Documents considered by the Committee on 12 September 2018 Contents

7Fisheries Control

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

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

Document details

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, and amending Council Regulations (EC) No 768/2005, (EC) No 1967/2006, (EC) No 1005/2008, and Regulation (EU) No 2016/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards fisheries control

Legal base

Article 43(2) TFEU; Ordinary legislative procedure; QMV

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

(39822), 9317/18 + ADDs 1–3, COM(18) 368

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

7.1A sustainable fisheries policy requires effective control and enforcement. Following an evaluation of the current control regime, the Commission is proposing changes. These aim in particular to:

7.2The Regulation will take effect two years after its adoption and entry into force. Implementation by Member States is expected by the end of 2021 at the earliest. While it would not therefore need to be applied by the UK during any implementation period lasting until the end of 2020, it would apply to UK vessels fishing in EU waters and relevant measures, such as the traceability requirements, would apply to all imports of seafood products into the EU. While the nature of the future EU-UK fisheries relationship is yet to be decided, it is possible that provisions on control and enforcement will be included and they may reflect—at least in part—the provisions of this Regulation.

7.3In his Explanatory Memorandum (EM), the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (George Eustice) acknowledges that the UK has sometimes fallen short of its obligations under the CFP but notes that there are clear plans in place to address shortcomings. The UK established, for example, the UK Fisheries Enforcement and Compliance Coordination Group (UKFECCG) in 2015.

7.4The Commission’s proposals are, according to the Minister, widely accepted by the Government, the Marine Management Organisation and the devolved administrations as being positive, but a number of concerns are highlighted as follows:

7.5As regards the post-Brexit relationship on these matters, the Minister recognises that coordination between EU Member States is critical to achieving effective control and enforcement of shared and adjacent waters, and so the UK will continue to prioritise engagement on these matters. This will ensure that UK vessels fishing in EU waters will be fully aware of any amendments to EU legislation which may affect their interests.

7.6We note the concerns expressed by the Minister, notably in relation to the potential incompatibility of the sanctions changes with the law of England and Wales and with the law of Scotland. We ask that the Minister updates us on any progress made in this area of the proposal.

7.7The proposal clarifies that the proceedings and assignment of points in case of serious infringement can be done by the coastal Member State but have to be systematically enforced by the flag State. It is unclear to us how the sanctions provisions would affect the UK following EU exit in terms of obligations in the event that a UK-flagged vessel was considered to have committed a serious infringement in the waters or port of an EU Member State, and vice versa. We would welcome the Government’s analysis.

7.8As to the range of other concerns expressed by the Government, we take the view that an effective system of control and enforcement must be in place but that this must be practical and must enjoy the support of the stakeholders. In that light, we request information on:

7.9We note that the traceability requirements, including the need for traceability information to be available from the first sale until the retail stage, should apply to products imported from third countries. This removes the current exemption for imports and, if adopted, would effectively require the UK to apply EU seafood traceability requirements where products are intended for export to the EU. We are surprised that the Minister does not mention this change and would ask for his view, including an assessment of the relevance for the UK as a third country post-Brexit. We ask also whether compliance with these rules would be verified at the border and would therefore fall within the proposed agri-food common rulebook.

7.10This is clearly a complex proposal that will require some time to negotiate. We would welcome information on the initial discussions among Member States, including any signal as to whether the UK’s concerns are shared by others. Information on any expression of view by third countries would also be of interest to us.

7.11We request that the Minister responds within four weeks. The document remains under scrutiny and is drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, and amending Council Regulations (EC) No 768/2005, (EC) No 1967/2006, (EC) No 1005/2008, and Regulation (EU) No 2016/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards fisheries control: (39822), 9317/18 + ADDs 1–3, COM(18) 368.

Background: Sanctions

7.12In his EM, the Minister explains the UK Government’s concerns about the proposals on sanctions in the following terms:

“The Commission proposes to establish a new list of serious infringements and qualifying criteria to determine serious infringements. Whilst the UK supports this proposal, it should also be noted that points can only be attributed to a UK vessel if the owner or master is found guilty in a court of law. It would be difficult to change a system where offenders, agreeing to an administrative penalty, could also receive points for fishery offences. Existing guidance on points (available on the devolved administrations’ websites) states that Scottish vessels will not receive points for a fixed penalty, nor for refusing to pay a fixed penalty despite later being found guilty in a court.

“The UK system only allows for points to be awarded on conviction for a serious infringement. This means that the points are applied once the commission of the offence is proven in a court of law. It is not classed as a serious offence where no points are applied and a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) is offered. A FPN and payment thereof is not an admission of guilt; assigning points on conviction has always seemed to be the fairest way of dealing with the matter. We have concerns that the proposals may not be compatible with UK law and that they are difficult to standardise across Member States as different judicial systems dictate sanctions. Additionally, a points for masters system is impractical as the UK does not currently hold a register of masters of fishing vessels for sanctions to be applied to.

“Currently, points are assigned if the owner or a master of a UK vessel is found guilty of a serious infringement in accordance with Annex XXX of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 404/2011). The points system does not apply where administrative penalties are applied. We have explained to the Commission that any imposition of penalty points in such cases is likely to be inconsistent with the law of England and Wales and with the law of Scotland.”

Previous Committee Reports

None.





Published: 18 September 2018