Beyond the Common Fisheries Policy: Scrutiny of the Fisheries Bill Contents

5Sustainability and coastal communities

Maximum Sustainable Yield

65.EU-fisheries are currently managed under the CFP using the principle of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The CFP regulations define MSY as “the highest theoretical equilibrium yield that can be continuously taken on average from a stock under existing average environmental conditions without significantly affecting the reproduction process”.94 MSY can be expressed in two terms; either as Biomass MSY (BMSY), the biomass (total weight of fish) that can support harvest of the maximum sustainable yield or by Fishing Mortality Rate MSY (FMSY), the level of fishing mortality that will allow fish stocks to achieve the required size.95

The UK’s international commitments

66.MSY is recognised in several international agreements as an appropriate measure of fishing sustainability. Article 2 of the CFP sets out that “the maximum sustainable yield rate shall be achieved by 2015 where possible and, on a progressive, incremental basis at the latest by 2020 for all stocks”.96 The EU and its member states committed themselves to these targets at the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Johannesburg in 2002.97 In 2015, the EU committed to targets in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including SDG14 which set an ambition to, by 2020, “effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible”.98

67.Defra has confirmed its commitment to MSY, sustainable fisheries and the conservation of the marine environment.99 The UK also has a number of international obligations related to fisheries and marine protection including the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention), the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.100 These have been restated on several recent occasions.101

Sustainability in the Bill

68.Clauses 1 and 2 of the Fisheries Bill outline the introduction of new fisheries objectives and fisheries statements. Clause 1, on the fisheries objectives, revokes Article 2 of the existing CFP regulation but replicates most of the wording, introducing equivalent fisheries objectives relating to sustainability including the “sustainability objective”, the “precautionary objective” and the “ecosystem objective”.102

69.Reflecting the stated ambition of the White Paper to meet existing international commitments, the Bill includes an objective to ensure that all harvested stocks are recovered to, or maintained at, a biomass above that capable of producing MSY.103 However, in revoking Article 2 of the CFP regulation, it removes the target set under the CFP to achieve an MSY-level of exploitation of fish stocks by 2020. Furthermore, the Bill includes no duties or targets to achieve any other of the objectives listed in Clause 1. Instead, the Bill imposes a duty on the fisheries policy authorities and the Secretary of State to produce a first JFS and SSFS by January 2021, the end of the intended transition period, and a duty to review these statements at least every six years.104

70.There was broad support in the evidence we received for UK fisheries management to be consistent with the UK’s existing international sustainability obligations.105 However, there was disagreement about the importance of including more duties within Clause 1, and the retention of the 2020 target for MSY under Article 2 of the CFP. The fishing industry preferred a less stringent approach; the South Western Fish Producers Organisation (SWFPO) stated that “biomass levels fluctuate for reasons other than fishing pressures. The aim would be better explained by stating at or above biomass levels capable of producing high long-term sustainable yields, if possible at MSY”.106 The Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance presented similar concerns and insisted that the precautionary principle should not be used where “it is likely that communities would be endangered significantly in a socio-economic way”.107 Industry instead preferred a more general commitment to work towards achieving MSY as stipulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).108 Jim Portus of the SWFPO, argued the case for removing the CFP’s 2020 deadline date.109 The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) welcomed the removal of “the arbitrary MSY timetable, and the unscientific and unachievable language with which the concept of MSY was expressed in the CFP”.110 It argued against inclusion of a target date in the Bill.111

71.By contrast, NGOs and conservation charities criticised the Bill’s lack of clear duties, and absence of a deadline to implement MSY under the Bill’s precautionary objective. Oceana warned that “without a clear duty and deadline the UK may continue to overfish and may never actually deliver sustainable fisheries”.112 This viewpoint was shared across the major environmental groups that submitted evidence, including Greener UK, the Wildlife Trusts, Sustain, WWF and the RSPB.113 Sustain underlined some of the potential positive effects of achieving MSY, stating that UK fisheries could yield 45 per cent higher landings, an additional Gross Value Added of approximately £150 million and an additional 2,400 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs if all stocks reached MSY.114 Greener UK observed that the most successful fisheries management regimes in the world, including the USA, Australia, New Zealand, all place a duty to ensure that fishing mortality is not set above the FMSY level.115 The RSPB stated that, in comparison to the White Paper, the Bill “generally lacks the ambition, clarity of detail and purpose, and courage of commitment that would put the UK on a par with the global best practice to which it aspires.116 Oceana urged that the new Fisheries Bill should contain clear duties aimed at achieving “no less than the CFP standard that the UK was instrumental in helping develop, especially in terms of complying with the 2020 deadline for ending overfishing”.117 Professor Richard Barnes argued for restating the objectives in Clause 1 as duties, suggesting it would “aid decision-makers by providing a clear set of reference points that must be considered in the exercise of discretionary powers”.118

72.A further concern from conservation groups was the lack of a firm legal commitment that shared stocks would be managed sustainably and that the UK would meet its international obligations in the future. The UK shares over 100 stocks with the EU, and the Bill omits any firm commitment to shared stocks management.119 Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop stated that “the Bill is unclear about how we are going to link up with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive” and stated how important it was that fisheries management is thought about in an integrated way.120 Oceana also expressed concern that a lack of adequate legal provisions and enforcement measures might undermine any shared commitment to fish below MSY and implement scientific advice.121 Overall, there was a desire to ensure that international obligations continued to be met.122

73.When questioned on the Bill’s sustainability objectives and whether they should be restated as duties, Dr Carl O’Brien, Defra’s Chief Fisheries Science Advisor, responded:

From my own perspective, the fisheries’ objectives that are in the Bill—in terms of sustainability, precautionary, ecosystem, scientific evidence, discards and equal access—seem fine… The only thing that is missing is the date 2020. The UK Government are certainly committed to delivering MSY. Whether 2020 was ever achievable, as a scientist I have my doubts.123

On the issue of the Bill’s omission of the CFP’s 2020 target for MSY, Dr O’Brien went on to say the following:

Regardless of whether there is a date there or not, coastal states are looking at management plans or are managing their stocks in an approach that is consistent with MSY. Depending on whether it is Iceland or the Faroes or Norway, they may or may not be wedded to 2020. They are more wedded to the idea of making gradual progress, and as long as things are moving in the right direction that is fine. That is the view that the UK should probably take and has been taking in the past.124

74.When we asked the Minister whether the Government would amend the Bill to commit the UK to the shared management of stocks with other countries and alignment with MSY, he responded that there was “a very practical reason” for the omission of the 2020 target, in that many sections of the Bill may not be commenced until the end of 2020.125 He argued that “you cannot have a statutory deadline and a target that has expired before a Bill even commences”.126 The Minister did however add that “it may be that when that statement is published it has commitments to keep certain stocks within MSY ranges, to get others there if they have not been able to get there.”127

75.The Government has committed, on numerous occasions, to setting objectives and goals for sustainable fisheries for future generations. The 25 Year Environment Plan also made promising commitments to sustainability and our international obligations, including a clear commitment to delivering UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 and to achieving good environmental status in our seas by 2020 under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

76.At present, this level of ambition is not fully matched by the Bill, which lacks clarity about how the UK’s international obligations will be met once the UK leaves the Common Fisheries Policy. The Government should amend the sustainability and precautionary objectives in Clause 1 to ensure the Bill commits the UK to: (1) its international commitments on achieving maximum sustainable yield under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals; and (2) its obligations to marine protection under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention). The Government should also amend the Bill to enshrine a future commitment to shared management of stocks, based on the best available scientific advice. These commitments should not be left to the Joint Fisheries Statement but should be made explicit in the Bill itself.

77.The Government should also commit to a target date for Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY)-level of exploitation of stocks. This should also be included within the next Joint Fisheries Statement, as suggested by the Minister, to ensure the UK can align with future international commitments for sustainable fisheries. Decisions for setting the target date must factor in both the likely timescale of the Bill and the stated ambition to achieve MSY as part of the precautionary objective.

Coastal Communities

78.The Fisheries White Paper acknowledged that the “commercial fishing industry and wider seafood sector are important to many coastal communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.128 It highlighted that Defra wanted “to deepen and strengthen [its] partnership with the Devolved Administrations, as well as industry and other non-governmental stakeholders, to implement them in ways that work best for the seafood industries, coastal communities and the marine environment”.129 Defra also stated that it was “reviewing the economic link conditions to ensure that UK registered vessels including foreign owned vessels, fishing for UK quota produce genuine economic benefits for UK coastal communities dependent on fisheries and fisheries related industries. [Its] aim is to ensure that UK communities derive maximum benefit from UK quota”.130

79.However, the Bill only indirectly refers to the issue of economic regeneration of Coastal Communities. The “sustainability objective” in Clause 1, subsection (2) does include reference to economic factors in ensuring that fishing and aquaculture activities are “managed in a way that is consistent with the objectives of achieving economic, social and employment benefits, and of contributing to the availability of food supplies”.131 Clause 2 , subsection (2) states that a purpose of the SSFS is to state the Secretary of State’s policies for “contributing to a fair standard of living for those who depend on fishing activities, bearing in mind coastal fisheries and socio-economic factors […] [and] promoting coastal fishing activities, taking into account social-economic factors”.132

80.Greener UK supported an amendment that would ensure “that UK domestic legislation delivers truly sustainable and accountable fisheries management that minimises impacts on the marine environment and supports dependent coastal communities”.133 This view was supported by industry; the Orkney Fisheries Association and the Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance both stated that:

a caveat to provide for such instances where social and economic stability are needed should be included [in the Bill]. Without this type of caveat remote islands and areas will suffer stock decline from unlimited fishing pressure from nomadic vessels.134

81.Jeremy Percy from NUTFA also told us that the Bill could be improved by means of an amendment to ensure that quota should be allocated on social and environmental terms and the extent to which it provides economic benefits to often vulnerable coastal communities.135

EMFF Funding

82.Many UK coastal communities are currently beneficiaries of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The EMFF is a European funding scheme that provides support to coastal communities in diversifying their economies. The current UK investment package under the EMFF, for 2014–2020 is €309 million with an EU contribution of €243 million.136

83.The Bill seeks to replace existing domestic funding powers and allow new funding schemes to replace funding currently received under the EMFF. Under Clause 28 the Secretary of State will be given new powers to establish a support scheme to provide financial assistance, via grants or loans, in England for a variety of activities including “the promotion or development of commercial aquaculture or commercial fish activities” and “the reorganisation of businesses involved in commercial aquaculture or commercial fish activities”.137 Schedule 4 of the Bill proposes to extend this power to the Welsh Government and DAERA, but not the Scottish Government.138 However, the Bill’s funding provisions do not explicitly reference coastal communities.

84.The British Ports Association considered that a long-term sustainable fisheries policy “should include a successor scheme to the EU European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) that, at a minimum, matches the current UK allocation and is better focussed and adjusted to suit UK industry”.139 Sustainable Fish Cities, (part of Sustain, The Alliance for Better Food and Farming), agreed.140 Professor Richard Barnes suggested that the fisheries objectives would be enhanced by “linking the provisions on financial assistance under Clause 28 to the objectives in Clause 1” ensuring that decisions on financial assistance should have regard to the fisheries objectives.141 This, he argued, “would facilitate an alignment between developmental activities and the operational delivery of sustainable fisheries”.142

85.On 10 December, the Minister told us that the Government had:

“committed £37.2 million of extra funding to boost the UK fishing industry during the Implementation Period. Indicatively, £37.2 million would be split with £14.6 million for England, £16.4 million for Scotland, £2.4 million for Wales and £3.6 million for Northern Ireland. This is in addition to the existing European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which at €243m over seven years is broadly equivalent to £32m a year.143

86.The Minister also clarified that:

Clause 2(2) sets out a separate set of objectives to be addressed by the Secretary of State Fisheries Statement (SFSS) including an objective to “contribute to a fair standard of living for those who depend on fishing activities, bearing in mind coastal fisheries and socioeconomic factors” (2(2)e) and “promoting coastal fishing activities, taking into account socio-economic factors” (2(2)f)”.144

The Government added that it was committed to replacing the EMFF with four new domestic schemes in each Fisheries Administration, to be put in place from 2021.145

87.The Fisheries Bill is a significant opportunity for delivering a much-needed reversal of fortunes for vulnerable coastal communities and smaller scale fishers. Fair allocation of new and existing opportunities along economic, environmental, and social lines could lead to the regeneration of coastal communities and sustainable fishing practice.

88.We also welcome the review of economic link conditions promised in the White Paper, Defra’s commitment to close working with Devolved Administrations and the additional funding promised to the Fishing Industry during the implementation period. We recognise the importance of a suitable replacement for the EMFF funding scheme for after 2020 and support the proposed plan and the measures suggested by the Minister. However, given the emphasis in the White Paper, the Committee does believe the Bill should include more explicit reference to the issue of economic regeneration of coastal communities.

89.The Government should clarify what funding will be available to coastal communities after EMFF funding ends in 2020, and how eligibility for funding would be assessed.

90.We recommend that the Government commits fully to delivering its review of economic link conditions proposed in the Fisheries White paper. The Government should also make direct reference to this issue in the Bill by expanding Clause 2 to make specific reference to economic regeneration of coastal communities.

Recreational Fishing

91.In the summary of responses to the Fisheries White Paper, Defra acknowledged that “many respondents had highlighted the importance of recreational fishing to the economy and particularly coastal communities”.146 Although respondents to the White Paper reportedly expressed a variety of perspectives on the impact of recreational fishing, Defra noted that “there was common agreement that recreational angling should be integrated into fisheries management”.147

92.The Angling Trust highlighted that approximately 1 million people go recreational sea fishing each year, contributing over £2bn each year to the economy as well as employing over 20,000 people.148 The Trust argued that the Bill was an opportunity to right the wrongs of the CFP and recognise recreational fishing as a direct user stakeholder of UK sea fisheries and part of the catching sector.149 Martin Salter, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, lamented the fact that “there is virtually no reference to recreational fishing on the face of the Bill, apart from a concession that some of the EMFF grants might find their way into the recreational fishing sector”.150 The New Economics Foundation stated that “the promotion of low-impact fishing and angling both as a livelihood for future fishers and skippers, for the visitor economy, and to highlight environmental credentials of low-impact methods is a clear opportunity for the future”.151

93.On asking the Minister whether he would accept amendments to the Bill to greater recognise the role of recreational fishing, he explained that given that the Bill has been introduced to ensure a functioning legal framework following EU exit, “specific reference to the recreational sea fishing sector as a stakeholder is unnecessary”.152 He did, however, make assurances that recreational sea fishing as a sector would be recognised in the forthcoming fisheries statement.

94.We regard the Bill as an opportunity to acknowledge the recreational fishing sector as a stakeholder in UK sea fisheries and recognise the advantages of more joined up thinking between the recreational and commercial sectors. We recommend that Clause 2(2)(h) be expanded to make explicit reference to recreational fishing.

94 For more see the Fisheries Bill 2017–19, Briefing Paper 8442, House of Commons Library, December 2018, page 29

95 The Wildlife Trusts (SFB0006), page 5

96 Common Fisheries Policy, Regulation (EU) No. 1380/2013

97 Common Fisheries Policy, Regulation (EU) No. 1380/2013

98 UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, accessed 13 January 2019

102 Fisheries Bill, Clauses 1, 2

103 Fisheries Bill, Clauses 1, 2

104 Fisheries Bill, Clauses 5, 4

105 For example, The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) (SFB0005); Oceana (SFB0043); Q241 [Dr McQuatters-Gollop]


107 CIFA (SFB0035), page 2

110 The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) (SFB0005), page 2

111 The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) (SFB0005), page 2

112 Oceana (SFB0043), page 2

113 Greener UK (SFB0030); The Wildlife Trusts (SFB0006); Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming (SFB0031); WWF (SFB0040); and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) (SFB0017)

114 Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming (SFB0031), page 3

115 Greener UK (SFB0052), page 2

116 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) (SFB0017), page 1

117 Oceana (SFB0043), page 1

118 Richard Barnes (SFB0016), page 1

119 Oceana (SFB0043), page 3; Greener UK (SFB0030), page 2

121 Oceana (SFB0043), page 3

131 Fisheries Bill, Clause 1, 2

132 Fisheries Bill, Clause 2, 3

133 Greener UK (SFB0030), page 1

134 Orkney Fisheries Association (SFB0008), page 2–3; CIFA (SFB0035), page 2

137 Fisheries Bill, Clause 28, 16–17

138 Fisheries Bill, Schedule 4, 50–53

139 British Ports Association (SFB0041), page 1

140 Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming (SFB0031), page 8–9

141 Richard Barnes (SFB0016), page 1

142 Richard Barnes (SFB0016), page 1

143 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SFB0050)

144 The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SFB0055), page 1–2

145 The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SFB0055), page 2

148 Angling Trust (SFB0046), page 1

149 Angling Trust (SFB0046), page 4

151 New Economics Foundation (SFB0051), page 2

152 The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (SFB0055), page 4

Published: 20 January 2019