Brexit: fisheries Contents

Chapter 10: Relationship models

‘Horses for courses’

178.In replacing the co-operative structures that are contained in the CFP, the UK will be faced with a variety of relationship models. Mr Deas recommended adopting “horses for courses”, and highlighted coastal state agreements for migratory stocks and bilateral relations in the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and the Channel as examples of areas that should be managed through bilateral agreements.300 In this chapter, we highlight some of the relationships that the Government, as the Minister told us, “is looking at”.301

Bilateral approach

The Norway agreement

179.The bilateral Framework Agreement between Norway and the EU allows for the setting of TACs for shared stocks, transfers of fishing opportunities and access arrangements, joint technical measures and co-operation on control and enforcement.302 It is, according to the European Commission, the “single most important agreement” the EU has with a third party, in terms of exchange of fishing opportunities and joint management.303

180.The Framework Agreement is extended for periods of six years, though consultations are held each year to determine TACs, exchange quotas and grant reciprocal access. TACs for jointly managed shared stocks are based on scientific advice about stock health and sustainable exploitation rates from ICES. Once agreed, the TACs are divided into quotas between the parties according to ‘zonal attachment’, that is to say a fixed percentage based on the spatial distribution of the stock over time and its life cycles.304

181.Mr Landmark told us that “an integrated part of the bilateral yearly agreement” between Norway and the EU consisted of “setting quotas and agreeing how much of the Norwegian quota can be fished in EU waters and how much of the EU quota can be fished in Norwegian waters.”305 This enables the two parties to increase the fishing opportunities for stocks of particular interest to their respective industries. For example, the EU quota of the TAC for cod in the North Sea includes the Norwegian zone, where EU vessels can only fish if they have express consent from Norway.306 Mr Landmark told us the emphasis was on establishing “a good fishing pattern”.307 This meant assessing where shared stocks were spawning and then ensuring that if this happened in EU waters, say, then “both Norwegian and EU vessels should fish in Norwegian waters where the fish are bigger”.

182.Quotas are exchanged on the basis of ‘cod equivalents’.308 These are measured by weight, and indicate the relative value of different species compared to cod. Though the mix and amount of stocks exchanged each year varies, the use of cod equivalents maintains a balanced exchange. This system has not been updated since the 1980s, but we note that disagreements have sometimes arisen over the quota exchanges, leading to access arrangements being suspended for a period of months. This, the Minister told us, “is quite disruptive for the industry”.309

183.The Norway model was highlighted by industry representatives as an appropriate model for fisheries relations. Mr Deas told us that a trilateral agreement with Norway and the EU would be the best way to manage demersal stocks in the North Sea.310 Mr Armstrong agreed: “The fact that the EU-Norway model exists where shared stocks are discussed and arrangements are made means that that model is suitable for an EU-UK-Norway model.”311

Regional basins

184.Norway and the EU have negotiated three agreements: a bilateral Framework Agreement between the Norway and the EU, a trilateral agreement between Norway, Denmark and Sweden (the latter two represented by the EU), and a neighbourhood agreement covering Swedish fishing in the Norwegian North Sea.312

185.The trilateral Agreement that Norway has negotiated with Denmark and Sweden (represented by the EU) with respect to fishing in Kattegat and Skagerrak is of particular interest.313 This Agreement replicates a historical regional relationship between Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and attempts to ensure flexible though effective management of border-crossing fishing in the area.314 Such a model could potentially be used to manage regional and historically closely linked regional basins, such as the Irish Sea—where former Taoiseach John Bruton, giving evidence to the EU Select Committee, foresaw a difficult negotiation about the demarcation of fishing rights.315 We note, however, that the Agreement took several years to negotiate, thanks to disagreements over control and catch registrations between Norway and the EU, representing Denmark and Sweden.316

186.The bilateral relationship between the EU and Norway shows that close co-operation between adjacent coastal states is necessary and possible, though complicated. The key elements of the relationship are reaching agreement on Total Allowable Catches for shared stocks, dividing the TACs, and exchanging mutual access rights to fishing in the respective EEZs of the parties. The UK could pursue similar arrangements for managing shared stocks post-Brexit.

187.The example of the regional Agreement for management of fisheries in Skagerrak and Kattegat may offer a suitable point of departure for a future UK-Ireland-EU relationship in the Irish Sea.

Replacing the Northern Agreements

188.The EU has negotiated so-called ‘Northern Agreements’ with Nordic countries, particularly Norway. These agreements are the current basis for co-operation on stocks that are shared between the EU and Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, bilaterally or through the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission317, and for exchanging quotas and access arrangements.318 Once the UK withdraws from the EU, it will no longer be party to these Northern Agreements.319 In its Balance of Competence report, the Government concluded the UK was a net beneficiary of the EU-Norway agreement, and there is general agreement that access to fishing in Norwegian waters is important to the UK industry.320

189.Industry representatives suggested that a bilateral relationship with Norway, or a trilateral UK-EU-Norway relationship, would be crucial. Fishing for Leave also highlighted Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands as important partners in the North-East Atlantic.321

190.Mr Landmark told us that Norway was considering a future bilateral relationship between Norway and the UK, drawing on the current EU-Norway arrangements as well as the Norway-Russia relationship for managing shared stocks. This example would perhaps be a more suitable comparison, we were told, because it was a co-operation between two states rather than a state and the EU, consisting of “many interested fishing states with very varying interests in the total agreement”.322 The Norway-Russia agreement includes co-operation between technical committees and enforcement agencies, which, Mr Landmark told us, function effectively.

191.As a result of its EU withdrawal the UK will no longer be party to the Northern Agreements. New bilateral, trilateral or coastal state agreements with countries such as Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands will be necessary, if the UK is to continue to play a part in co-ordinated management of shared and straddling stocks in the North Sea and the North-East Atlantic. The Government should therefore pursue new, or interim, agreements as a matter of urgency, building on existing models where possible.

Advisory Councils

192.Though some witnesses, notably UKIP, argued the UK should not spend its resources on influencing EU policy, Mr Landmark suggested that the internal regionalised processes in the European Union minimised the room for compromise between the EU and other parties about stock management. Norway was therefore looking for ways to influence the increasingly regionalised decision-making processes in the EU, though a solution had yet to be found. He concluded that this was “a real obstacle to co-operation”.323

193.The Angling Trust argued that the Government should seek to preserve influence in EU fisheries management.324 The Trust argued that the UK should pursue a new approach to the EU’s Advisory Councils (ACs), including negotiating to become an observer in the North Sea, North Western Waters and Pelagic Advisory Councils,325 while the NEF suggested establishing “super-ACs”, which would include all countries in a region, regardless of EU membership.326 Continued influence and participation in the ACs, the Angling Trust suggested, could be an avenue for the UK to influence the EU’s approach to fisheries management outside the CFP.327

194.As we have concluded, fisheries management cannot be seen in isolation from that of neighbouring states. The UK could seek to negotiate continued participation in Advisory Councils in order to maintain a degree of influence over the regionalisation of fisheries management in the EU.

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs)

195.Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) play an important role in managing straddling and migratory stocks. Professor Churchill told us that, in practical terms, the obligations to co-operate on the management of shared and straddling stocks were given effect through the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC),328 and witnesses unequivocally agreed that the Government should ensure the continuation of the UK’s membership of NEAFC and other RFMOs after Brexit.329

196.The WWF told us: “As an independent nation there could be scope for the UK to play a greater influencing role in regional management organisations such as the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission.”330 Fishing for Leave said that the UK, Norway, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland “effectively control the whole North East Atlantic”, arguing that together these countries could “construct sustainable, environmentally and economically fit for purpose fisheries regimes”.331 Regional co-operation for some important, migratory stocks, such as mackerel, could thus take place through NEAFC.

197.The Minister concurred. He saw an independent seat at the negotiating table in the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission as a particularly significant opportunity, given the importance of species such as mackerel to the UK.332

Box 8: Regional Fisheries Management Organisations

Regional Fisheries and Marine Organisations (RFMOs) are international organisations formed by countries with fishing interests in an area or certain migratory species. Some RFMOs manage all fish stocks found in a specific area while others focus on particular highly migratory species. In some RFMOs coastal states negotiate the TAC for stocks and their respective TAC shares.

Source: European Commission, ‘Regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs)’: [accessed 7 December 2016]

198.The UK is currently a member of the NEAFC by virtue of its EU membership, but will have to apply to become a member in its own right.333 This, Professor Barnes suggested, would not be problematic legally, but, he added, “What would be more difficult would be the extent to which we would be able to enjoy particular shares of quota thereunder.”334 Currently, the UK makes up part of the EU share of the TAC agreed for stocks that are managed through coastal state negotiations in NEAFC and other RFMOs.335 The IEEP noted that fishing opportunities for new members of NEAFC were often limited, because existing members wanted to maintain their quota of managed stocks. The UK could, though, potentially request an allocation of a part of a quota as a previously co-operating non-contracting party.336 How the TACs will be shared once the UK becomes an independent member will thus be a matter for negotiation.

199.Independent participation in international negotiations with other coastal states will be crucial for delivering sustainable management of straddling stocks. By establishing its independent membership post-Brexit of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations the UK will negotiate directly with other coastal states regarding the management and sharing of important stocks. Therefore, UK membership of relevant RFMOs, particularly NEAFC, must be established.

302 Agreement on Fisheries between the European Economic Community and the Kingdom of Norway, 29 August 1980, OJ L 226/48; Council Regulation (EEC) on the conclusion of the Agreement on fisheries between the European Economic Community and the kingdom of Norway, 27 June 1980, OJ L 226/47

303 European Commission, ‘Norway: Northern Agreement’: [accessed 7 December 2016]

304 World Bank Group, Trade in fishing services: Emerging Perspectives on Foreign Fishing Arrangements (1 December 2014), p 101:

306 World Bank Group, Trade in fishing services: Emerging Perspectives on Foreign Fishing Arrangements
(1 December 2014)

308 World Bank Group, Trade in fishing services: Emerging Perspectives on Foreign Fishing Arrangements
(1 December 2014)

312 European Commission, ‘Norway: Northern Agreement’: [accessed 7 December 2016]

313 European Commission, ‘Norway: Northern Agreement’: [accessed 7 December 2016]

314 Q 26 (Vidar Landmark)

315 Oral evidence taken before the European Union Select Committee, 25 October 2016, (Session 2016–17), 131

316 Q 26 (Geir Ervik)

317 See paras 195-199

318 European Commission, ‘Bilateral agreement with countries outside the EU’: [accessed 7 December 2016]

319 Q 10 (Prof Richard Barnes)

320 Written evidence from Fishing for Leave (FBR0002) and UKIP (FBR0009); Q 14 (Bertie Armstrong) and Q 16 (Barrie Deas)

321 Written evidence from Fishing for Leave (FBR0002) and UKIP (FBR0009)

322 25 (Vidar Landmark)

324 Written evidence from the Angling Trust (FBR0013)

325 Written evidence from WWF (FBR0010)

326 Written evidence from the NEF (FBR0007)

327 Written evidence from the Angling Trust (FBR0013)

328 The contracting parties to NEAFC are Denmark, in respect of the Faroe Islands and Iceland, the European Union, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation.

329 Written evidence from the SIA (FBR0008), the NEF (FBR0007), Fishing for Leave (FBR0002) and WWF (FBR0010); Q 1 (Dr Bryce Stewart) and Q 2 (Prof Robin Churchill)

330 Written evidence from WWF (FBR0010)

331 Written evidence from Fishing for Leave (FBR0002)

333 Q 3 (Prof Robin Churchill)

335 The agreed record between the EU, the Faroe Islands and Norway for managing mackerel in the North East Atlantic from 2014–2018 for instance grants the EU around 50% of the TAC.

336 Written Evidence from the IEEP (FBR0003)

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