Twentieth Report of Session 2019–21 Contents

6Fishing Opportunities 202147

This EU document is politically important because:

  • it relates to the setting of fish quotas for the EU and the UK in the UK’s first year outside the Common Fisheries Policy; and
  • the future fisheries relationship between the UK and the EU — and thus the basis for agreeing quotas — is yet to be resolved.

Action

  • Write to the Minister requesting a further update on preparations for the negotiation of fishing opportunities in 2021.
  • Draw to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Overview

6.1The Commission’s Communication presented its latest assessment of fish stocks and its intentions for the 2021 Total Allowable Catches (TACs). The UK’s withdrawal from the EU will be an important factor when the TACs come to be set for 2021.

6.2In our letter of 23 July 2020, we sought further information from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Victoria Prentis MP) concerning:

6.3In her response, the Minister agrees with the Commission’s conclusion that there are a number of stocks within the North East Atlantic which will not be fished at their Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) rate this year. She says that the Government’s ambition is to achieve sustainable fisheries and that the UK looks forward to working with the EU and other neighbouring coastal States in both bilateral and multilateral fora to ensure a sustainable fisheries management approach across shared stocks. A joined-up approach, she says, will help guarantee the future health of these stocks going forward.

6.4To that end, adds the Minister, the UK has held constructive discussions with Norway and the Faroe Islands on future bilateral fisheries relationships, including how to cooperate on the objectives for ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fish stocks. The UK is confident that framework agreements with both parties will be concluded prior to, and therefore underpin, the fisheries negotiations this autumn, independent of the UK concluding an agreement with the EU.

6.5Concerning the future UK-EU Fisheries Framework Agreement, the Minister says that the UK continues to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement. She recalls that the UK’s draft legal text includes a proposal to create a new Fisheries Co-operation Forum with the EU to facilitate dialogue and co-operation on sustainable fisheries management.

6.6In the absence of such an agreement, the UK would remain committed to acting as a responsible coastal State and to fulfilling its obligations under international law to cooperate with other coastal States on the sustainable management of shared stocks. The Fisheries Bill, says the Minister, provides an enabling framework so that — over time — the UK can replace existing Multi-Annual Plans with ones that meet the UK’s specific priorities.

6.7Concerning the timing and preparation for negotiations on the 2021 fishing opportunities, the Minister explains that the UK has already commenced preparation for the negotiations, following the publication of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advice for the majority of stocks in the North East Atlantic at the end of June, and will continue to consult the Devolved Administrations, scientists and external stakeholders over the coming months to develop the UK’s priorities.

6.8Coastal States negotiations are due to take place over October 2020, followed by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) annual general meeting (which regulates fishing of these stocks in international waters) in November 2020.

6.9The UK’s bilateral negotiations with the EU, Norway and Faroes, and trilateral negotiations with the EU and Norway, will also take place this autumn. Exact timings for these negotiations are still to be confirmed, but the UK hopes to conclude them in enough time to provide certainty for industry ahead of the 2021 fishing year.

Action

6.10We found the Minister’s response helpful. We note the ongoing work over the coming months to develop the UK’s priorities for the 2021 fishing opportunities and remain interested in that work. We are therefore writing to the Minister to request a further update within four weeks.

6.11We have drawn the Minister’s response, and our letter, to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Letter from the Chair to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Victoria Prentis MP), Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We have considered your letter of 18 August 2020 on the above Communication.

The information that you provided was very helpful. We note the ongoing work concerning preparation for the negotiation of the 2021 fishing opportunities and would welcome a further update on that preparation within four weeks, including any further information on the timetable.


47 Commission Communication — Towards more sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2021; 8871/20 + ADD 1, COM(20) 248; Legal base: —; Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Devolved Administrations: Consulted; ESC number: 41347.




Published: 16 September 2020