Documents considered by the Committee on 22 March 2017 Contents

2Multiannual Plan for Demersal Fishing Stocks in the North Sea

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; scrutiny waiver granted; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Regulation on establishing a multiannual plan for demersal stocks in the North Sea and the fisheries exploiting those stocks; (b) Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment; (c) Impact Assessment

Legal base

Article 43(2) TFEU

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Numbers

(a) (38011), 11636/16 + ADD 1, COM(16) 493; (b) (38012), —, SWD(16) 267; (c) (38013), —, SWD(16) 272

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

2.1Traditional fisheries management involves the setting of total allowable catches (TACs) on an annual basis. While based on scientific advice, these are political decisions and can lead to the setting of limits that fluctuate significantly. In an attempt to reduce such fluctuations, the EU has made increasing use of multi-annual plans (MAPs), which set a management framework within which TACs are set and other management measures are adopted.

2.2To date, multi-annual plans have tended to focus on specific species. Under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), MAPs should cover multiple stocks where those stocks are jointly exploited (i.e. a mixed fishery). On that basis, the Commission proposed this new MAP incorporating all relevant North Sea stocks into a single management plan.

2.3When we first considered this proposal at our meeting of 12 October 2016, we held it under scrutiny, observing that it related to a number of stocks of great significance to the UK. We noted that the Government was considering the impact on the UK industry of the specific measures proposed for achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY).

2.4The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) has now written to update the Committee on the progress of negotiations. The Minister helpfully puts the proposal into the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, noting that the UK will need to comply with the requirements of the MAP when fishing in EU waters both before and after Brexit. He adds that the science-based framework is likely to provide “a valuable framework for continued regional cooperation between the UK and the EU”.

2.5On the negotiations, he explains that changes proposed by the Council Presidency represent welcome simplification. The Government has, however, been concerned about attempts by certain Member States to pre-empt the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. France, for example, has advocated deviation from the commitment to MSY in the event that a third country sets a high unilateral quota. Such attempts have been resisted by the Presidency.

2.6The Minister indicates that the Presidency is seeking to agree a Council position by the end of March. He asks that the Committee consider releasing the proposal from scrutiny or granting a scrutiny waiver. He adds that the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee is likely to adopt its position by the autumn.

2.7We were pleased that the Minister placed this proposal into the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and we note with particular interest his assessment that the approach taken could provide a valuable framework for future UK-EU fisheries cooperation in the North Sea.

2.8The draft Multi-Annual Plan is itself a framework allowing for more detailed rules to be adopted by the Commission and by interested Member States on a regional basis. To what extent does the Minister’s assessment of the MAP approach include the regionalisation elements, and would the Minister foresee UK engagement in such regionalisation post-Brexit, should the EU be receptive?

2.9We note that the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee has published a first draft of possible amendments and that they include amendments which appear to pre-empt the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, although not to the extent advocated by France. In your next update, summarising any agreement in Council, we would welcome your comments on the discussions taking place in the European Parliament.

2.10We are content to waive the proposal from scrutiny in advance of agreement to a Council position within the next month on the condition that the text reflects the simplification to which the minister refers and does not unnecessarily pre-empt the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a multi-annual plan for demersal stocks in the North Sea and the fisheries exploiting those stocks and repealing Council Regulation (EC) 676/2007 and Council Regulation (EC) 1342/2008: (38011), 11636/16 + ADD 1, COM(16) 493; (b) Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a multi-annual plan for demersal stocks in the North Sea and the fisheries exploiting those stocks and repealing Council Regulation (EC) 676/2007 and Council Regulation (EC) 1342/2008—Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment: (38012), —, SWD(16) 267; (c) Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a mixed fishery multi-annual plan for demersal stocks and their fisheries in the North Sea—Impact Assessment: (38013), —, SWD(16) 272.

Background

2.11The plan would require the TACs for the main demersal stocks (cod, haddock, plaice, saithe, sole and whiting) and nephrops (langoustines) to be at or below a specified range of fishing mortality rates17 for each species. There is provision both for TACs to be set at a higher mortality rate where the spawning biomass of a stock (i.e. the future potential of the stock) is above a specified conservation reference level, and for remedial action to be taken where spawning biomass falls below specified levels. Further details on the background to, and content of, the proposal were set out in our Report of 12 October 2016.18

2.12In his original Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister noted the importance of the stocks in question, and supported the establishment of multi-annual plans covering multiple stocks. He also regarded the proposal as being consistent in the short term with the UK’s commitment to sustainable fisheries management, although he added that it was too early to assess what role it could play in the longer term when the UK had left the EU. In the meantime, he noted that, although the maximum sustainable yield ranges suggested were based on current scientific advice, the Government was considering what impact these would have on the UK industry.

2.13The Committee held the documents under scrutiny pending further information.

The Minister’s letter of 16 March 2017

2.14The Minister puts the proposal into the context of Brexit:

“The UK will have to comply with the North Sea MAP when fishing in EU waters, both while the UK is still within the EU and when fishing in EU waters in accordance with any fishing agreements post exit. This would for example mean complying in EU waters with specific conservation measures adopted under the MAP. More generally, the science-based framework established under the MAP is likely to provide a valuable framework for continued regional cooperation between the UK and the EU, where it will be important to find a shared basis to agree on sustainable rates of exploitation across all commercially important species.”

2.15On the progress of negotiations, he says:

“Since the start of the year, the Council Presidency has brought forward two compromise documents in order to develop a Council position on the proposal. These have simplified the MAP, which we have generally welcomed. They remove changes to requirements for prior notification of landings and for landings over a lowered threshold to be made at designated ports, which would have increased administrative burdens on industry and enforcement authorities for few benefits. The number of groups of stocks covered by the plan has been reduced in the compromise proposal. However, it continues to include the main demersal species and all Nephrops functional units in the North Sea, and will allow for new stocks to be introduced into the plan as new science becomes available.

“We have been concerned that in the latter stages of negotiation, certain Member States have sought amendments to the North Sea MAP that would have anticipated the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU, which could have undermined the objectives of the plan. In particular France had argued for a provision that would have allowed the EU to deviate from its commitment to MSY in the case that a ‘third country’ set a high unilateral quota. These have however been resisted by the Presidency.”

2.16He concludes by informing the Committee that the Presidency is looking to agree a Council position in March. In view of that timing, he would be grateful if the Committee could either consider clearing from scrutiny at this stage or granting a waiver to enable the UK to vote in favour. He adds that the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries is expected to come to its position by the autumn. The timing of a final agreement will depend on the initial EP position and how well any trilogue negotiations between the EP and Council proceed.

Previous Committee Reports

Thirteenth Report HC 71-xi (2016–17), chapter 3 (12 October 2016).


17 Fishing mortality is the rate at which fish are removed from the stock by means of fishing activities over a given period.

18 See our Thirteenth Report HC 71-xi (2016–17), chapter 3 (12 October 2016).




24 March 2017