Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Fifth Report



87. We now bring together the conclusions and recommendations which we have highlighted in bold type in the preceding Chapters. We then end with a synthesis of our final conclusions.

(a)  The reformed CFP is the result of over four years of analysis and consultation, but it has in our view been emasculated by the back-sliding compromises made by the Council (paragraph 7).

(b)  We welcome the stronger commitment in the new basic Regulation to protection of the marine environment (paragraph 10).

(c)  Existing international research programmes in this area coordinated by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) need to be enhanced, and such work could and should be given a much higher priority, compared with routine stock assessments. This is long-term research, and while the results may not be available for some time yet, it needs to be carried out with much more urgency than it has been hitherto (paragraph 11).

(d)  We are dismayed that, as we complete this Report, no firm recovery plans for key stocks, in particular cod and hake, are yet in place, despite having been first suggested by the Commission over a year ago. At the beginning of April 2003 the Commission promised a "definitive cod recovery plan" in a "few weeks' time". This envisaged adoption by the Council no earlier than September 2003. We regard this as quite unacceptable and urge the Government to press for the establishment of appropriate recovery plans as a matter of extreme urgency (paragraph 16).

(e)  We adhere to that opinion, even though the Commission has at last published its proposals (May 2003) for a long-term cod recovery plan. Given our views on the vital importance of effort controls and capacity reduction, we welcome these elements of the Commission's proposals. However, in the light of the fate of the Commission's December 2001 proposals, we remain pessimistic that—without dedicated commitment by the UK Government and its supporters in the Council—these new proposals may be the next victims of short-term self-interest and that they will take effect too late (Box 1).

(f)  We strongly endorse the development of recovery and management plans, based on the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to the maximum extent possible (paragraph 20).

(g)  Greater use could and should be made in future of alternative direct conservation measures (such as control of fishing effort), as well as appropriate technical conservation measures (mesh size limits, closed areas, closed seasons etc). We urge the Government to press the Commission, and to argue in Council, for the implementation as a matter of urgency of a properly designed and well-considered system of effort control, to work alongside TACs and quotas wherever possible, but especially where precautionary TACs are in force (paragraph 30).

(h)  The failure of the EU institutions to deal effectively with the serious and persistent problem of "technology creep" is in our view further evidence of the lack of any real political will to address the major problems of fisheries management in Europe (paragraph 33).

(i)  Another opportunity to legislate for a serious downsizing of the European fleet has been missed. We urge the Government to press the fundamental need for capacity reduction, as well as effective measures to deal with "technology creep", in future negotiations over recovery and management plans (paragraph 35).

(j)  There seems to be no substantial reason why satellite monitoring should not be extended to all licensed fishing vessels in the next five years or so. Similarly we consider that the technology now exists for direct electronic reporting of the records of fishing activity on board to be made obligatory in the near future (paragraph 39).

(k)  We welcome the extended use of satellite and electronic tracking provided for in the new Regulation, which is likely to prove extremely valuable to national enforcement authorities. We urge the Government to pursue its extension to all licensed fishing vessels over 10m in length by 2005 or very soon thereafter as a high priority (paragraph 40).

(l)  We are encouraged by the Council's acceptance of the need to strengthen co-operation between Member States but believe that a common inspection authority, as envisaged in the Commission's "Roadmap", will eventually be required to achieve an equitable system (paragraph 44).

(m)  Operational management could and should be devolved to appropriately constituted non-political Regional Advisory Councils (RACs). We are encouraged by the inclusion of provisions for RACs in the new basic CFP Regulation. It is of vital importance that these Councils be established as a matter of considerable urgency (paragraph 49).

(n)  It is deeply regrettable that the Commission's proposals for terminating aid for new construction were weakened at the December 2002 Council. We deplore the fact that funds will continue to available for this purpose until end of 2004. We regard this as further evidence of the continuing lack of political will to support genuine reform of the CFP (paragraph 52).

(o)  We think that it is entirely wrong that EU taxpayers should continue to finance the over-exploitation of the fish stocks, when this very practice is likely to lead to the future collapse of the industry (paragraph 53).

(p)  We strongly support the initiatives taken by the Commission to open a dialogue on the long-term economic management of the fisheries. Conservation measures will not work as long as fishermen's livelihoods depend on the over-exploitation of fish stocks. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that there will be sustainable fisheries in Europe until fishermen have strong economic incentives to protect the stocks (paragraph 66).

(q)  We are concerned that important decisions on fisheries management and long-term planning are taken in the Council and within the Commission without rigorous economic (as distinct from scientific) advice. We urge the UK Government and the EU institutions to commit resources to the comprehensive gathering of economic data on the fisheries and making this information widely available (paragraph 70).

(r)  If the EU—Commission and Member States—is unprepared in the short term to accept the employment implications of an access or property based management system, it follows that some other economic measure is required to allow the most vulnerable stocks to recover (paragraph 72).

(s)  We recognise that the Fontainebleau Agreement has wider implications than fisheries, but we would regard it as unfortunate if, because of the particular application of the Agreement to FIFG, opportunities are being missed for using FIFG funding for purposes which contribute to the diversification of local economies currently dependent on fishing and thereby to reductions in fishing effort. We recommend that the UK Government review the position in relation to assistance for fisheries communities. (paragraph 81).

(t)  Transitional aid needs to be linked to a recovery plan with a clearly stated timetable for stock recovery. If stocks fail to recover within that period further, permanent, decommissioning will become necessary. Recovery plans will first need to be agreed to at the Council before individual Member States can commit funding (paragraph 83).

(u)  Transitional aid would need to be monitored closely: it must not be allowed to contribute to increased capacity (paragraph 84).

(v)  Some form of economic intervention in fisheries management is vital. It is extremely important to find ways of supporting the development of alternative employment opportunities in areas affected by long-term decline of the fishing industry. Preferably, for reasons of social cohesion, these should be in the marine or marine-related sectors. We therefore urge the Government to promote the diversification of the economies of coastal communities and strongly support the Commission's initiative to open up a dialogue on the possibility of decoupling the FIFG from fisheries in the next budget in favour of broader support for coastal communities (paragraph 86).

Final conclusions
"There are things to be welcomed within the package but perhaps it does not provide a coherent and integrated strategy that could really deliver on longer term reform . . . . As a coherent and integrated package . . . it is rather underwhelming."

Marine Stewardship Council (Q 60)

"What emerged out of the December Council may be described as political compromise but certainly was not a coherent plan for rebuilding fish stocks."

National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (Q 42)

"What is in the new Regulation is a significant move towards the sustainable management of fish stocks and framework for that, but the decisions that were taken about total allowable catches are very much the old political horse-trading, which is very much at variance with the spirit of the Regulation. We hope for the future that the spirit of the Regulation begins to be turned into real practical measures through the recovery plans and the management plans that are envisaged."

Scottish Natural Heritage (Q 89).

88. The persistent problems of fisheries management around the world are largely due to a vicious interaction between biological and economic factors involved, leading to the well known failure of the free market to deliver an acceptable outcome, appropriately known as the "tragedy of the commons". These problems have only been overcome when fishermen have been given a long-term interest in the health of the fish stocks (and the ecosystem) on which they depend, by the allocation of some form of property rights. Some form of economic intervention in fisheries management is vital.

89. Existing tools for fisheries management are excessively reliant on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas, which have demonstrably been ineffective in the European context. Greater use could and should be made of alternative direct conservation measures, such as control of fishing effort, as well as appropriate technical conservation measures, in future.

90. Fisheries management in Europe has become excessively politicised, largely because of the annual renegotiation of TACs by the Council of Ministers (the "Brussels bottleneck"). Only long-term strategic plans need to be ratified (from time to time) at a political level. Once these are agreed, operational management could and should be devolved to appropriately constituted non-political Regional Advisory Councils.

91. It is the unanimous view of the Committee that the generally excellent and widely supported proposals made by the Commission to reform the Common Fisheries Policy have been emasculated by the Council of Ministers, which has been held hostage by some Member States acting in the perceived (but in our view misconceived) short-term interests of their fishing constituencies—rather than for the long-term common good or in the interests of the conservation of the marine resources of the Community.

92. In particular we draw attention to the failure of the Council:

·  To impose over the years TACs at levels which permit stocks to recover;

·  To make a start on using direct control of total fishing effort in addition to relying on TACs;

·  To reduce the total fishing capacity and to stop using FIFG funds for the construction of new fishing vessels with increased capacity;

·  To impose a Community Fisheries Control Agency in order to provide equal enforcement on all fishing vessels in EU waters.

93. Without these changes we have grave doubts whether the new revised CFP can achieve its objectives.

Recommendation to the House

94. This Report is made for debate.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003