Documents considered by the Committee on 4 February 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents

16 Fisheries: catch quotas and effort limitation for 2015

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny
Document detailsDraft regulation regarding fishing opportunities in 2015 for EU vessels for fish stocks in EU and non-EU waters
Legal baseArticle 43(3) TFEU; QMV
DepartmentEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs
Document numbers(36469), 14590/14, COM(14) 670

Summary and Committee's conclusions

16.1 The EU Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for particular fish stocks need to be agreed by the Council before the start of the calendar year to which they apply, but the requirement to take into account scientific advice means that official texts have often been available too late to be considered properly before their adoption. This has been a particular problem for those stocks (including a number of importance to the UK in the North Sea) which are jointly managed with third countries, notably Norway, since the EU share has to be negotiated with them.

16.2 Even though no figures were available for jointly managed stocks, or those subject to management by regional fisheries organisations, the Commission put forward on 28 October 2014 this draft Council Regulation which sought to set TACs for 2015, as well as effort (days at sea) limits for certain stocks, with the proposals reflecting scientific advice, the EU's commitment to restore stocks to levels which will achieve maximum sustainable yields, and the CFP objectives of ensuring that EU fisheries are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. The hope was that the proposals would be agreed by the December Fisheries Council, and, in our Report of 19 November 2014, we said that, in view of the desirability of establishing the TACs in question before the start of 2015, the best we could do at that stage was to report the current position to the House, and to ensure that as many Members as possible had a chance to raise points with the Government before any decision was taken.

16.3 In particular, we noted that this had in recent years been achieved by means of a general debate on fisheries on the Floor of the House (or, occasionally, in Westminster Hall), and we expressed the hope that it would again be possible for such a debate to be held this year, well in advance of the December Council. We added that, if that were the case, we would be prepared to grant a waiver under paragraph 3(b) of the Scrutiny Reserve Resolution, in advance of the Council, whilst continuing to hold the proposals under scrutiny, pending any further information from the Government, particularly on those stocks subject to joint management.

16.4 The debate in question took place on the Floor of the House[64] on 11 December 2014, and we have subsequently received from the Government an account of the agreement reached in the Fisheries Council on 15-16 December 2014.[65] In the light of this, we are now content to clear the document.

Full details of the document: Draft Council Regulation fixing for 2015 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Union waters and, for Union vessels, in certain non-Union waters and repealing Council Regulation (EU) No. 779/2014: (36469), 14590/14, COM(14) 670.


16.5 The EU TACs for particular fish stocks in the following calendar year are based on scientific advice, and then have to be agreed by the Fisheries Council following a proposal from the Commission. Since agreement is ideally needed before the start of the calendar year to which the proposal applies, this has habitually presented scrutiny difficulties, in that the requirement to take into account the scientific advice means that official texts have often been available too late to be considered properly beforehand: and this has been a particular problem for those stocks (including a number of importance to the UK in the North Sea) which are jointly managed with third countries, notably Norway, since the EU share has to be negotiated with them.

The current proposal

16.6 Even though no figures were yet available for jointly managed stocks, or those subject to management by regional fisheries organisations, the Commission sought as far as was possible to set out in this draft Council Regulation the relevant fishing opportunities for 2015, including annual catch limits and effort (days at sea) limits for the management of certain stocks. We noted, that, according to the Commission, the TACs proposed reflected both the scientific advice, and the EU's commitment to bring the stocks to levels which will achieve maximum sustainable yields by 2015 (or 2020 at the latest); that, where appropriate, they were set in line with the multi-annual management plans which have been adopted for a number of key stocks; and that, where the necessary data was limited, a precautionary approach had been adopted.

16.7 We went on to note that the Government's objectives were to obtain the best possible outcome for the UK consistent with following scientific advice, achieving maximum sustainable yields by 2015, where possible, and no later than 2020, and minimising discards. We also drew attention to a number of detailed comments it had made as regards the maximum sustainable yield; the proposed effort (days at sea) restrictions; the arrangements proposed for data limited stocks; those for fully documented fisheries (intended to test a catch-quota system where all catches are landed and counted against quota in order to avoid discards); the coastal state negotiations on mackerel, blue whiting and herring; and other provisions relating to mackerel, blue whiting, Atlanto-Scandian herring, and bass.

Subsequent developments

16.8 In the event, a general debate on fisheries took place on the Floor of the House on 11 December 2014, thereby triggering the scrutiny waiver, and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (George Eustice) wrote to us on 18 December, setting out the basis of the agreement reached at the Council meeting earlier that week (which also took into account the outcome of the negotiations with Norway and Faroes on shared stocks).

16.9 The Minister says that he was able to secure a fair and balanced deal which supports the fishing industry and the sustainability of UK fisheries, involving increases for some stocks whilst accepting reductions where the science indicated that this was necessary to support stock recovery. He adds that his top priority had been to ensure that the current level of days at sea for fishermen remained the same, and that this was achieved, along with much needed rollovers for a number of data limited stocks.

16.10 A full list of all the agreed quotas is at the Annex, in addition to which the Minister describes the key outcomes for the UK as being:

North Sea

·  TAC increases for cod (5%), haddock (6%), Nephrops (15%), plaice (15%) and anglerfish (20%)

·  Rollover of 2014 TAC for sole, megrim, dab and flounder and ling

·  TAC cuts for whiting (-15%), saithe (-15%) and herring (-5%)

Celtic Sea and Channel

·  TAC increase for Western Channel sole (2%)

·  Rollover for monkfish, megrim, pollack and Bristol Channel plaice

·  TAC reductions for Celtic Sea cod (-26% instead of -64%), Celtic Sea haddock
(-12% instead of -41%), Eastern Channel sole (-28% instead of -60%) and sole in the Bristol Channel (-15% instead of -35%)

Irish Sea

·  A 3% increase for Nephrops instead of a -14% cut

·  A rollover for haddock instead of a -20% cut

·  TAC cuts for cod (-20%) and herring (-8%)

West of Scotland

·  TAC increases for haddock (14%), monkfish (20%) and megrim (1%)

·  Rollovers for plaice, sole and pollack

·  TAC reductions for Nephrops (-7%), saithe (-15%) and herring (-19%)

All areas

·  A maintenance of the effort (days at sea) freeze for all areas covered by the Cod Recovery Plan for a third year so as to give fishermen the time they need to fish sustainably.

·  An 11% increase for Northern Hake, on top of a 49% increase last year.

16.11 However, the Minister also says that, despite pressing hard for measures to address declining sea bass levels, he was disappointed that an agreement could not be reached on specific measures to protect the stock (although he was able to secure a commitment from the Commission to work with Member States to reduce fishing pressure at the start of the main fishing season next year — an issue which he says will be a priority for him in the coming weeks).

16.12 Finally, the Minister says that the Presidency reported progress on the negotiations with the European Parliament on the so called 'Omnibus' dossier, which facilitates the implementation of the landing obligation under the reformed CFP by removing contradictory rules from the EU statute book. He notes that no agreement had been reached in the first trilogue on 3 December, and that discussions were expected to continue in the New Year, with the Commissioner being committed to publishing guidance on the implementation of the pelagic landing obligation, so as to mitigate any potential confusion about the rules in the absence of an agreed Regulation.

Previous Committee Reports

Twentieth Report HC 219-xix (2014-15), chapter 2 (19 November 2014).



North Sea
Cod23,073 24,227+5 11,369
Haddock32,079 33,947+6 28,576
Saithe36,917 31,383-15 5,249
Whiting15,233 13,060-15 8,739
Sole11,890 11,8900 510
Plaice 104,117 119,690+15 34,066
Hake2,874 3,190+11 574
Monkfish7,833 9,390+20 7,641
Megrim2,083 2,0830 2,006
Dab and flounder18,434 18,4340 1,588
Lemon sole6,391 6,3910 3,904
Ling2,428 2,4280 1,869
Turbot and brill4,642 4,6420 717
Nephrops15,499 17,843+15 15,456
Northern prawn2,446 3,270+34 720
Sprat135,000 218,000+58 8,271
Skates and rays1,256 1,2560 814
Eastern Channel
Cod1,620 1,701+5 157
Plaice5,322 4,787-10 1,393
Sole4,838 3,483-28 670
Western Channel
Cod6,848 5,072-26 354
Haddock9,479 8,342-12 834
Whiting20,668 17,742-14 1,890
Hake45,896 50,944+11 9,155
Pollack13,495 13,4950 2,353
Sole (English Channel) 832851 +2501
Sole (Bristol channel) 1,001851 -15239
Sole (Western approaches) 382382 064
Plaice (Bristol Channel) 461461 065
Plaice (Western approaches) 135135 017
Monkfish33,516 33,5160 6,027
Skate and rays8,032 8,0320 2,076
Irish Sea
Cod228 228-20 52
Haddock1,181 1,1810 566
Plaice1,220 1,098-10 281
Sole95 90-5 23
Nephrops20,989 21,619+3 7,092
West of Scotland
Cod 0 00 0
Whiting292 263-20 150
Haddock3,988 4,536+14 3,532
Monkfish4,432 5,313+20 1,635
Plaice658 6580 388
Ling8,464 8,4640 2,863
Megrim4,074 4,129+1 1,295
Nephrops15,287 14,190-7 13,554
Saithe7,545 6,348-15 3,022
Blue ling2,240 4,746+112 912
Pelagic stocks
North Sea herring282,022 267,197-5 62,292
Eastern Channel herring 51,70448,986 -54,673
Irish Sea herring5,251 4,854-8 3,590
West of Scotland herring 28,06722,690 -1913,711
Blue whiting185,525 197,195+6 39,065
Mackerel611,205 519,612-15 302,000
Norwegian waters
Cod20,524 20,5240 9,622
Haddock1,200 1,2000 789
Faroese waters
Cod and haddock950 9500 817
Saithe3,000 3,0000 696

64   HC Deb, 11 December 2014, Cols. 1003-1055. Back

65   Now confirmed in Council Regulation (EU) No. 2015/104 (OJ No. L 22, 28.01.15, p.1.). Back

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Prepared 13 February 2015