Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


COM(01) 201

Draft Council Regulation amending Regulation (EEC) No. 2847/93 establishing a control system applicable to the common fisheries policy.

Legal base: Article 37 EC; consultation; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 27 April 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 30 April 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 20 June 2001
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 20 June 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: Following receipt of the European Parliament opinion
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


11.1  It has long been recognised that proper enforcement is an essential element in the conservation aspects of the Common Fisheries Policy, and Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2847/93 establishes a detailed control system. Among other things, this includes provision for the suspension of directed fishing for a particular stock by a Member State when its annual catch quota for that species has been exhausted. However, by-catches of such species taken during fishing for other species may continue, so long as these are discarded and not landed.

The current proposal

11.2  The present proposal has its origins in the Community's decision in December 2000 to establish recovery plans for certain stocks — including cod in the Irish Sea, North Sea and West of Scotland — identified as being at serious risk of collapse. In the case of these stocks, the Commission is anxious to prevent any fish being taken once the quotas set have been exhausted, and it has therefore proposed that Member States should be obliged to prevent the use and keeping on board of gear which might lead to significant by-catches of those species being taken.

The Government's view

11.3  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 20 June 2001, the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) says that, although the UK supports any measures which help to protect stocks subject to recovery plans, such measures must be properly targeted and not create incentives for evasion. He points out that, in the North Sea mixed fishery, cod is taken as a by-catch in a large number of other fisheries (notably haddock, whiting, saithe, all flatfish species, and nephrops), and that, under the Commission proposal, all fisheries in the North Sea could be suspended were the cod quota to be exhausted. He says that this would have a "severe and disproportionate" impact, and cannot be supported in its present form by the UK. The Minister also adds that industry leaders are being consulted, and that, although it is not possible to quantify in detail the financial implications of the proposal, a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum will be provided once their views are known.


11.4  Whilst, at first sight, there appears to be some merit in seeking to ensure that fish from stocks subject to recovery plans are not taken, even as by-catches, once the relevant quotas have been exhausted, it is clear from what the Minister has said that this proposal has potentially serious implications. In particular, there is a trade-off between the benefits of ensuring that the stocks in question are fully protected and the implications which the measures proposed would have for other directed fisheries. In view of this, we do not feel able, on the evidence available to us so far, to take a firm view on the proposal. We are therefore deferring judgement on it until we have received the Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum promised, which we hope will endeavour to quantify as far as possible the financial implications.

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