Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Seventh Report


Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Response

  The Government welcomes this report which raises important issues about the Parliamentary Scrutiny of European Union fisheries legislation. We recognise and share the concerns that the Committee has about the lack of time that has been available to consider certain fisheries legislation. The Government is committed to improving the process by which decisions are made on fisheries management within the EU.

  Responses to the Committee's specific recommendations are set out below.

Improving Scrutiny of EU Fisheries Policy

  The Committee agrees with the proposal that the Fisheries Council should be moved to February, along with a later start to the fishing year.

  We agree with the Minister's assessment that:

    "The change in the timetable would give not only parliamentarians more time, it would give the industries in the various countries and the governments in the various countries more time to study these proposals in more depth".

  We therefore urge the Government to take forward the improvement of the decision-making process for fisheries management as a matter of urgency under their Presidency.

  The Government supports changes to the decision-making process, including altering the fishing year timetable to allow more time between the Commission's proposals being circulated and decisions being taken and applied. In our current EU Presidency role, we have timetabled a discussion on this at the October Fisheries Council.

  To help facilitate early discussion of key issues, (the so-called "front-loading" of discussions), the UK arranged a discussion on options and principles for stock recovery at the recent September Council. We anticipate a debate related to the preparation of the 2006 Total Allowable Catches and Quotas package itself in November.

  The Government will continue to keep the Committee informed as and when these issues develop. We will also copy you in on the various unofficial working documents as they become available.

European Fisheries Fund

  Mr Bradshaw stated that the UK is "resolutely opposed to any reintroduction of public money which might lead to increased capacity anywhere in the EU fleet" Given the continuing overcapacity of the EU fleet and its impact on over-fishing we agree strongly with the Government on this issue.

  The Government agree this recommendation. We support the principles of the proposed European Fisheries Fund. The proposed regulation is designed to prevent expenditure which will result in an increase in the capacity of fishing vessels. The Government strongly supports this. It reflects the decision taken by the Council of Fisheries Ministers in December 2002 to end subsidies, which could lead to the generation of additional fishing effort. The EU fleet remains excessive, given the state of many fish stocks; and incentives from public funds to increase the effective fishing capacity would put greater pressure on those stocks, and ultimately threaten the livelihoods of fishermen themselves.

  We believe the proposed Fund will assist the fishing industry to restructure to a more sustainable basis economically, socially and environmentally, and achieve a better balance between fish resources and effort, protecting the marine environment and improving vessel safety and product quality.

Remote Sensing

  It is vital that mechanisms for compliance with EU Regulations are improved. We support the Commission's recent initiatives in the use of remote sensing to monitor fishing vessel activity and the establishing of a new European Fisheries Control Agency. In our judgement it is essential that the United Kingdom takes forward the introduction of these initiatives during its Presidency.

  The Government agrees this recommendation in part. The potential value of remote sensing has been recognised by Member States but it is not a stand-alone enforcement tool. The Government believes that currently other initiatives that are being progressed such as electronic log books and the registration of buyers and sellers of first sale fish, together with the use of satellite monitoring systems offer a more cost effective means of improving compliance with EU Regulations. Nevertheless contractors are continuing to develop remote sensing technology and Fisheries Departments will be keeping a close eye on the results of the trials of this technology that are currently taking place.

Regional Advisory Councils

  We urge the Government to use the United Kingdom residency to progress the establishment of Regional Advisory Councils across the EU.

  The UK Government agree this recommendation. We continue to support the establishment of the Regional Advisory Councils. The Pelagic and the North Western Waters Regional Advisory Councils have been formally inaugurated in the last few weeks. In addition to facilitating the establishment of the Regional Advisory Councils, the United Kingdom Presidency organised an informal meeting of EU Fisheries Directors to discuss their progress and will continue to facilitate co-ordination between the RACs and the Commission.

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