Joint Committee on the Draft Marine Bill First Report

2  The European Context

Marine Strategy Directive

23. The Marine Strategy Directive (MSD) follows an 'ecosystem-based approach' and sets an overall goal of achieving 'good environmental status' for Europe's seas by 2020. It divides up those seas into regions and sub-regions into which National sub-divisions should fit. In the case of the UK, the relevant region is the North-East Atlantic and the sub-regions are the Greater North Sea (including the English Channel), and the Celtic Seas. All Member States have to report their spatial sub-divisions to the EC by 15 July 2010; 'good environmental status' will then be defined collectively by the Member States through the EU machinery in respect of each of those regions and sub-regions, following a list of qualitative descriptors set out in the Directive, by 15 July 2012, and by this date there should be a full environmental assessment and a series of agreed environmental targets and associated indicators. Following that, by 15 July 2014, a monitoring programme must be established and implemented. Member States are required to establish 'marine strategies' for each region and sub-region to deliver all these actions in accordance with the timetable set in the Directive in order to implement measures to achieve 'good environmental status' no later than July 2016. The Government intends that the Marine Management Organisation should be the competent authority for the UK in respect of the Directive.

24. A specific requirement of the Directive is that marine strategies must include the creation by Member States of "spatial protection measures, contributing to coherent and representative networks of marine protected areas", such as those required under the Birds and Habitats Directives and international obligations, by 2013.

25. Mr Richardson, from the European Commission DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, welcomed the draft Bill, and particularly the introduction of marine spatial planning provisions, which he regarded as "an absolutely necessary tool" for the implementation of the MSD.[32] However he felt that the legislation itself could not provide any guarantee that it would be effective in practice, in part because standards and requirements had not yet been developed at EU level to implement the Directive and in part because the administrative machinery put in place in the draft Bill was complex and would require effective coordination of roles to ensure that the provisions of the Bill could actually be delivered:

    "One of the good things about the Marine Bill is that […] it produces a single planning system for marine waters; it has a single management authority; it has simplified procedures for economic operators to get their operations approved. Except that it does not. It is not a single planning system. It is a very fragmented planning system with a lot of need for coordination. It excludes oil and gas, it excludes shipping, it includes ports, it excludes wind farms […] Is it a single authority? No, it certainly is not. As to simplified procedures, I think one has to see".[33]

26. The potential for the complexities of EU and international obligations not to be sufficiently recognised was a matter of concern to a number of witnesses. Mr MacMullen of the Seafish Industry Authority thought that the introduction of national measures which were dependent on agreement by other Member States was "a thorny area" given the economic interests involved.[34] Oil And Gas UK similarly noted that the industry was already subject to OSPAR requirements, which were not just applicable to the EU, and substantial investment programmes were in place to meet them: "So what we would not want is for incompatible requirements to be brought in as part of any of the Marine Bill".[35] Mr Rogers, of Defra's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), recognised that "the greatest attention will need to be spent once the Bill is in place on our transboundary concerns, because good environmental status applies to regional seas, not to our national waters; so we will need to ensure that our other colleagues, Member States in the North Sea, for example, share our vision for what our seas will be like".[36]

27. Mr Richardson thought that the need for such cooperation was implicit in the draft Bill but without more explicit emphasis had a "doubt" as to whether it would in fact happen as it should.[37] He felt cooperation needed to start within the UK itself, and then embrace neighbouring countries.[38] The Secretary of State assured us that "absolutely, the intention of the Bill is to try and streamline to get […] better co-ordination [with European legislation]".[39] We received no evidence that the draft Bill itself contains any provisions which would make it more difficult to implement international obligations to which the UK is subject, but we share the concerns expressed to us that without a strong commitment to cooperation and consultation, which will take time and resources, there is a danger of the introduction of new and overlapping requirements at local, regional, national and international levels. We draw attention to some of these in our discussion of the marine planning system, but we ask the Government to set out in guidance how responsibilities under the Marine Strategy Directive will be allocated if the Bill is enacted.

Water Framework Directive

28. The MSD is designed to integrate with the Water Framework Directive (already transposed into UK legislation) and thus provide joined-up management from river catchments to the edge of Economic Exclusive Zones. The Water Framework Directive covers coastal waters up to one nautical mile to sea, and estuarial waters.[40] Coordinated implementation of the two directives in UK marine waters will require a clear designation of duties. As Mr Waldock from Cefas pointed out "the Marine Management Organisation will not be able to take all the measures it needs itself to meet good environmental status, for example, under the Marine Strategy Directive and, therefore, there has to be a dialogue with other departments and agencies, and, in terms of land-based discharges, the Environment Agency".[41]

29. The Environment Agency (EA) is the competent authority for the Water Framework Directive in England and Wales, proposing environmental objectives and the measures needed to deliver them.[42] Damage to the sea bed caused by fishing activity, particularly within estuaries, may compromise the achievement of environmental objectives set under the Directive, as would poor status of fish stocks. Under the Bill, these matters would fall to be regulated by new Inshore Fishing and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs).

30. We asked Jonathan Shaw MP, Minister of State at Defra, to clarify how the Bill would affect implementation of the Water Framework Directive in marine waters. He responded "we are very confident that the new bodies will take their responsibilities under the Water Framework Directive seriously and implement them and work in partnership with EA who will sit on their board".[43] On the other hand the Environment Agency argued that the IFCAs should have a duty to exercise their functions compliantly with the Water Framework Directive requirements, to ensure they worked closely with the Agency to attain the relevant objectives.[44] The Moran Committee agreed.[45]

31. In respect of the administration of the Water Framework Directive the Minister also told us that "if the Committee feels […] that there should be powers and duties in particular areas, we will obviously look closely at those".[46] We are happy to take up the Minister's invitation. We think that there is potential for overlap and lack of clarity in respect of the duties under the Water Framework and Marine Strategy Directives. These should be clearly allocated between the Marine Management Organisation, Environment Agency and Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) to ensure implementation of the relevant UK obligations under these Directives and the agreed guidance on Integrated Coast Zone Management. Although clause 160 places a statutory duty on IFCAs to co-operate with the Agency, we recommend that the Bill makes it explicit that the Environment Agency remains the competent body for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), and we agree with those who argued that IFCAs should be given an additional duty to directly contribute to the attainment of the Water Framework Directive.

The Common Fisheries Policy and historic rights in offshore waters

32. Fisheries access is reserved for UK vessels only between nought to six nautical miles from the shoreline. Between six and 12 nautical miles there are access rights for certain member states to fish.[47] The access reflects historic fishing activity by the relevant Member State in the given area; in some cases it is for all commercially exploited species, but it is mostly limited to particular groups of species such as those that live on the seabed (demersal species). For example, France and Belgium have rights to fish for demersal species in the Irish Sea, and the UK has rights to fish in this zone off the coasts of other Member States. Historic rights place no limit on the number of vessels from a Member State which might make use of those rights.

33. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations stated that

    "there is a very serious jurisdiction issue here, given that anything outside the six-mile limit that affects fishing will have to be done through the Common Fisheries Policy mechanisms. To a large degree the draft Marine Bill is silent on that and the consequences of that, particularly in relation to the aspirations of the Bill for Marine Conservation Zones. So as it stands, the main weight of Marine Conservation Zones will be in the inshore area".[48]

34. The Seafish Industry Authority said that "we are approaching the major problem area of legislating in a way that will control activities of UK nationals but not necessarily non-UK nationals" and that French, Belgian and Spanish fishermen were unlikely to respect the management provisions in an area where they have no requirement to comply.[49] The Local Government Association stated "fishermen have just introduced a very large voluntary conservation zone for skate and ray. One of the big problems we have in terms of these sort of approaches is that sometimes people with grandfather fishing rights come into the six-mile limit and start hoovering up fish in very large quantities" and "there is a real issue about fairness and making sure that the legislation is appropriately applied to all parties and not just some parties".[50] North Devon's UNESCO Biosphere Reserve mentioned that "if local regulations for MCZs and other fisheries management measures are made these should be universally applied and the 'grandfather rights' adopted by international boats should be extinguished".[51

35. The Secretary of State said "you need agreement under the Common Fisheries Policy—the agreement of other Member States and of the Commission. I think the Marine Strategy Directive may help in that respect in dealing with it, but it is true that that is one bit that we do not wholly control ourselves. There are one or two precedents where countries have gone and been able to get agreements, so it is not as if you cannot ever do it but we have to recognise that we are dependent on agreement in those particular cases".[52] Defra officials thought that the issue of historic rights would only be addressed as a part of a comprehensive reform of the CFP.[53] On the other hand Mr Richardson predicted that in general the implementation of the Marine Strategy Directive would lead to much more frequent resolution of such issues through the mechanisms of the EU, and considered that provided the relevant consultation and co-ordination had taken place with other Member States, the administrative machinery would achieve this.[54] We welcome Mr Richardson's assurance, though we may not share his confidence. We believe the Government should negotiate the removal of historic fishing rights in UK waters with EU Member States to ensure that enforcement of nature conservation regulations are universally applied to UK national and other Member State fishing vessels in the six to 12 nautical mile zone.

32   Q555 Back

33   Q569 Back

34   Q202 Back

35   Q388 Back

36   Q491 Back

37   Q557 Back

38   Q587 Back

39   Q674 Back

40   Q572 Back

41   Q473 Back

42   Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) Back

43   Q685 Back

44   DMB 10 and DMB 76 Back

45   DMB 28 Back

46   Q685 Back

47   Article 17 of the basic Common Fisheries Policy framework regulation, EC No. 2371/2002: detail for each Member State is in Annex I Back

48   Q195 Back

49   Q202 Back

50   Q9 Back

51   DMB 59 Back

52   Q676 Back

53   Qq624, 647 Back

54   Qq581-3 Back

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