Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Fifth Report




COM(02) 186

Commission Communication setting out a Community Action Plan to integrate environmental protection requirements into the Common Fisheries Policy.

Legal base:


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:

See paragraph 5.10 below

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

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




    1. Integration of environmental protection requirements into Community policies is an obligation under Article 6 of the Treaty, and the Commission has already set out in a number of policy documents its ideas on how this might be achieved in the case of fisheries. The current document, which responds to an invitation to the Commission from the Fisheries Council on 25 April 2001 to present concrete proposals in this area within the context of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), seeks to translate such ideas into an Action Plan, involving objectives and principles, means, targets and timetables. It also puts into effect one of the main reform objectives contained in the Commission's ("Roadmap") Communication.
    2. The current document

    3. The Commission suggests that environmental integration into the CFP should be based on the following principles:

    • that the CFP should contribute to the achievement of the environmental objectives set out in Article 174[13] of the EC Treaty;

    • that the CFP should be based on the principles of precaution, prevention, rectification at source, and payment by the polluter;

    • that the CFP should aim at a progressive implementation of an ecosystem-based approach;

    • that the Community should maintain the same level of commitment to these principles in its own fisheries management decisions and at international level;

    1. The Communication then suggests that associated management action within the CFP should give highest priority to:

    • reducing pressure on fishing grounds to sustainable levels, and that, where possible and on the basis of scientific advice, such a reduction should target activities having adverse effects both on the sustainability of fish stocks and of the conservation status of non-commercial species and habitats;

    • improving fishing methods, with a view to reducing discards, incidental by-catches, and the impact on habitats: in this regard, the Commission intends to devise an Action Plan on discards and appropriate proposals to protect sharks, cetaceans and sea birds from the adverse effects of fishing;

    • the elimination of public aid for the modernisation and renewal of the fishing fleet, except for such aspects as improved safety.

    1. The Commission also suggests that the CFP should address the following issues:

    • outstanding measures set out in the Biodiversity Action Plan for Fisheries[14], with special attention being given to long-term management plans for the most important and vulnerable stocks, the identification of key habitats and biotypes, the setting up of "no take zones", and the development of guidelines for best fishing practice;

    • measures to stimulate fishing practices adding value to environmental integration;

    • improved scientific assessment of the state of fish stocks, both in Community and non-Community waters;

    • the integration of environmental policy concerns into the aquaculture sector;

    • the adoption of a Community strategy for distant-water fisheries to contribute to sustainable fishing outside Community waters.

    1. The Commission also says that, as a complement to these priority measures within the CFP, Member States should fulfil as soon as possible, their obligations under the nature protection directives[15], especially the management of marine areas forming part of the Nature 2000 framework.
    2. The rest of the Communication lists a number of so-called complementary measures, including:

    • the stimulation within the Sixth Framework Programme for Community Research, of a better understanding of marine ecosystems;

    • a study of the implications of the full application of the precautionary principle to all aspects of the CFP implying environmental risks;

    • an analysis of the consequences of applying in the field of fisheries and aquaculture the principles of prevention, rectification at source and polluter-pays;

    • the undertaking by Member States of pilot projects for the collection of basic information on the relationships of capture fisheries and aquaculture with the environment;

    • collaboration between the Commission and Member States on implementing programmes for integrated coastal zone management;

    • the giving of special attention at both Community and national levels to keeping interested parties and the public well informed;

    • consideration of the use of trade measures compatible with the Community's obligations under the WTO to promote sustainable and environmentally sound fishing practices;

    • consideration of the potential for eco-labels to stimulate environmentally sound fishing practices;

    • drawing the attention of the appropriate authorities to activities not covered by the CFP which have a proven harmful impact on the marine environment and on fish yields.

    1. The Commission also says that this process of integration should be monitored by a system based on indicators, and that it will as a first step consult the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries on whether it would be possible to define indicators of the economic performance of fisheries management. On the basis of that Committee's advice, the Commission says it will design an experimental system to become operational during 2003, and, in the light of experience of that system, it will submit before 31 December 2005 a report on the environmental performance of the CFP. It also invites Member States, within the Sixth Research Framework Programme, to study the performance of this system with a view to developing more comprehensive arrangements. The Commission itself will review in 2005 whether a revision of the actions and targets set out in this Communication is necessary.
    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, in its response last year to the Commission's Green Paper on the reform of the CFP, the UK had identified the integration of environmental concerns as one of its key objectives, and had recognised the need for progress in such areas as cetacean deaths. He says that the Government therefore welcomes this Communication and its associated action plan, and looks forward to receiving detailed proposals in the areas identified as priorities.
    4. He points out that the action plan recognises that progress in this area also depends on reducing fishing effort and ending subsidies for fleet modernisation, which are matters being taken forward as part of the CFP review. He also says that the Government particularly welcomes the emphasis in the Communication on monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the proposed measures.
    5. The Minister says that some of the issues in this document (for example, subsidies and the reduction of effort) will be taken forward in the main negotiations on the reform of the CFP, but that, for others, such as action to reduce by-catches of cetaceans, the Commission envisages further proposals by the end of the year, with final decisions by the Council unlikely until mid-late 2003.
    6. Conclusion

    7. Though this document is essentially an Action Plan rather than a set of legislative proposals, it does nevertheless cover ground which will be dealt with in the wider negotiations on the Common Fisheries Policy. We therefore recommend that it be debated at the same time as the other documents.


13   These include the preservation, protection and improvement of the quality of the environment, and the prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources. Back

14   (22319) 7611/01; see HC 152-ii (2001-02), paragraphs 22.17-19 (17 October 2001). Back

15   Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds and Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. Back

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