Fisheries Bill

Written Evidence submitted by Cornwall Council (FISH12)

Executive summary

· Current Bill lacks detail;

· Need for a seat at the table for English stakeholders to enable parity with the devolved administrations;

· Support view that fisheries policy should be based on ‘ecosystem objectives’;

· There is a need to strengthen the policy on discards;

· Require more detail in the Bill regarding the restrictions on tendering for new quota;

· Calls for a shift towards quota for smaller inshore vessels which have low environmental impact, are sustainable and support local jobs in coastal communities;

· Require clarification regarding the aim of a yearly sale of fishing opportunities and the implications for actors in the sector;

· Would like the Bill to include options regarding the existing quota;

· Request that the importance in the Bill of data collection and scientific evidence is strengthened;

· Consider that adequate funding is available to support data collection

· There is a need for adequate funding for monitoring and enforcement, not based on charges;

· Require more information on trading arrangements;

· Clarity on how the financial assistance available for the fisheries sector is linked and aligned with the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund is needed in order to understand how the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) will be replaced;

· The role of the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) should be included in the Bill.

1.1 Introduction

Overall Cornwall Council welcomes the Fisheries Bill. Cornwall is a proud maritime region and fishing is a key part of our economy and our heritage. Cornwall is the one of the biggest fishing regions in the UK and plays a leading role in the English fishing sector. In 2017 the value of fish landed in Cornish ports was £46.1 million, up on the 2016 total of £43.4 million. The main fisheries port is Newlyn with landings worth £29.7million which accounted for 64.3% of the total catch in Cornwall and makes Newlyn the premier fishing port in England and one of the largest in the UK.

We welcome the intention to develop an ambitious UK fisheries policy and feel that the objectives set out in section 1 of the Fisheries Bill strikes a good balance between delivering benefits to the fishing industry, the wider maritime sector, coastal communities and the marine environment.

The new UK Fisheries Policy is a unique opportunity to bring a greater share of the benefits linked to fishing in UK waters back under UK control. It can build on elements of past fisheries management that have worked well while grasping the opportunity to address the serious shortcomings of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

This includes finding a better way to manage the quota system that will allow for fairer access for fishing boats of various sizes and better allow for new entrants into the sector, whilst maintaining healthy stocks and providing a transparent and measurable fisheries management system.

However, the Fisheries Bill as published still lacks clarity in certain areas and we would therefore like to raise the following concerns and questions;

1.2 Lack of detail. The Fisheries Bill currently lacks detail and leaves key issues to be determined through secondary legislation. We would like to see more detail in the Bill itself in order to set the direction of travel for key issues such as how the envisioned quota system will contribute to the overall objectives of the Bill. We consider there needs to be clarity around a number of issues which would commit the Secretary of State (SoS) and indeed future governments to a particular line of action.

1.3 A seat at the table for English stakeholders. Cornwall Council welcomes the intention to limit access to British Fisheries by foreign fishing boats as this will be instrumental in ensuring that a greater share of the benefits linked to fishing in UK waters are enjoyed by the UK fishing industry. As outlined in the Bill and explanatory notes, the UK fishing opportunities will be determined based on scientific monitoring of global fish stocks and on negotiations with international partners. Subsequently decisions about licencing of foreign vessels and a yearly tending process of the English fishing opportunities have been conferred to the SoS. While shared decision-making is foreseen for the devolved administrations, Cornwall Council is worried that there is no clear seat at the table for the English fishing industry and coastal communities. We want to see the Bill amended so that a clear role is outlined for English stakeholders to have a seat at the table and have a role in informing these important decisions.

1.4 Environmental sustainability. Cornwall Council believes that the Fisheries Bill should reaffirm the UKs commitment to champion sustainable fishing and the ambition to secure clean, healthy, productive, and biologically diverse seas and oceans. A strong commitment to a healthy maritime environment, including recovery of global fish stocks is the foundation for a sustainable fishing industry. It is therefore good see that section 1 (4) sets out the ‘ecosystem objectives" and makes it clear that the UK fisheries policy should be based on an ecosystems-based approach. This is extremely positive and should be retained. We would expect to see the principle of an eco-systems approach implemented throughout the Bill and yet there seems little detail of how this will be achieved and some instances where it seems to be contradicted. For example section 1(6) (re. the discards objective) goes on to undermine this strong commitment to environmental sustainability by a rather weak formulation that only commits to "gradual" elimination of discards on a case by case basis. We believe that section 1(6) should be strengthened.

1.5 A fundamental change to the UK quota system. Section 22 in the Bill sets out how new English fishing opportunities will be sold on a yearly basis. While the Bill and the explanatory notes do indicate that some useful restriction can be imposed on the tendering to ensure a move away from current "highest bidder takes it all" system, we are disappointed that the UK Fisheries Bill has not taken the opportunity to implement a more fundamental change of system. It is imperative that we find a better way to manage the fish opportunities in England that will allow for fairer access for fishing boats of various sizes and better allow for new entrants into the sector, whilst maintaining healthy stocks and providing a transparent and measurable fisheries management system.

1.6 Cornwall Council are therefore worried that although the Bill may allow for some restrictions on tendering (e.g. it may be possible to restrict part of the quota for vessels with low environmental impact or put limits on how much quota can be concentrated in the hands of one individual/company) it does not in any way guarantee that this will happen. Cornwall Council therefore view it as important that more detail is introduced in the body of the Bill that will clarify the intention behind the change to the quota system and clearly outline the desired change away from the current quota system that is opaque and concentrated in few hands.

1.7 Specifically Cornwall Council would also seek clarity and commitment from the Secretary of State that the selling of English fishing opportunity will support a shift towards smaller inshore fishing vessels. A key element of this will be to restrict the 0-12 miles zone to UK commercial fishing vessels that have a lower environmental impact, are more sustainable in terms of managing the resource and which support local jobs in coastal communities.

1.8 Cornwall Council would also like greater clarity on the implications of moving to a yearly sale of fishing opportunities, including what the government is hoping to achieve by doing this and what implications this might have for actors in the fishing sector, especially smaller vessels and the ability to make longer term investments. We would also welcome an addition to the Bill to outline future options for the existing quota held by individuals/companies.

1.9 Cornwall Council would also like greater clarity on how the "Equal access objective" set out in section 1 (7) will interact with the quota system and the species and geographical limits set on individual quotas.

1.10 Data collection and evidence based. Cornwall Council welcomes this section 1(5) as it sets out the "scientific evidence objective" as a key element of the future Fisheries policy. It should be a priority for the UK to ensure that better data on fish stocks is developed at an international and national level. We consider that there is a problem with the existing data available, including the lack of long-term datasets. Data is currently not sufficiently fit for purpose or able to react in a timely manner to changes in fish stocks. Accurate assessments of the level of stocks suffer from a lack of information.

1.11 Cornwall Council therefore believes that the importance of data and scientific evidence needs to be strengthened throughout the Bill including assurances that this will be adequately funded by Government. Cornwall Council doesn’t want to see data and scientific evidence be dependent on funding generated via charging the fishing fleet and want to see a commitment from the SOS within the Bill that there will be adequate funding available for this important work.

1.12 Adequate funding for monitoring and enforcement. Similarly Cornwall Council also wants to see a commitment within the Bill that there are adequate resources set aside for the Marine Management Organisation ( MMO), Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authorities (IFCA) and others to monitor and enforce the policies set out in the Fisheries Bill. The Bill in section 29 includes powers for the MMO to impose charges and we want to make sure that 29 (1) (b) "ensure that commercial fish activities are carried out lawfully" does not mean that MMOs only means of funding enforcement is from its charging policy. This will not work and the government needs to commit adequate funding to these organisations.

1.13 Trade and future access to the EU market. The Bill does not currently address the issues of trade and Cornwall Council feels that it is important that the debate around the Fisheries Bill addresses the issue of future access to the EU market for UK fish products. It is estimated that around 60% of fish by value landed in Cornwall is exported to EU countries [1] . In addition to this, the fish processing industry imports a significant amount of fish from the EU for processing. 32% of fish (by volume) which is imported into the UK, is from other EU states [2] .

1.14 It is therefore a priority for Cornwall Council that the future UK-EU trading arrangement is free from tariff and non-tariff barriers in order to allow the fishing industry to continue to export to the EU and source inputs from this market. We would like to express our concern about continued access to European markets for trade in fish. It is essential to ensure that offshore and inshore fisheries retain market access in the EU and that there is simple passage of goods, particularly shellfish. More detail is needed on future arrangements for foreign landings at UK ports and UK vessels abroad, such as landing requirements.

1.15 Financial assistance for the fisheries sector and coastal communities (EMFF replacement). It is helpful that section 28 outlines financial assistance to replace the EMFF in England. Cornwall Council would like to see a commitment to the level of funding available and a guarantee that coastal communities and the fisheries sector will not be worse off as a result of Brexit. Cornwall Council would also like clarity on how the financial assistance available for the fisheries sector is linked and aligned with the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund and a guarantee that we will not experience the demarcation issues or process issues that current EU funding entails. We also feel that it is important that the purposes listed in section 28 are expanded to better reflect wider support for coastal communities.

1.16 IFCA. Cornwall Council note that there is no reference in the Bill to the role of the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities in fisheries management. We consider this should be clarified.

Prepared by:

Cornwall Council

Economic Growth Service

14 December 2018   


[1] Own calculations based on MMO data and HMRC trade data

[2] House of Lords, European Union Committee, 8th Report of Session 2016–17Brexit: Fisheries report, 2016.

 

Prepared 14th December 2018