Documents considered by the Committee on 29 November 2017 Contents

8Fisheries catch quotas for 2018

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

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

Document details

Proposal for a Council Regulation fixing for 2018 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Union waters and, for Union fishing vessels, in certain non-Union waters .

Legal base

Article 43(3) TFEU


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

(39201), 13780/17 + ADDs 1–2. COM(17) 645

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

8.1Catch limits for fishing in EU waters, and for EU vessels fishing in certain other waters, are set in December each year to take effect from 1 January. The annual approach is combined with multi-annual management plans and long term principles applying to setting TACs (Total Allowable Catches) and limits to the number of days at sea in limited circumstances, such as sole in the Western Channel. Catch limits for stocks jointly managed in agreement with third countries are currently marked as ‘pm’ (pro memoria). They will be introduced once the third country negotiations are complete. Some other stocks have been marked as ‘pm’ because they have been awaiting the latest scientific advice.

8.2The 2018 catch limits will be agreed at the 11–12 Fisheries Council meeting. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) explains that the UK approach is to obtain the best possible outcome for the UK consistent with following scientific advice, achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY),116 and minimising discards. Based on those principles, the Government will aim to secure the best possible deal for the UK fleet.

8.3We note that a general backbench debate on fisheries will take place on 7 December, shortly before the Fisheries Council meeting. That debate will be an opportunity for Members to raise outstanding points which remain unresolved following the Explanatory Memorandum, including:

8.4Particular points of detail in the UK’s emerging position, to which we draw the attention of the House, are:

8.5We welcome the scheduling of the general debate on fisheries. In that light, we are prepared to grant a scrutiny waiver in advance of the Council so as not to fetter the Government’s negotiating freedom. The proposal remains under scrutiny pending information on the outcome of the Fisheries Council, with particular reference to the issues highlighted in the preceding paragraph. We are drawing the document to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents:

Proposal for a Council Regulation fixing for 2018 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Union waters and, for Union fishing vessels, in certain non-Union waters : (39201), 13780/17 + ADDs 1–2. COM(17) 645.


8.6The Commission explains that all of the proposals are based on the available scientific advice. Where data is limited, the Commission has relied on the precautionary principle. A summary of the proposed catch limits, including the UK share, is set out in the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.117

The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 22 November 2017

8.7On the UK’s exit from the European Union, the Minister comments:

“While these negotiations are about agreeing fishing opportunities for 2018 only, the UK delegation will be sensitive to any potential spill-over to the EU exit negotiations.”

8.8The Minister confirms that the UK industry, recreational sector and environmental NGOs have been, and will continue to be, consulted throughout the TAC (Total Allowable Catch) and quota-setting process. A meeting between UK Fisheries Ministers and Stakeholders to discuss the UK priorities was held in Edinburgh on 10 November.

8.9An assessment is being made to establish the value to the UK of the Commission’s proposals as they develop. The Minister notes that the proposals will not be complete until early December, once the third country negotiations are completed and supplementary papers have been issued. In addition, the final UK position for the December Council will evolve during the final negotiations at the 11–12 December Council. The Minister will provide a full valuation of the outcome as compared to the initial proposals and to the outcome from last year’s Council.

General principles

8.10Regarding the UK position, the Minister indicates that the UK’s position is being developed through discussion with the Devolved Administrations, as well as with the fishing industry, NGOs and other Member States. He says that the proposed priorities reflect a UK-wide perspective, taking account of the concerns of the UK’s key fisheries, including the interests of particular fisheries-dependent communities around the coast.

8.11The key principles shaping the UK’s approach to the negotiations, says the Minister, will continue to be: science—consistency with the scientific advice (and available evidence); sustainability—ensuring an increased number of stocks are fished at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY); and discard reduction—the continued reduction and progressive elimination of unnecessary discarding. The Government will aim, the Minister emphasises, to secure the best possible deal for the UK fleet, in terms of economic opportunities, consistent with the three core principles identified above.

8.12As usual, the UK will invoke Hague Preference adjustments,118 after reviewing relevant species and levels.

Third Country Negotiations

8.13The Minister reminds the Committee that, alongside the Council deliberations, a number of bilateral and multi-party negotiations take place with third countries, including Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. These conclude agreement in principle on catch limits for shared stocks, including the North Sea cod stock and straddling stocks such as mackerel. The negotiations with Norway and Faroes also include an exchange of fishing opportunities and agreements on reciprocal access arrangements. The Government will, says the Minister, ensure a consistent approach across these negotiations and proper reflection of the outcomes in the final December Council package.

UK Issues and Initial Negotiating Positions

8.14The Minister indicates that the emerging list of UK issues includes:

8.15The Minister adds that, in addition to the proposals on TACs and quotas, the Commission’s proposals include further measures on sea bass. In line with scientific advice, the Commission has recommended further significant reductions in catches both from the commercial and recreational sectors, which—says the Minister—will be very challenging for both. The Government will seek confirmation that the science is keeping pace with the ongoing annual changes in management measures in order to support these proposals, and seek an agreement that ensures adequate bass by-catch provisions are taken into consideration to avoid high levels of discards, without reducing bass mortality. Where further reductions in catches for both commercial and recreational fisheries are to be agreed, they should be proportionate to their relative impact.

8.16The Minister goes on to set out the emerging UK position in greater detail. On maximum sustainable yield, he says:

“The UK will support proposals for fishing opportunities that increase the number of stocks at MSY by 2018 wherever possible. However, this needs to take into account the need for certain exceptions, such as the need to minimise discards of by-catches from mixed fisheries to allow for effective implementation of the landing obligation.”

8.17Concerning the implementation of the discard ban, the UK will seek to secure quota uplifts to support the continued implementation of the demersal (largely whitefish and flatfish) landing obligation.

8.18On the management of data-limited stocks, the Minister explains that the UK continues to support the management of such stocks, such as anglerfish and pollack in the Western Waters and ling on a case by case basis, and to oppose ‘use it or lose it’ approaches. The UK considers that decisions on TACs should be informed by all available evidence, including directional trends in fishing mortality, biomass and fishing effort.

8.19The Government opposes the automatic precautionary reductions that the Commission has proposed (or may propose) for the following stocks, as the Government believes that the stock trends support TAC rollovers: pollack (Western Waters); plaice (Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea and South West of Ireland); and anglerfish (Western Waters).

8.20The Minister also believes that the positive stock trend for North Sea ling supports an increase in the TAC. He suggests that a new flexibility arrangement of at least 15% from west to east should be incorporated for Member States with quota in both areas. These combined actions would, the Minister anticipates, remove North Sea ling as a choke species threat in terms of the landing obligation.119

8.21On the principles of flexibility, the UK will underline the importance of flexibility between TAC areas (for Member States with quota of the same biological stock in both areas) for the sustainable management of fish stocks that straddle those areas.

8.22The Minister makes specific comments on a number of stocks:

Previous Committee Reports


116 The highest yield that can be taken from a stock under existing average environmental conditions without significantly affecting the reproduction process, and thus the overall sustainability of the stock.

118 This is the principle—available only to Ireland and the United Kingdom—whereby the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities should be safeguarded

119 A choke species under the landing obligation is one that can, in a mixed fishery, prevent the continued fishing for other species due to insufficient quota for the choke species.

1 December 2017