Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixteenth Report

9 Management plan for plaice and sole in the North Sea



COM(05) 714

Draft Council Regulation establishing a management plan for fisheries exploiting stocks of plaice and sole in the North Sea

Legal baseArticle 37EC; consultation; QMV
DepartmentEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 26 March 2007
Previous Committee ReportHC 34-xviii (2005-06), para 4 (8 February 2006) and HC 34-xxix (2005-06), para 1 (17 May 2006)
To be discussed in CouncilApril 2007
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


9.1 For those stocks held to be at particular risk of over-exploitation, the Community has in recent years adopted, over and above the usual range of measures limiting catches and effort, a number of specific conservation management plans, aimed at reducing the level of fishing mortality. In January 2006, the Commission put forward the current document, which sets out such a plan, covering the plaice and sole stocks in the North Sea.

9.2 As we first noted in our Report of 8 February 2006, the Government has accepted the need to reduce fishing mortality in these fisheries, and it has also pointed out that, although UK beam trawlers fishing in the southern North Sea would be affected by the proposal, the majority are in fact Dutch owned, and based in the Netherlands. However, their by-catches also include North Sea cod, and it was unclear how the recovery plan for that stock and the one now proposed for plaice and sole would operate alongside each other. Since this was an issue which the Government had said it would be studying further, we said that we would reserve judgement, and continue to hold the document under scrutiny in the meantime.

9.3 We subsequently received from the Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Ben Bradshaw) a supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 15 May 2006, enclosing a Regulatory Impact Assessment, which confirmed that the impact of the measure on the UK was likely to be relatively small. The Assessment also said that, although it remained unclear how far the restrictions proposed would be additional to those already imposed under the cod recovery plan, the Commission's proposal would in the long term be expected to lead to a large, robust stock and to less need for sudden management action. In our Report of 17 May 2006, we noted that it was clear that uncertainties still remained over how the measures proposed would relate to those already in force for cod, and that, although the UK supported the proposal in principle, it believed that it needed to be considered in the light of the wider debate planned on long-term fisheries management. We therefore thought it right to continue to hold the present document under scrutiny, pending further developments.

Minister's letter of 26 March 2007

9.4 We have now received from the Minister a letter of 26 March 2007, indicating that, as a result of further discussion, the Council is now close to agreement on a text. He also says that, although the Commission has continued to argue that it will not take decisions in one area to the detriment of another (and that there is hence no need to write such a clause into the proposed Regulation), it has agreed to a statement confirming its powers to go beyond what is required in the plan itself to ensure the success of the cod recovery plan. The Minister adds that, in view of this, the UK is now prepared to support the measure, which is expected to go forward for adoption as an A point[16] at the Council next month.


9.5 In view of the latest information provided by the Minister, we are now clearing this document.

16   Without further discussion. Back

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