restore industry's confidence in the future and its trust in
fisheries management. The Government has already given Producer
Organisations a significant role in fisheries management and will
continue to look for scope for allowing fishermen a greater role
in their own self regulation as their shared interest in effective
conservation emerges more clearly.
Sea Fisheries Committees
44. We recommend that MAFF initiate a full
review of the powers of the Sea Fisheries Committees and publish
it together with a timetable for any necessary action (paragraph
45. We recommend that the funding arrangements
for Sea Fisheries Committees be re-examined in order to establish
a secure, permanent financial framework within which they can
plan and perform their duties (paragraph 149).
46. We recommend that the Ministry investigate
the powers available to Sea Fisheries Committees and other local
management bodies to take action on environmental grounds and
publish proposals for consultation on action needed to close the
loopholes (paragraph 150).
The Government acknowledges that the Sea Fisheries
Committees have identified various difficulties with their present
powers and funding. The Association of Sea Fisheries Committees
has already set in hand a review of these matters and is elaborating
a paper "2000 and beyond". The Government will be discussing
the results of this review with the Association.
Coastal and zonal management
47. We recommend that the Government publish
outline proposals within the next twelve months for the introduction
of coastal and zonal management of fisheries which should involve
the management of research, monitoring of activities and common
regulatory processes (paragraph 153).
The Government has welcomed the industry's ideas
for introducing a system of coastal/zonal management as a constructive
contribution to the debate on how to secure a greater regional
dimension for the CFP. These ideas are continuing to develop in
the light of discussions in the EU. As the Committee recognises,
there may be an opportunity to develop the regional dimension
in the course of the 2002 review of the CFP, although some progress
has already been possible in the form of the regional meetings
organised by the Commission on a pilot basis, and further progress
may be possible without waiting for 2002. The Commission is due
to report on its initial 2002 consultations with the industry
and other interested parties in Member States later this year.
The Government will be keeping a close watch on this and other
developments, including clarification of the UK industry's thinking,
and will keep in mind the option of issuing outline proposals
as negotiations on the 2002 review unfold.
6 and 12 mile limits
48. We of course welcome the reassurance by
the European Commission and others that the 6 and 12 mile limits
will be carried over into any future shape the CFP might take
and we fully support the retention of the 6 and 12 mile limits
after 2002 (paragraph 154).
The Government agrees with the Committee that the
Commission assurance is welcome. The Government is committed to
retaining beyond 2002 the current restrictions on access within
national 6 and 12 mile limits.
49. We recommend that SFIA undertake a campaign
aimed at the industry and port officials to persuade them of the
benefits of electronic auctions and that guidance be given where
necessary on the updating of the grading equipment (paragraph
Marketing of UK fish
50. We recommend that the SFIA, in consultation
with the industry and taking account of the views of supermarkets,
devise a marketing strategy to cover the catching sector through
to the suppliers with the aim of increasing the competitiveness
of the UK fishing industry (paragraph 169).
51. We recommend that a forum be established
under the auspices of the SFIA to bring together retailers and
merchants and industry representatives on a regular basis to discuss
how both sides can adjust to the needs and concerns of each other
52. We recommend that a separate working group
be established to focus on areas of difficulty and opportunity
for UK fish sales to the catering sector (paragraph 169).
We recommend the SFIA take forward the initiative on eco-labelling
These recommendations are for the Sea Fish Industry
Authority (SFIA). They have been discussed and accepted in principle
by the Authority's Board who will now be considering how they
will be implemented. The Board recognised that SFIA would require
more resources and support of the industry, through the Forum,if
they were to carry forward eco-labelling.
53. We recommend that the marketing, processing
and port facilities scheme be reinstated in order to enhance the
competitiveness of the UK sea fishing industry (paragraph
Since the processing and marketing and port facilities
schemes were launched in 1996 MAFF has made grant awards totalling
over £8 million to English fish processors, markets and fishing
ports in order to help make the industry more competitive. This
has made a significant contribution to the fishing industry and
Government believes that it has achieved a balance between the
interests of the industry and the interests of taxpayers.
The schemes that were closed came under a European
Union programme of structural aid which expires on 31 December
1999. A new programme is being negotiated for 2000 to 2006. Once
the fisheries measures are agreed it will be up to each Member
State to draw up its own programme of aid. The Government will
be doing this in due course and notes the Committee's recommendation.
54. We recommend that the Government together
with the SFIA and the Food Standards Agency initiate a campaign
to promote the perception of fish as a healthy, convenient meal
option for all ages (paragraph 172).
The Government recognises the value of fish as a
healthy, convenient food. SFIA have just completed a three year
consumer advertising campaign with a budget part financed by FIFG
grant of £2.56m awarded by MAFF. In 1998-1999 the Authority
spent £3.1m promoting consumption. An advertising campaign
was one of the major elements of this and 40% of its cost was
met by FIFG grant. SFIA's corporate plan envisages the continuation
of its fish promotion campaign and MAFF has approved an award
of up to £1m of FIFG grant for the financial year 1999-2000.
The Food Standards Agency, when established, will
be responsible for providing the public with factual advice and
information on healthy eating and the nutritional quality of food,
so that people are able to make informed choices about their diet.
It will be for the Agency to consider what advice it wishes to
give in relation to fish consumption.
55. We recommend that the Government consider
extending liability for paying the SFIA levy to the aquaculture
sector (paragraph 181).
Farmed sea fish (eg halibut, turbot) are already
subject to the SFIA's levy. When the Government recently established
the SFIA levies to apply until 2002/03 they also agreed the setting
up of a Working Group comprised of industry representatives to
examine the case for extension of the levy to include farmed salmon
and trout. In the light of the Group's recommendations the Government
will consider the case for extending SFIA's responsibilities and
the levy to include other farmed fish in consultation with all
sectors including the aquaculture industry and SFIA. It would
require primary legislation to include farmed salmon or trout
within SFIA's remit.
Urban Waste Water Directive
56. The availability of grants in other EU
Member States to help processors there meet the requirements of
the Urban Waste Water Directive seems to us a clear-cut case of
the UK industry being disadvantaged in a competitive market. Unlike
fishermen with quotas, merchants and processors are not guaranteed
a percentage share of the market and they are forced to compete
with their counterparts in other Member States for the custom
of supermarkets and caterers. The impact of the charges on their
competitiveness does not even appear to have been assessed by
the Government (paragraph 188).
Since 1996 the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food has made grant awards totalling over £8 million
to English fish processors, markets and fishing ports. This demonstrates
that we recognise the industry's important contribution to our
The Government published a regulatory assessment
when it transposed the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive in
1994. We recognise that the Directive will impose costs on the
range of industrial and household customers. However, we believe
that the benefits from improving waste water treatment outweigh
The Director General of Water Services has written
to water companies proposing best practice where increases in
costs need to be managed. He has advised water companies that
they should send appropriate price signals well in advance of
the commissioning of any new or upgraded waste water treatment
works or offer some other form of transitional relief to affected
customers. For example, trade effluent charge increases could
be capped for up to two years, following the commissioning of
the works, or phased in over a similar period. We are concerned
to ensure that any necessary increase in processing charges should,
bearing in mind the international competitive exposure of this
industry, be phased in over a long period.
It is open to firms who feel that increased trade
effluent charges are unjust to arrange their own "pre-treatment"
or waste minimisation which would reduce the charge by the water
company. Alternatively, companies could arrange the entire treatment
and disposal themselves through a contractor - either individually
or by working together.
57. It is essential that the imposition of
the increased charges on processors by the water authorities be
delayed, and then only phased in, to give the industry time to
develop alternatives and to minimise waste (paragraph 189).
It is for water companies in England and Wales to
determine the charges to their customers. However, the Minister
for the Environment has discussed the charges proposed for the
industry in Grimsby with local interests and the water company,
and has urged all parties to co-operate in finding a mutually
acceptable solution to this issue.
Water companies are regulated by the Director General
of Water Services, to ensure that their charges remain consistent
with overall price limits and to ensure that there is not undue
discrimination between customers. On 3 August 1999 the Director
General of Water Services wrote to Managing Directors of water
and sewerage companies providing guidance about investment in
quality and trade effluent charging (OFWAT MD150). The Director
General has advised water companies that they should send appropriate
price signals well in advance of the commissioning of any new
or upgraded wastewater treatment works or offer some other form
of transitional relief to affected customers. For example, trade
effluent charge increases could be capped for up to two years,
following the commissioning of the works, or phased in over a
Under the Water Industry Act 1999, water companies'
charges schemes will in future be subject to approval by the Director
General of Water Services. The Secretary of State (and National
Assembly, in Wales) will also have powers to give guidance to
the Director General on matters he should take into account in
approving charges schemes. Draft guidance for England was published
for consultation on 9 August. Paragraph 38 of the draft guidance
makes clear the importance of stability and predictability in
charges for business customers, who have to plan carefully for
58. We commend the far-sighted proposal for
a National Institute of Fisheries in Grimsby to the Government
and urge MAFF to explore with the Department for Education and
Employment the possibility of establishing such an Institute,
to provide for the whole fishing industry a similar range of training,
research, advisory and scientific study to that provided by the
North Atlantic Fisheries College in Shetland and national institutions
in other EU countries (paragraph 192).
The Government believes that training fishermen to
handle the many aspects of their profession is important. The
need for such a National Centre would of course have to be considered
in the light of other existing facilities.
The sponsor of the National Institute of Fisheries
in Grimsby was informed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food in July 1997 that it was possible that such a feasibility
study for a centre might be eligible for part funding from the
European Regional Development Fund under Objective 2 or the EU
PESCA Community Initiative. This possibility was not taken up.
The programmes for Structural Fund expenditure 1994-99
are now drawing to an end and funds have been oversubscribed.
Proposals for such a centre could be considered under the next
phase of structural funding for the years 2000-06; however, eligible
areas have to be designated and programmes drawn up before new
applications can be considered next year.