Documents considered by the Committee on 31 January 2018 Contents

12Multiannual Plan for Demersal Fishing Stocks in the North Sea

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

(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

(a) Article 43(2) TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV, (b) and (c)—

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

12.1Multi-annual plans (MAPs) set a management framework establishing rules and criteria under which Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and other management measures are adopted. 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.

12.2In an earlier letter, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) signalled the Government’s anticipation that the North Sea MAP would form an important basis for cooperation between the UK and the EU in determining appropriate exploitation rates. We note that the Commission’s recently published presentation on future fisheries relations suggested that an EU-UK Fisheries Partnership Agreement could include provision for joint MAPs.224

12.3The Minister has since written two further letters, responding to the Committee’s Report of 22 November and updating the Committee on the outcome of negotiations. Regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, he notes that the Government is actively considering how the North Sea MAP will be modified as “retained EU law”. While observing that leaving the EU means leaving the CFP, he also notes that an implementation period will be a bridge to that new relationship, thus potentially implying continued adherence—at least in part—to the CFP. We assume that this ambiguous wording is deliberate. The Minister does not reply in any way to the Committee’s query as to whether it is the Government’s intention that delegated acts adopted under this Regulation post-Brexit would apply during any implementation period.

12.4On the negotiation of the MAP, the Minister reports that discussions have concluded and that the UK’s priorities have been secured. In particular:

12.5A European Parliament amendment bringing recreational fisheries under the plan broadly aligns with UK policy since the inclusion of recreational fisheries will contribute to improving the sustainability of many stocks. In addition, FMSY ranges will not be included in an annex to the plan. Rather, the Commission will request that these ranges are included by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in its periodic catch advice. This approach, says the Minister, will work better for the joint management of the North Sea mixed fishery once the UK has left the EU.

12.6Given that agreement of the MAP is imminent—subject only to legal and linguistic checks—the Minister requests that the Committee releases the proposal from scrutiny.

12.7It is welcome that the Government has secured its priorities in the negotiations, particularly as the Minister has previously signalled the Government’s anticipation that this Plan will form the basis for future cooperation between the EU and the UK.

12.8On the adherence to the Common Fisheries Policy during an implementation period, we note the continued ambiguity of the Government’s position and that these matters are the subject of negotiation. The Minister does not respond at all to the Committee’s query as to the Government’s intentions as regards applicability of delegated acts adopted under this Regulation during any post-Brexit implementation period. While these matters will be the subject of negotiation, the Minister’s reluctance even to set out the Government’s stall on the application of detailed rules over which the UK has had little influence is notable.

12.9We have no further issues to raise and are content to clear these documents from scrutiny. We will monitor closely the negotiations on the future UK-EU fisheries relationship with a view to how it will affect co-operation under legislation such as this, as well as implications for the modification of EU fisheries legislation as retained EU law. We draw this chapter 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

12.10The 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 the Committee Report of 12 October 2016.

12.11In our Report of 22 November 2017, we noted the Government’s interest in the North Sea MAP as a helpful framework for future management post-Brexit. We welcomed this pragmatic approach and asked if Norway had been involved, informally, in the development of the North Sea MAP at all. We also noted the Minister’s comment that no decision had been taken on whether or how certain aspects of the MAP would be carried into UK law as retained EU law under the EU Withdrawal Bill.

12.12Concerning any post-Brexit implementation period, the Committee requested 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.

The Minister’s letter of 18 December 2017

12.13Regarding Norwegian involvement in the development of the North Sea MAP, the Minister says that Norway has not been directly involved, but that the EU and Norway work closely together on the management of shared stocks. Norway, he says, has its own management plans for Norwegian waters based largely on single species advice.

12.14The Minister confirms that, where possible, EU Regulations such as the North Sea MAP will become retained EU law under the EU Withdrawal Bill. The Government is actively considering how this will apply to the North Sea MAP.

12.15Regarding the implementation period, the Minister says:

“On the question of whether an implementation period should extend to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), leaving the EU and building a new partnership with the EU means that we will be leaving the CFP. An implementation period is a bridge to that new relationship. What it will look like precisely will be for the negotiations and will need to be in both of our interests.”

The Minister’s letter of 17 January 2018

12.16The Minister explains that an agreement has been reached in negotiations between the Council and European Parliament.

12.17He says that the UK has secured its priorities, describing this success in the following terms:

“These [priorities] include a provision which will allow exploitation rates to be set within an upper FMSY(a)225 range if supported by science, and the simplification of the scope of the MAP by reducing the stock categories so that it applies to (i) targeted stocks and (ii) by-catch stocks, together with the removal of potentially burdensome control provisions. The Council also successfully argued against nephrop quotas being set at a functional unit level, which could have rendered the current management of nephrop fisheries in the UK inoperable, and which would not be possible to resolve without significant upheaval for industry and fisheries managers.”

12.18On other amendments agreed, the Minister highlights a provision bringing recreational fisheries under the plan so that the impact of these fisheries is taken into account when setting fishing opportunities. When necessary, recovery measures will therefore also regulate recreational fishing activities. This, says the Minister, broadly aligns with UK policy since the inclusion of recreational fisheries will contribute to improving the sustainability of many stocks. The UK has already advocated this approach in relation to bass.

12.19In addition, says the Minister, a definition for ‘best available scientific advice’ has been agreed:

“FMSY ranges will not be included in an annex to the plan, instead the Commission will request that these ranges are included by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in its periodic catch advice. This approach will work better for the joint management of the North Sea mixed fishery once the UK has left the EU.”

12.20The Government anticipates that the final version of the MAP will be published in the next few weeks after the ‘jurist linguist’ process is complete. He asks that the Committee consider releasing this dossier from scrutiny given the proximity of final agreement.

Previous Committee Reports

Second Report HC 301–ii (2017–19), chapter 12 (22 November 2017); 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).


225 Maximum rate of fishing mortality.




2 February 2018