Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sixth Report


The fishing industry is an important part of the UK economy, with one of the largest fleets and processing industries in Europe. However, it has faced tremendous upheaval in recent years. Quota cuts and decommissioning have resulted in a severe decline in the fishing activity in several traditional UK fishing communities. These difficulties have coincided with an increased awareness—and criticism—of the impact of commercial fishing on the marine environment. The Strategy Unit's March 2004 report, Net Benefits, set out a series of recommendations intended to create a stable future for the industry and fishing communities. Our report assesses many of these recommendations.

We support the SU report's general aim of improving compliance levels amongst fishermen and consider that several of its recommendations should achieve this. In particular, we recommend that the Government commission detailed technical analysis of the practicalities of introducing effort-management systems and technical measures in certain mixed fisheries, because quota-based management systems in mixed fisheries do not work well. We strongly support regionalisation of the management functions of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), through the continued development of the Regional Advisory Councils. We believe the CFP is over-centralised and under-resourced, and that a more regional and representative management system which involves stakeholders is required. We also support the further development of the inshore sector, and particularly the recreational angling sector. Both have considerable economic potential but have traditionally been under-represented at management level. We believe that the needs of the fishing industry must be integrated with other uses of the marine environment, and we recommend that the Government should develop strategic environmental assessments and environmental impact assessments and work towards implementing an experimental system of marine protected areas as soon as possible. In each case, it should be done so in close consultation with the industry.

Other Strategy Unit recommendations are more questionable. The introduction of progressive cost-recovery from the industry for management costs is unlikely to be acceptable. We do not believe that most of the industry is profitable enough at present to pay such costs and we are concerned such a measure would put the UK at a competitive disadvantage with its EU neighbours. On the basis of current evidence, we are also sceptical about the need to reduce the whitefish fleet by a further 13%. There are concerns from industry representatives, and the Scottish Minister for Environment and Rural Development, that the modelling used by the Strategy Unit to reach this recommendation was inaccurate. There may turn out to be some advantages in the introduction of an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) system but we believe more clarity is required about what kind of ITQ system might be applied and how it would affect the UK industry before we would support such a move.

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