Documents considered by the Committee on 27 April 2016 Contents

5Fisheries conservation: technical measures

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information awaited

Document details

Proposal for a Regulation on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures

Legal base

Article 43(2) TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Numbers

(37598), 6993/16 + ADDs 1–3, COM(16) 134

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

5.1The conservation provisions of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) include so-called technical measures which, among other things, regulate the design and operation of fishing gear; establish minimum fish landing sizes; seek to mitigate the impact of fishing activity on sensitive species and habitats; and limit catches in certain areas and/or at certain times in order to protect spawning and juvenile fish. They are seen as playing a key role in achieving the objectives of the CFP, but they also contribute to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, as well as a number of other environmental goals relating to habitats, wild birds, and water policy.

5.2However, the Commission says that the general impression is of multiple complex and ineffective rules contained in an inflexible governance structure, and it notes that a recent evaluation had concluded that the measures had not delivered on the objectives of the CFP and had in addition identified a number of specific problems. For example, there is little incentive to fish selectively; it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of the measures; they have become more complex and prescriptive over time; and, since they are mostly decided by a lengthy and politically-driven co-decision process, it is difficult to take account of changes in gear technology, or to respond to unexpected events. Also, being essentially based on a top-down approach, there is insufficient involvement by key stakeholders.

5.3The Commission has therefore proposed that the existing measures should be repealed and replaced by this new Regulation, which would simplify and consolidate various technical measures, currently in stand-alone Regulations and in assorted Commission acts. In practice, the main change would be to the governance structure, rather than to the detailed content of the measures, and would involve a set of common rules applicable to all areas, but with a regionalised approach under which baseline standards would serve as default minimum standards whilst bespoke regionalised measures are agreed by means of Delegated Acts.

5.4The Government notes that the UK played a leading role during the reform of the CFP, including promoting the regionalisation principle, and considers that technical measures are an important component of the current regulatory framework. It therefore supports the approach which the Commission has adopted, and welcomes what it describes as this “long overdue” consolidation and simplification. It also says that an in-depth analysis is being undertaken in order to establish any issues that might arise, including an assessment of the elements which are new, as well as those which have not been carried forward, and it has in the meantime identified a number of detailed aspects which it will be pursuing.

5.5Although technical measures play an important part in conserving fish stocks under the Common Fisheries Policy, there is widespread agreement that the present legislative structure is both overly complex and inflexible. The Government has therefore welcomed this proposal, which would both consolidate and simplify the existing measures in this area, whilst also introducing a greater emphasis on regionalisation in accordance with the objectives of the reformed CFP. The Government has also noted that the main changes would focus on the governance structure rather than detailed technical content, but it will be carrying out an in-depth analysis to compare the new Regulation with the current legislation, and we think it right to await that exercise before taking a definitive view on the handling of this document. In the meantime, we are drawing it to the attention of the House.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures, amending Council Regulations (EC) No. 1967/2006, (EC) No. 1098/2007, (EC) No. 1224/2009 and Regulations (EU) No. 1343/2011 and (EU) No. 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No. 894/97, (EC) No. 850/98, (EC) No. 2549/2000, (EC) No. 254/2002, (EC) No. 812/2004 and (EC) No. 2187/2005: (37598), 6993/16 + ADDs 1–3, COM(16) 134.

Background

5.6The conservation provisions of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) comprise two main elements — the setting of annual catch quotas and so-called technical measures—the main legislative basis for the latter being currently set out in three Council Regulations which deal respectively with the north-east Atlantic (and latterly the Black Sea), the Mediterranean, and the Baltic, together with numerous Commission acts containing detailed rules on their application. The UK’s primary interest relates to the first of these Council Regulations (850/98), which applies to those areas where most of its fishing activities take place, notably the North Sea and North Western Waters (West of Scotland, Irish and Celtic Seas, Western Approaches and the Channel).

5.7Among other things, these various measures regulate the design and operation of fishing gear; establish minimum fish landing sizes; seek to mitigate the impact of fishing activity on sensitive species and habitats; and limit catches in certain areas and/or at certain times in order to protect spawning and juvenile fish. They are seen as playing a key role in achieving maximum sustainable yields (MSY); in the gradual elimination of discarded fish (and the reduction of unwanted catches); and in minimising the impact of fishing gears on marine ecosystems. They also contribute to achieving the aims of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC), as well as a number of other environmental goals relating to habitats, wild birds, and water policy.

The current document

5.8The Commission says that the general impression is one of multiple complex and ineffective rules contained in an inflexible governance structure, and it notes that a recent evaluation had concluded that the measures had not delivered on the objectives of the CFP, a view which it observes was also generally held during the recent re-negotiation. In addition, it points out that the evaluation had identified a number of particular problems—for example, since discarding or catching sensitive species carries no cost, there is little incentive to fish selectively; the existing measures contain no basis for measuring success, making it difficult to assess their effectiveness; the rules have become more numerous, complex and prescriptive over time, and are often difficult to comply with (and enforce); and, as the measures are mostly decided by a lengthy and politically-driven co-decision process, the scope for updating them to take account of changes in gear technology, or to respond to unexpected events, is limited. Also, as their adoption is essentially based on a top-down, rather than a bottom-up, approach, key stakeholders have had insufficient involvement.

5.9The Commission has therefore proposed that the existing measures should be repealed and replaced by this new Regulation, which would simplify and consolidate various technical measures, currently in stand-alone Regulations and in assorted Commission acts, but with the main change being to the governance structure, rather than to their detailed content. It would thus seek to establish a flexible approach, with a framework establishing the scope, objectives, and principles at EU level, aimed at securing key objectives of the CFP, and involving a set of common rules which would be applicable to all areas and regulate the use of fishing gears and practices, protect sensitive species and habitats, place general restrictions on the use of towed gears and static nets (including a consolidation of the existing restrictions on drift nets), set minimum conservation reference sizes, and establish common measures to reduce discards.

5.10At the same time, in accordance with the regionalised approach which Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 incorporates into the reformed CFP, the proposal would establish baseline measures by region, intended to serve as default minimum standards whilst bespoke regionalised measures are agreed by means of Delegated Acts. Such a mechanism would also apply to any technical measures considered necessary to meet the objectives of regional multi-annual management plans (where the Member States concerned would be able to make Joint Recommendations to the Commission); to the regulation of fishing gear attachments affecting species and size selectivity; and to measures which minimise by-catches of cetaceans and seabirds.

The Government’s view

5.11In his Explanatory Memorandum of 8 April 2016, the Minister of State for Farming, Food and Marine Environment (George Eustice) notes that the UK played a leading role during the reform of the CFP, including promoting the regionalisation principle, and considers that technical measures are an important component of the current regulatory framework. It therefore supports the approach which the Commission has adopted for this overhaul, and welcomes what he describes as its “long overdue” consolidation and simplification elements.

5.12The Minister observes that the proposal largely reflects the gear management model featured in the UK Government’s response to the Commission’s public consultation exercise, as it adopts a framework approach establishing common principles, coupled with regionalisation provisions and the setting of baseline mesh size standards by sea basin. However, he also points out that, although regionalisation would enable a far more accessible and adaptable approach at local level, with a greater direct contribution from key stakeholders, the proposal is essentially a continuation of a management method based on inputs specifying the means used, whereas the UK industry’s responses to public consultation indicate that it would prefer to see a more significant shift towards an ‘outputs’ based model, focusing on what is landed.

5.13The Minister says that an in-depth analysis is being undertaken to correlate the proposal, including the detail in the Annexes, with current legislation in order to establish any issues that might arise, including an assessment of the elements which are new as well as those which have not been carried forward. In the meantime, he makes the following detailed comments:

5.14The Minister also says that the UK agrees with the Commission’s assessment that the cost implications of the proposal are likely to be neutral at EU level, but that overall the long term economic impacts should be positive.

Previous Committee Reports

None.





© Parliamentary copyright 2015

4 May 2016