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

Conclusions and recommendations


1.The Government should as a matter of course enable House of Commons’ Committees to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny on bills of this importance. (Paragraph 4)

Fisheries policy in the UK

2.In considering the Fisheries Bill, Parliament is presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to evaluate and address the concerns raised about the Common Fisheries Policy. (Paragraph 18)


3.The process of developing and reviewing the Joint Fisheries Statement (JFS) and the Secretary of State’s Fisheries Statement (SSFS) is an opportunity to provide clear direction and effective coordination for the UK’s fisheries policy as an independent coastal state. However, it is essential that the JFS and SSFS are subject to a shortened review period and independent expert assessment to help facilitate more rigorous scrutiny. (Paragraph 31)

4.The Government should amend the Bill so that the Joint Fisheries Statements (for the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations) and the Secretary of State’s Fisheries Statement will: (a) be subject to an interim review every three years and full review every six years; and (b) comprise an expert and independent published assessment that can be subject to public and parliamentary scrutiny. (Paragraph 32)

5.The Fisheries Bill is an opportunity to ensure the UK fisheries administrations can operate a dynamic fisheries management system, which can rapidly respond to changing circumstances. However, it is important that the use of delegated powers by the Secretary of State is informed by stakeholders in order to ensure that issues relating to their practical implementation are fully considered. (Paragraph 39)

6.The Government should establish a non-statutory advisory body, which can provide a forum for consultation and communication with stakeholders, for the new fisheries management system that will be established when the UK becomes an independent coastal state. This will help to provide transparency and confidence in the decision-making process, including in the application of the Fisheries Bill’s delegated powers. This body needs to have the credibility to make a real and sustained impact, encouraging support and buy-in for the new system among all stakeholders, including the fishing industry, the scientific community and environmental groups. (Paragraph 40)

7.The Fisheries Bill extends new powers and provisions to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) but not to Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs). The Government needs to ensure that new policy can be enforced in all English waters. IFCAs should be provided with the provisions and powers that a post-CFP regime will require. It is also important to ensure that both the MMO and IFCAs are adequately resourced to deliver their respective responsibilities and that unnecessary duplication is avoided. This means, amongst other things, that there must be an adequate number of fisheries protection vessels available to authorities. (Paragraph 47)

8.The Government should amend the Bill to more clearly designate the respective roles and powers of the MMO and IFCAs in relation to their duties for fisheries and marine protection, and to ensure they both have the necessary enforcement powers and resources of personnel and protection vessels to fully deliver the requirements of the UK as an independent coastal state. (Paragraph 48)

Fishing Opportunities

9.The UK will have additional fishing opportunities after leaving the EU. An opportunity now exists to allocate these more fairly and transparently across the sector, and in line with the Government’s stated objectives in Clause 1. While we welcome the Government’s commitment to establishing a new method of allocation, the proposals laid down in Clause 22 do not meet our expectations and lack detail. We are concerned that such proposals will marginalise owners of smaller vessels and will not represent a significant break from current practice, which is based on the situation many years ago when the UK joined the EU. (Paragraph 56)

10.The Government should consult widely on the tender process for allocation of additional English quota and ensure buy-in from a range of stakeholders within the industry, including the operators of smaller vessels. Consultation should be followed by a trial, with feedback from affected parties to ensure workability and efficacy. (Paragraph 57)

11.We support the inclusion of the discards objective in Clause 1. The introduction of a new discard prevention charging scheme in Clause 23 is also welcome as a means to mitigate the impacts on industry. However, industry has valid concerns about the workability of such a scheme in practice. These concerns need to be addressed with urgency, taking into account experience, both good and bad, of the current discard scheme. (Paragraph 63)

12.The Government should trial and thoroughly consult on the discard prevention charging scheme and the associated secondary legislation to ensure it is workable, helps reduce discards and has stakeholder buy-in. The Government should establish a national research programme to identify new solutions to the issue of discard prevention with an aim of reporting its findings before the end of the transition period. (Paragraph 64)

Sustainability and coastal communities

13.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. (Paragraph 75)

14.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. (Paragraph 76)

15.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. (Paragraph 77)

16.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. (Paragraph 87)

17.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. (Paragraph 88)

18.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. (Paragraph 89)

19.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. (Paragraph 90)

20.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. (Paragraph 94)

Published: 20 January 2019