Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Fifth Report




COM(02) 185

Draft Council Regulation on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy.

Legal base:

Article 37EC; consultation; qualified majority voting


Document originated:

28 May 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

31 May 2002


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Basis of consideration:

EM of 27 June 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

Later this year

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

For debate on the Floor of the House (together with related fisheries documents)




    1. The Commission's Communication ("Roadmap")[3] on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) laid particular stress on the importance of the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources, and the Commission has set out in this draft Council Regulation a series of measures which would replace two existing Council Regulations (101/76[4] and 3760/92[5]). As such, the proposal concentrates on the conservation of fish stocks, the limitation of the environmental impact of fishing, and associated measures to adjust capacity and to control and enforce the rules of the CFP. It also addresses procedures for decision-making and consultation.
    2. Conservation and sustainability

    3. The Commission says that the principal controllable factor in the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fish stocks is the mortality rate, though it also identifies as a secondary objective the minimising of the impact of fishing on marine eco-systems. It suggests that the Community's approach to this task should involve limitations on catches (based on scientifically-assessed targets for mortality rates) and fishing effort, combined with technical measures[6] to protect young fish and non-target species, such as cetaceans and other marine mammals. In particular, it considers that the Community should move away from the current practice of managing stocks on an annual basis, which it says has not reduced mortality rates to the degree required and has allowed the deterioration of many fish stocks.
    4. It is therefore proposing that those outside safe biological limits should in future be managed strategically on a multi-annual basis, consistently with the precautionary approach, and in such a way as to rebuild them to (and thereafter maintain them at) sustainable levels. This would involve the strategic elements of such an approach being decided by the Council, along with catch and effort limits for the first year, but with their further implementation after then being decided by the Commission assisted by a Management Committee. There would also be a number of changes relating to emergency measures and national measures in coastal zones, whereby:

    • the duration of emergency measures taken by the Commission itself in the event of a serious conservation threat would be extended from six months to one year, in order to allow enough time for the adoption of more definitive Community measures;

    • Member States would be authorised to adopt non-discriminatory conservation and management measures applicable to all vessels within their 12-mile zone, though other Member States would have the right to comment if their vessels were affected, and the Council could take a different decision within 20 working days;

    • Member States would be authorised to take for no longer than three months emergency measures applicable to all vessels in any waters under their jurisdiction, provided there is a serious and unpredicted threat to the stocks and any delay would result in damage difficult to repair: there would be similar procedural safeguards to those applying to the measures in the previous indent.

    1. Measures would also be taken relating to industrial fishing (for conversion to meal), which the Commission says should target species for which there is no market for human consumption. It points out that the measures adopted so far have already greatly reduced by-catches of other species, but says that it will be asking the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) to carry out an evaluation of the impact of industrial fishing on marine eco-systems. In the meantime, it says it will continue to monitor the conduct of industrial fisheries, and will propose improved management of stocks, such as blue whiting, which have both industrial and human consumption uses.
    2. Adjustment of fishing capacity

    3. The Commission says that it has repeatedly underlined the weaknesses of the Community's fleet policy, where ineffective steps to manage capacity under the Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP), and inappropriate aid schemes, have led to over-capacity and hence to dwindling stocks. It is therefore proposing two types of new measure to affect fleet structure. Those addressing financial incentives are dealt with in a separate document[7], whilst the current document concentrates on measures directly affecting the size of the fleet.
    4. Here, the main element would involve the fixing of new fleet reference levels linked to the effort limitations needed under the proposed new multi-annual management plans. These would be based on the objectives set out for the completion on 31 December 2002 of the most recent Multi-Annual Guidance Programme (MAGP IV), with any new capacity having to be matched by the withdrawal of equivalent existing capacity on a 1:1 basis. In addition, any capacity withdrawn with public aid will, as at present, be deducted from the fleet reference levels of the Member State concerned.
    5. Access to waters and resources

    6. The Commission says that the current restrictions on the right to fish within the 12-mile limit, which apply to vessels from adjacent ports or to those which enjoy the historical rights set out in Council Regulation 3760/92, have reduced fishing pressure in the most biologically sensitive areas, and provided economic stability for small-scale fishing activity. In view of this, and the widespread support for these measures, it is proposing that they should continue beyond the end of 2002.
    7. In other Community waters, the Commission proposes that Member States should have equal access to fisheries resources, subject to measures decided by the Council (or any provisional emergency measures taken by the Commission or a Member State). It is, however, proposing that the compatibility with conservation and sustainable exploitation objectives of the access rules other than those within 12 miles should be reviewed before the end of 2003.
    8. The Commission also proposes that the allocation of fishing opportunities among Member States, based on the principle of maintaining relative stability of activity, should be maintained. However, it adds that the method of allocation of each stock should be decided by the Council in order to make the application of this principle more transparent, and that such a decision should take account of any special allocation conditions, such as the so-called Hague Preferences. The Commission also considers that progress towards more normal economic conditions in the fisheries sector would permit a revision of these arrangements in the longer term.
    9. Community control and enforcement

    10. The Commission states that the current enforcement arrangements are far too weak, and it is therefore proposing a new legal framework for a Community control and enforcement system. It says that this is designed to ensure controls exist throughout the whole fisheries chain, and that compliance with the rules of the CFP, including structural and market policies, is enforced. The proposal would clarify the respective roles of the Member States and the Commission, with the former being responsible for the execution of control and enforcement, and the latter for monitoring the activities of the Member States and facilitating co-ordination and co-operation between them. Where a Member State failed to comply with its obligations, it could be required to compensate the Community for any damage or loss (and all or part of that compensation could be allocated to Member States whose position has been prejudiced as a result). The Commission would also be able to take immediate preventive action where possible violation of Community rules by Member States jeopardises conservation.
    11. Member States would have to establish a single authority responsible for the collection and verification of information on fishing activities, and, where serious infringements have been detected, they would have to take steps (through such means as fines, the seizure of vessels and/or fishing gear, and the suspension of licences) to prevent illegal activity continuing. The Commission proposes that these measures would be backed up by the Council deciding on the level of sanctions for such infringements, and that, in order to reinforce control over the implementation of the CFP by Member States, it should be able to carry out the necessary audits and inspections. It also wants to see enhanced powers for its inspectors and the designation of Community inspectors by the Member States, with Member States giving the same value to inspection reports drawn up by Community inspectors, Commission inspectors and those of another Member State as they give to their own inspection reports.
    12. Decision-making and consultation

    13. The Commission proposes that:

    • there should be speedier implementation of international recommendations, through the use of a management committee procedure, for example where a measure adopted by a regional fisheries organisation has become binding on the Community;

    • regional advisory councils, comprising representatives of all interested parties, should be established to advise the Commission and Member States on fisheries management so as to ensure greater stakeholder involvement in this at local level;

    • the remit of the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries should be broadened to cover all aspects of management, including environmental and social issues.

    1. The Commission says that it will also produce in the coming months a Communication on improving the scientific advice for Community fisheries management.
    2. The Government's view

    3. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 27 June 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) says that the Government shares the Commission's view that the current CFP is failing to conserve the stocks, and that, subject to the reservations highlighted in his Explanatory Memorandum on the Commission's "Roadmap" Communication (see paragraphs 1.23 and 1.24), this proposal meets many of the UK's requirements for reform. However, he adds that a Regulatory Impact Assessment is being drawn up for those proposed measures which will impact directly on the fisheries sector.
    4. Conclusion

    5. Along with the Commission's ("Roadmap") Communication, this proposal forms the most significant part of the proposals for reforming the Common Fisheries Policy. We are therefore recommending it for debate at the same time on the Floor of the House.


3   (23511) COM(02)181; see paragraph 1. Back

4   OJ No. L.20, 28.1.76, p.19. Back

5   OJ No. L.389, 31.12.92, p.1. Back

6   These would include more selective fishing gear, restrictions on fishing in certain areas or at certain times, minimum landing sizes, and trialled discard bans. Back

7   (23514) COM(02)187; see paragraph 3. Back

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