Documents considered by the Committee on 22 November 2017 Contents

12Multiannual Plan for Demersal Fishing Stocks in the North Sea

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

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

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Regulation on establishing a multi-annual plan for demersal fishing 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

12.1Traditional 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 establishing rules and criteria under which TACs are set and other management measures are adopted.

12.2To 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.

12.3When our predecessors last considered this proposal, at the meeting of 22 March 2017, they raised a number of Brexit-related issues and waived the proposal from scrutiny in advance of possible agreement at Council.

12.4The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) has since written on two occasions to update the Committee on the progress of negotiations. He confirms that Council agreement was reached in April and that the European Parliament (EP) agreed its position in September, opening the way for negotiations between the institutions with a view to agreement by the end of the year.

12.5The Minister notes that, in many areas, the EP position is close to that of the Council. There are, however, points of difference. Some amendments could, the Minister considers, be detrimental to the UK interest. On the other hand, there are amendments—notably those on third country involvement—which could be helpful to the UK once it is a third country. Further details are set out below in the summary of the Minister’s letter of 10 October.

12.6The Minister concludes with reference to the status of the North Sea MAP post-Brexit. While no decisions have yet been taken, the Government anticipates that the North Sea MAP would form an important basis for cooperation between the UK and the EU in determining appropriate exploitation rates. While the plan does not address how catches would be shared with third countries, it helps to maintain the principle of fishing shared stocks sustainably.

12.7We note the Government’s interest in the North Sea MAP as a helpful framework for future management post-Brexit. This pragmatic approach is one that we welcome. It would be helpful to know if Norway has been involved, informally, in the development of the North Sea MAP at all. Clearly, the most effective management of shared stocks post-Brexit will include all of those involved.

12.8We note too the Minister’s comment that no decision has been taken yet on whether or how certain aspects of the MAP would be carried into UK law as retained EU law under the EU Withdrawal Bill. The default position as we interpret the Bill is that the MAP, as a directly effective Council Regulation, would become retained EU law in its entirety. Clearly, though, it might lack functionality (contain “deficiencies” under the terms of the Bill) if not amended given its fundamentally reciprocal nature.

12.9In her recent Florence Speech,65 the Prime Minister expressed support for a post-Brexit implementation period of around two years “during which the current framework of EU rules and procedures would apply”. Giving evidence to the House of Lords EU Committee on 1 November, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was ambiguous on the question of whether this implementation period should extend to the Common Fisheries Policy. We would welcome confirmation as to the Government’s intentions as regards applicability of the current framework of EU fisheries rules and procedures, including delegated acts adopted under this Regulation, during any post-Brexit implementation period.

12.10We note the aspiration for an agreement by the end of the year, but that there are a number of outstanding issues of concern to the UK. These include the proposal to set nethrops quotas at a functional unit level, potentially rending the UK’s Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA) approach inoperable.

12.11We look forward to a response to our queries, and to an update on developments, well in advance of any agreement. In the meantime, we retain the proposal under scrutiny and draw it to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

(a) Proposal for a Regulation on establishing a multi-annual plan for demersal fishing stocks in the North Sea and the fisheries exploiting those stocks: (38011), 11636/16 + ADD 1, COM(16) 493; (b) Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment: (38012), SWD(16) 267; (c) Impact Assessment: (38013), SWD(16) 272.

Background

12.12The 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 rates 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.

12.13The Government supports the establishment of multi-annual plans covering multiple stocks and regards the proposal as consistent with the UK’s commitment to sustainable fisheries management.

12.14At its meeting of 22 March 2017, the predecessor Committee was pleased that the Minister had placed the proposal in the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and noted with particular interest his assessment that the approach taken could provide a valuable framework for future UK-EU fisheries cooperation in the North Sea. The Committee requested information on:

12.15The Committee was content to waive the proposal from scrutiny in advance of agreement to a Council position in April on the condition that the text reflected the simplification to which the Minister had referred and did not unnecessarily pre-empt the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Minister’s letter of 4 July 2017

12.16The Minister confirms Council agreement in April. On UK engagement in regionalisation post-Brexit, the Minister says:

“[After] we have left the EU, the UK will continue to have a strong interest in the overall status and effective long-term management of mixed demersal species and nephrops in the whole North Sea. The MAP’s science-based framework could well provide a valuable structure for continued co-operation 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. That said, once the UK leaves the EU and restores control over its [Exclusive Economic Zone], we will […] set conditions for access to UK waters.”

Minister’s letter of 10 October 2017

12.17The Minister explains that the EP agreed its position in September, thus paving the way for inter-institutional negotiations to begin in October. While agreement by the end of the year would be beneficial, the Minister describes this as “ambitious.”

12.18The EP position, he says, is close to that of the Council in many areas. He goes on to set out the UK’s position on some of the areas where there is divergence:

12.19The Minister highlights UK-favourable amendments, which appear to focus on fishery management after the UK has left the EU:

12.20Finally, the Minister draws attention to amendments which would include recreational fisheries in the MAP. The Minister supports these given the impact that some recreational fisheries can have on fishing mortality, but warns that this approach may be resisted by some Member States.

12.21On the UK’s departure from the EU, the Minister writes:

“No decision has been taken yet on whether or how certain aspects of the MAP would be carried into UK law (i.e. as retained EU law under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill). However, we anticipate that the MAP would in any case form an important basis for cooperation between the UK and EU in determining appropriate exploitation rates. The plan does not address how catches would be shared with third countries but it does help to maintain the principle of fishing shared stocks sustainably.”

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-sixth Report HC 71–xxxv (2016–17), chapter 2 (22 March 2017); Thirteenth Report HC 71–xi (2016–17), chapter 3 (12 October 2016).


65 “PM’s Florence speech: a new era of cooperation and partnership between the UK and the EU”, 22 September 2017.




28 November 2017