Documents considered by the Committee on 24 January 2018 Contents

9Fisheries catch quotas for 2018

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; 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; QMV

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

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

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

9.1Catch 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 2018 catch limits were agreed at the 11–12 December 2017 Fisheries Council meeting.

9.2The Committee first considered the draft fishing opportunities at its meeting of 29 November 2017. Noting that a general debate on fisheries had been scheduled to take place on 7 December 2017, the Committee waived the scrutiny reserve in advance of Council and highlighted a number of issues which might be addressed in the debate.

9.3The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) has now written to update the Committee following the Council. His response is set out in detail below. In summary, he is pleased with the outcome, considering it to be one which struck the right balance for the marine environment and coastal communities. He highlights a number of achievements in the negotiations, notable among which was the agreement on sea bass. The UK pressed for, and secured, the removal of a proposed ban on bass angling “catch and release” activity.

9.4The Minister notes that no issues arose specific to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU as the Council stuck to its remit to set 2018 fishing opportunities.

9.5We are grateful for the Minister’s helpful summary of the Council agreement. We have no outstanding issues and now 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 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 .

Background

9.6Details of the Commission’s proposals were set out in our Report of 29 November 2017101 and in the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum (EM) of 22 November 2017.102 The agreement is available on the Council’s website.103

9.7In his original EM, the Minister explained that the UK approach would be to obtain the best possible outcome for the UK consistent with following scientific advice, achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY),104 and minimising discards.

9.8At its meeting of 29 November 2017—in advance of the general fisheries debate on 7 December 2017—the Committee identified a number of outstanding points, including:

9.9Particular points of detail in the UK’s emerging position, to which the Committee drew the attention of the House, were:

The Minister’s letter of 9 January 2018

9.10The Minister writes with information on the 11–12 December 2017 Fisheries Council at which fishing opportunities were set for 2018 for quota stocks in the North Sea, Atlantic, the English Channel, Irish and Celtic Seas.

9.11The Minister says that he worked hard to secure an agreement that struck the right balance for both the marine environment and coastal communities:

“As a result of the improving condition of many species the UK was able to agree to increase the total allowable catch (TAC) for stocks of importance to the UK whilst simultaneously adhering to fishery sustainability limits. I was for example able to secure additional quota for:

9.12On the alignment of quotas with the landing obligation, the Minister explains that proportionate quota uplifts were agreed for demersal stocks subject to the landing obligation in 2018. These will be incorporated into the quota allocation of producer organisations and other groups when these are issued by the Marine Management Organisation early next year.

9.13Concerning sea bass, further restrictions on commercial and recreational bass fishing were agreed. According to the Minister, the UK specifically pressed for and secured the removal of a proposed ban on bass angling “catch and release” activity. The UK also helped, he says, to ensure the agreement includes a specific undertaking for a review that would consider the scope to allow landings of bass in recreational fisheries in 2018, once the scientific evaluation method for the stock is updated by the end of March.

9.14Commenting on those situations where the Commission’s proposals were misaligned with scientific advice, the Minister says:

“Where latest scientific evidence supports it, I argued against unnecessary quota cuts proposed by the European Commission, securing the same quota as in 2017 for many species, including anglerfish and pollack in the Celtic Sea and saithe in waters to the West of Scotland. In addition by deploying science backed arguments provided by CEFAS, I was also able to avoid the setting of a total allowable catch (TAC) to zero because it would not cut fishing mortality and would set an unworkable precedent for when such stocks come under the landing obligation. Instead I secured bycatch quotas for whiting in the Irish Sea and West of Scotland and plaice in the Celtic Sea.”

9.15Concerning Brexit, the Minister observes that the Council stuck to its remit of setting fishing opportunities for 2018. He says that there was no specific “spill-over to the EU exit negotiations”.

9.16The Minister acknowledges that there were other challenges “in areas like the Celtic Sea and on important species such as megrim in the South West, where action is necessary to cut fishing mortality in order to allow these stocks to recover.” He successfully argued, he says, against the imposition of generic technical measures for the Celtic Sea and Irish Sea through the TAC and quota regulation. Instead, such measures will be scientifically developed and evaluated in the first half of 2018 through the Regional Groups and the Advisory Councils to ensure that they are both effective and protect the viability of fishing vessels.

9.17The Minister was also able, he says, to persuade the Commission to withdraw its proposal for an ‘of which no more than’ quota for North Sea nephrops taken in functional units outside the Fladen (FU7). This would have caused UK vessels “serious economic loss”.105 The measures introduced by the UK in the Farn Deeps (FU6) demonstrate, says the Minister, that fishing mortality on nephrops can be controlled using technical measures which also protect the viability of fishing businesses. The Minister also supported the introduction of a package of measures to further protect European eels.

9.18On the sustainability of the agreement, the Minister says:

“In setting out our objectives for the negotiation, the UK Government strongly supported the overall objective of fishing sustainably, based on the principle of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). We supported the aim to set exploitation rates consistent with MSY and to increase the number of stocks set at MSY compared to last year’s result. The final agreement means that for 2018, 30 stocks of interest to the UK will be fished at or below their maximum sustainable yield rate (MSY), an increase on 2017, out of 44 such stocks for which MSY assessments have been made. At the EU level, that 39 of 66 assessed stocks were exploited within FMSY.”

Previous Committee Reports

Third Report HC 301–iii (2017–18), chapter 8 (29 November 2017).


101 Third Report HC 301–iii (2017–18), chapter 8 (29 November 2017).

104 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.

105 The Minister had argued in his original EM that the restriction on available quota outside FU7 would result in the displacement of vessels and cause significant safety implications, as vessels would be forced to fish in the most exposed area of the North Sea that FU7 covers.




29 January 2018