The North Sea under pressure: is regional marine co-operation the answer? - European Union Committee Contents


Letter from George Eustice MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Farming, Food, and Marine Environment, to Lord Boswell of Aynho, Chairman of the Lords European Union Select Committee[323]

As you are aware securing the new regionalisation was a major UK priority throughout the negotiations to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). I was therefore keen to take advantage of the new process at the earliest possible opportunity but mindful that we needed to prove the concept and show that taking a regional approach would be successful and deliver results quickly.

The development of the pelagic discard plans was the first formal application of the regional approach to fisheries management under the new CFP and I have been extremely pleased with how the process has worked. The appetite shown by the other Member States in both the North Sea and North Western Waters to employ the new processes was heartening and exceeded my initial expectations. While the discussions between officials, and with industry, have at times been challenging, they have been effective in identifying problems and finding solutions.

The success of the process was proved as both groups were able to agree Joint Recommendations which were adopted by the Commission in the aforementioned Delegated Regulations.

While there have been some teething problems in setting up the new process, I believe that we have been able to resolve them quickly. We have agreed Memoranda of Understanding for how the groups operate, developed clear work programmes, dividing tasks to share the workloads effectively and set out a very clear process of engagement with the relevant Advisory Councils to ensure they work to a clear timetable and scope. That learning has already been integrated into the processes and timelines for the development of the joint recommendations that will define the content of the more complex demersal discard plans.

You asked for my view on the availability of resources to support these discussions with Member States. I can only speak on behalf of my own department but I have been able to use existing resources, from within my fisheries team, to develop the plans. This is work that would have needed to be done under conventional EU procedures if we had not done it in the new regional groups. I have not needed to seek additional staff to deliver these plans. It is important to recognise that the new regionalisation process has changed the EU negotiation process. Previously, officials would need to spend considerable time trying to influence the content of a proposal that the Commission would bring forward. Once that proposal had been adopted they would frequently spend significant amounts of time in working groups in Brussels trying to amend ill-fitting EU wide proposals and gather support for alternative approaches. Overnight this has changed. Officials have been able to work directly with their counterparts from other regional Member States towards a clear set of outcomes from day one.

You have also asked for my views on the survival exemptions that have been included in these Regulations. These exemptions are centred on the use of purse seine nets in mackerel and herring fisheries. These are nets which are drawn in slowly and can be opened to allow fish to escape unharmed. I am confident that the exemptions are scientifically robust as the evidence provided was reviewed and approved by the Scientific, Technological and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF).

7 December 2014

322   Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1393/2014 of 20 October 2014 establishing a discard plan for certain pelagic fisheries in north-western waters (OJ L 370, 20 October 2014, p 25) and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1395/2014 of 20 October 2014 establishing a discard plan for certain small pelagic fisheries and fisheries for industrial purposes in the North Sea (OJ L 370, 20 October 2014, p 35) Back

323   This letter is part of a strand of correspondence between the UK Government and the House of Lords European Union Sub-Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy. The Sub-Committee routinely scrutinises the UK Government's position on draft European Union legislation and other significant documents. Back

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