Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (T16)

  Thank you for the opportunity to comment further. Herewith a very rushed and summary response, and enclosure which is a report written to a target sea angling audience, but which summarises many aspects in a practical capacity. This response is from the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee. It reflects our particular circumstances, ie a cut in funding recently implemented which takes us back 10 years in budget, whilst at the same time experiencing an increase in demand for services, firstly through greater environmental powers (1992, 1994 and 1995 legislation) and secondly through greater public awareness of the marine environment and the plight of failing UK fisheries.

  The Association of SFCs will, no doubt, provide their own response.

  I also enclose a summary copy of an independent report [not printed] into fisheries in Wales, commissioned by the National Assembly from Nautilus consultants and the SWSFC response. Such an initiative is an important first step in obtaining recognition of the wider importance of UK fisheries management, from which further priority and measures may originate.

  Our summary view of UK fisheries management in 2001 is unlikely to have changed from previous views, namely:

  1.  The CFP is a blunt tool which has failed to stem the decline in EU fisheries. The recent "green paper" recognises this, and some remedial action points, namely:

    —  Fish stocks, especially shellfish and especially in inshore water, must be managed regionally and devolved to National States. 0-12 miles is considered a minimum.

    —  Fishermen should be involved in the decision making process.

    —  The passing of ownership from public to a limited number of private individuals should (in theory) enhance management through encouraging a long term "farming" rather than "hunting" type outlook.

  2.  Inshore waters are extremely important. They are the nursery grounds, sensitive to pressure (pollution, human), and support many small businesses (labour rather than capital intensive) which are non-mobile, and provide employment in areas which have few employment alternatives.

  ie Are more important to the fish stocks, the environment, the economy and the rural way of life than a straight consideration of size would indicate.

  3.  We believe that the EU and member states must consider how:

    (1)  to devolve the management of this area entirely to member states.

    (2)  that can apply fishery management rules to all vessels that fish within this zone. Currently member states can only apply rules to their own nationals. This undermines any management initiative.

    (3)  They can give the political priority (therefore resources and will) to ensuring the effective management of this area, taking into account a long term, planned, holistic and precautionary viewpoint.

  4.  To this extent, we believe that:

    (1)  The EU must put in place the structure and support to allow devolved management to National States, and this must filter down to all participants.

    (2)  National States (UK, England, Wales) must:

      (1)  Recognise the importance of the coastal zone.

      (2)  Provide for appropriate legislative powers—much fisheries legislation dates back to the late 1800s, and fishing methods have evolved somewhat since then!

      (3)  Provide the funding for enforcement, management, research, aquaculture, and phased means, to reduce "fishing pressure" in the short term and subsidy of participants, in order to promote stock recovery leading to withdrawal of subsidy in the future.

      The Association of SFCs' Report "2000 and Beyond" awaits a response from both government and the devolved administration in Wales, and could provide a useful model.

  5.  What the government must not, with respect, do, is follow the recent action of the National Assembly of Wales, which:

    (a)  Allowed government to pass on additional environmental responsibility and costs to Sea Fisheries Committees, including the SWSFC.

    (b)  Sanctioned a cut in real terms of 30 per cent to the SWSFC.

    (c)  Did so in a manner in which is believed to be ultra vires the presiding legislation.

    (d)  Without due debate, and in advance of considering at least four relevant reports demonstrating the need for effective management and highlighting the role of Sea Fisheries Committees.

  6.  The effective management of marine fisheries is a horribly complex and difficult business. If it were easy most stocks of fish world-wide would not be in the dire position they are now. At the end of the day, making a success of failure will require the political will to make things happen. We are yet to see any obvious signs of this. We feel that this is a crying shame, because the seas can be effectively managed to provide huge, ongoing benefits to society—and not just those who eat fish or live by the sea.

1 May 2001

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