Documents considered by the Committee on 12 September 2018 Contents

6Fisheries Conservation: Technical Measures

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

(a) Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; (b) Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures, amending Council Regulations (EC) No.1967/2006, (EC) No.1098/2007, (EC) No.1224/2009 and Regulations (EU) No.1343/2011 and (EU) No.1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No.894/97, (EC) No.850/98, (EC) No.2549/2000, (EC) No.254/2002, (EC) No.812/2004 and (EC) No.2187/2005; (b) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down a prohibition on driftnet fisheries, amending Council Regulations (EC) No.850/98, (EC) No.812/2004, (EC) No.2187/2005 and (EC) No.1967/2006 and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No.894/97

Legal base

Documents (a) and (b): Article 43(2) TFEU, QMV, Ordinary legislative procedure

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Numbers

(a) (37598), 6993/16 + ADDs 1–3, COM(16) 134; (b) (36020), 9934/14 + ADDs 1–2, COM(14) 265

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

6.1The conservation provisions of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) include so-called technical measures which, among other things: regulate the design and operation of fishing gear; establish minimum fish landing sizes; seek to mitigate the impact of fishing activity on sensitive species and habitats; and limit catches in certain areas and/or at certain times to protect spawning and juvenile fish. They are seen as playing a key role in achieving the objectives of the CFP and related environmental policies.

6.2To date, technical measures have been decided centrally. Recognising that such an approach was inconsistent with the desirability of a more local approach to fisheries management, the EU reformed the CFP in 2013 to introduce a more regional approach to decisions, so that the Member States involved in a particular fishery could decide the necessary measures among themselves.

6.3The Commission’s proposal—tabled in 2016—sought to apply the principle of regionalisation to technical measures and, more generally, to simplify what had become a complex array of requirements spread across various pieces of legislation. A set of common rules is proposed for all areas, but with a regionalised approach under which baseline standards would serve as default minimum standards whilst bespoke regionalised measures are agreed among relevant Member States. The measures would apply to EU vessels and to third country vessels fishing in EU waters. Third countries are not involved in the regional decision-making process.

6.4The Commission’s earlier proposal (document (b)) on driftnets was incorporated into the wider technical measures proposal and, as reported in a letter61 from the Department last June, will be withdrawn.

6.5In his letter of 14 August 2018,62 the Minister updates us on developments in the inter-institutional negotiations. Three areas remain outstanding:

6.6At the June 2018 Agriculture and Fisheries Council, the Minister registered a particular UK interest in the electric pulse fishing issue, signposting the research being carried out by UK scientists (see below).

6.7On the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the Minister is keen for the updates of this legislation to be agreed promptly, as this will help finalise the UK’s EU exit legislation which has been provisionally drafted to reflect the Council General Approach position.

6.8The Minister notes that the document is close to adoption and therefore asks that the Committee clear it from scrutiny. In a further letter—of 3 September—he clarifies65 that the Permanent Representatives of EU Member States (COREPER) are likely to be invited to approve an updated mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament towards the end of September. This will lead to further negotiations from October with a view to concluding the text.

6.9When our predecessors last considered this document—at their meeting of 15 March 2017—they raised questions about the future EU-UK relationship in this area, including: the desirability of differential technical measures applying in EU, UK and other waters respectively; and any consideration being given to third country involvement in the EU’s regionalisation process. Since then, the Government has published a White Paper on fisheries and a White Paper on the future relationship, although neither paper goes into the level of detail requested by the Committee. This reflects, in part, the fact that discussions on the future EU-UK relationship in fisheries are yet to take place.

6.10We clear the driftnets proposal (document (b)) from scrutiny and, assuming that it will be withdrawn by the Commission, we require no further correspondence.

6.11We note that several uncertainties remain in the negotiations on the wider technical measures proposal (document(a)) and that there is no immediate prospect of a Minister being invited to signal agreement. That proposal remains under scrutiny, pending further information on the outstanding areas, including electric pulse fishing in particular. 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 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures, amending Council Regulations (EC) No.1967/2006, (EC) No.1098/2007, (EC) No.1224/2009 and Regulations (EU) No.1343/2011 and (EU) No.1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No.894/97, (EC) No.850/98, (EC) No.2549/2000, (EC) No.254/2002, (EC) No.812/2004 and (EC) No.2187/2005: (37598), 6993/16 + ADDs 1–3, COM(16) 134;

(b) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down a prohibition on driftnet fisheries, amending Council Regulations (EC) No.850/98, (EC) No.812/2004, (EC) No.2187/2005 and (EC) No.1967/2006 and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No.894/97: (36020), 9934/14 + ADDs 1–2, COM(14) 265.

Background: Electric pulse fishing

6.12In an Annex to his letter of 14 August, the Minister sets out detail on the Government’s position regarding electric pulse fishing:

“While significant questions remain about the effects of electric pulse in the marine environment, advocates of the method draw attention to the potential of pulse trawls, being lighter than conventional beam trawls, and less penetrative of the seabed benthos. This enables slower haul speeds, bring significant fuel savings (with Co2 reduction) and means that they are able to operate in softer sediment. The latter point, however, has had the effect of an effort shift of beam trawl effort on sole closer to coastal zones in the EU derogation area, bringing pulse trawls into areas that are traditionally fished by inshore fleets, particularly for the UK on our east coast (albeit outside our 12 mile zone) which has raised competition issues and increased local hostility to the method. This is due to reduced access to fish resources (primarily for sole) for inshore vessels operating within their range on traditional fishing grounds, but in addition to their genuine concerns about the potential ecosystem effects of the method itself.

“Most Member States, in addition to the European Commission, have a positive perception of the pulse method, however, and there was a vote with all in favour of the overall Council trilogue negotiating mandate (including even France, despite their strong specific opposition to pulse) which did not feature any change to the current pulse derogation; all, that is, except the UK. While being generally supportive of the wider substance of the mandate we registered an abstention to cover our position on pulse trawls, and as we do not yet have Parliamentary scrutiny clearance on this dossier. While recording the abstention, therefore, we offered options aimed at helping to avoid an impasse on this topic between EP and Council.

“Our own scientists at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) have completed a desk study of the current state of scientific assessment of the pulse trawl methodology, including identifying data gaps and areas for research. They will now embark upon a study including comparative assessments of pulse and conventional beam trawl and respective ecosystem effects to help address those evidence gaps. They also now have representation on the international ICES expert group working on this issue (WGELECTRA). Our aim in commissioning this work is to be able to contribute to the EU considerations, but also of course, to have an evidence base to help inform our own UK approach on this technology in our waters as we leave the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy.

“Meanwhile at the June meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, I emphasised a particular UK interest in this issue and signposted the original research being carried out by our own scientists on this technology which is due to report in 2019.”

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-fifth Report HC 71–xxxiii (2016–17), chapter 4 (15 March 2017); Thirtieth Report HC 342–xxix (2015–16), chapter 5 (27 April 2016); Second Report HC 292–ii (2014–15), chapter 3 (11 June 2014).


61 Letter from the Private Secretary (Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) to the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, 2 June 2017.

62 Letter from George Eustice MP to Sir William Cash, dated 14 August 2018.

63 The average length of capture provided by the best available scientific advice that optimises the growth of individuals in a stock.

64 The use, during beam trawling, of electric pulse (rather than the more traditional chains) to disturb flatfish on the seabed. This makes the muscles of the fish contract, whereupon the fish detach from the seabed and land in the net. It is a method used particularly by parts of the Dutch fleet.

65 Letter from George Eustice MP to Sir William Cash, dated 3 September 2018.




Published: 18 September 2018