Documents considered by the Committee on 23 January 2019 Contents

3Fisheries catch quotas for 2019

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Document details

Proposal for a Council Regulation fixing for 2019 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, QMV

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

(40168), 13731/18 + ADDs 1–2, COM(18) 732

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

3.1Catch 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 for setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs), which are proposed by the Commission on the basis of international scientific advice from International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and they are also subject to the outcome of negotiations with third countries including Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

3.2The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice MP) has written8 to confirm that the Council adopted the 2019 TACs at its meeting of 17–18 December 2018. We considered the proposed TACs at our meeting of 5 December 20189 and waived the scrutiny reserve to allow the UK to signal its agreement at Council.

3.3We noted in our Report of 5 December 2018 that 2019 will be the first year when the landing obligation (“discard ban”) will apply to all species subject to catch limits. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the focus of much of the Council—reports the Minister—was on the need to find practical solutions to mitigate the potential for bycatch stocks to choke10 economically important fisheries in Western Waters. The Minister confirms that a compromise was reached but notes that work will need to continue during 2019, including further improvements to selectivity. Member States committed to produce a bycatch reduction plan at the latest by 30 April 2019 which the UK will be working with industry on over the forthcoming weeks. In addition, the UK made a statement at Council proposing a horizontal review of the implementation of the landing obligation in 2019 in order to improve its operation during the year if needed. Furthermore, the need for urgent reviews of stocks identified as at particularly high risk of causing choke—such as Irish Sea whiting—was agreed.

3.4The Minister goes on to update us on the outcomes regarding individual species. A particular feature of the agreement was the adoption of a “pool approach” to TACs for bycatch species. Under this approach, Member States with an allocation contribute a fixed percentage (around 6%) of their TAC to a central pool for quota exchanges, which can be used by those Member States without a TAC allocation. This approach was adopted—alongside higher TACs—for a number of species including: Celtic Sea cod, haddock and plaice; Irish Sea whiting; and West of Scotland whiting and cod. The UK expects that the operation of the pools will be kept under review by the North West Waters High Level Group.

3.5On North Sea cod, reports the Minister, the high risk of choke posed by direct implementation of the scientific advice (47% TAC cut) was mitigated by moderating the scale of the TAC reduction to 35% while still ensuring that the sustainable stock biomass can reach its Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2020. The TAC for cod in the Eastern Channel, which is the same biological stock, was cut by 1% and flexibility to fish 5% of the TAC for North Sea cod in the Eastern Channel was introduced. This will help mitigate the risk of increased abundance of cod in the early weeks of the year from choking economically important year-round fisheries such as those for Eastern Channel sole.

3.6A similar approach was agreed for North Sea herring, with the scientific recommendation for a 51% cut moderated to 33%. The agreement does not afford increased access to UK waters for Norwegian vessels.

3.7On sea bass, there were no major changes from the Commission’s proposed precautionary approach. Although the UK aimed to achieve a better balance of bass fishing opportunities between recreational and commercial sectors, the outcome remained as proposed, at one fish per angler a day over a seven month season from April to October.

3.8Other key agreements included:

3.9The Minister reports that the number of stocks fished at their Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) has fallen. Of all the quotas which were set using the MSY approach, and for which the UK has an interest, 59% were set in line with MSY for 2019 (29 of 49), compared with 69% (31 of 45) in 2018. This fall in the number of stocks fished at their MSY needs to be seen, says the Minister, in the context of 2019 being the first year of the full implementation of the landing obligation. TACs have been set to reflect the need for the fleet to adjust its practices to avoid unwanted catches of bycatch species from closing economically important mixed fisheries while further discard reduction measures are developed and implemented.

3.10The annual setting of fishing opportunities is of profound importance to the UK fishing industry. We look forward to receiving the Department’s analysis of the economic impact of the agreed outcome.

3.11It is clear from the Minister’s reply that the December 2018 Fisheries Council was a particular challenge for all concerned due to the full implementation of the discard ban from 1 January 2019. We note the decisions made and we note also that an urgent review of specific stocks was agreed. We would welcome an update on those reviews, which stocks are affected and whether any changes to the TACs are likely to be proposed.

3.12In view of the full implementation of the discard ban from 1 January 2019, a great deal of uncertainty is inherent in the fishing opportunities set in December. Indeed, at the UK’s own behest, there will be a horizontal review of the implementation of the landing obligation in 2019 in order to improve its operation in year if needed. As the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union at the end of March but would remain subject to the Common Fisheries Policy under the terms of the proposed implementation period, this demonstrates how critical it is for the Minister to secure as strong a voice as possible for the UK during that period. Information on that matter has been promised to us in other correspondence.

3.13We are now content to clear the document from scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents:

Proposal for a Council Regulation fixing for 2019 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: (40168), 13731/18 + ADDs 1–2, COM(18) 732.

Previous Committee Reports

Forty-seventh Report HC 301–xlvi (2017–19), chapter 1 (5 December 2018).


8 Letter from George Eustice MP to Sir William Cash, dated 14 January 2019.

9 Forty-seventh Report HC 301–xlvi (2017–19), chapter 1 (5 December 2018).

10 “Choke” refers to the risk that a lack of quota for a bycatch species in a mixed fishery can halt the fishing of commercially important target species




Published: 29 January 2019