40.In our previous report, we concluded: “On the eve of the landing obligation fully coming into force, the UK appeared entirely unprepared to monitor or enforce compliance.” This conclusion has been borne out in this follow-up inquiry. As Pete Bromley told us: “At the moment, we are working with an honesty box system … There is nobody checking.”
41.ClientEarth, the Marine Conservation Society and WWF reminded us why the ability to effectively monitor compliance is so important: “With little being done to monitor or enforce the landing obligation, the fishing industry has no incentive to curb the harmful practice of discarding fish to the detriment of the marine environment upon which they are reliant.”
42.The agencies responsible for enforcing the landing obligation in England and Scotland explained the various steps that they were taking. Marine Scotland told us: “Compliance officers operate a rigorous enforcement regime using an intelligence led risk based approach and using a range of tools including at-sea monitoring via our Compliance vessels and onshore monitoring including the presence of compliance officers on the quayside and within the marketplace.”
43.Phil Haslam told us: “We have increased our inspection routines … We are making greater use of aerial surveillance … We are using other things such as last haul analysis, where we board a vessel … and reverse engineer what you could expect to see for retained catch.” He told us he currently has access to three patrol vessels, which he accepted was “very few”.
44.He acknowledged, however, the significant flaws of each of the tools available to him. He told us: “If I put a patrol vessel among a fleet, the likelihood is that it will be very compliant at the time”; that the footage from the aerial surveillance was not detailed enough to prove noncompliance; and that “poor data recording is at the moment impacting our ability to do thorough data analysis”. Asked if there was the ability to catch a fisher discarding, he replied: “It is going to be tricky.”
45.Asked whether drones are being used for monitoring and enforcement, Phil Haslam told us: “A lot of work is going on with drones in the marine space to see how we can introduce that capability, but it is not straightforward.” He explained: “For a drone that has the endurance and loiter capability to do the work that we need to do, and the coverage and the ability to be controlled, it quickly escalates up the scale of expense.” We would note that as technology develops, however, this may become a viable solution.
46.Barrie Deas summarised the problem: “The challenge is to monitor behaviour on board fishing vessels day and night, 24 hours, wherever they are and whatever the class of vessel. If you want a complete picture, that is the challenge, and it is big.”
47.Enforcement agencies are taking a range of actions in an attempt to monitor compliance with the landing obligation. None of the currently used mechanisms, however, are sufficient to determine levels of non-compliance or to provide sufficient evidence for enforcement action. This challenge is compounded by a lack of data.
48.Monitoring at sea was a known challenge of the landing obligation and, as we stated in our previous report, it is extremely disappointing that effective monitoring mechanisms were not in place from ‘day one’ of the rules coming fully into force, given that the Regulation was agreed six years ago.
49.In our previous report we explored the use of remote electronic monitoring (REM), which typically combines CCTV cameras to record fishing activity, GPS receivers to track fishing locations and sensors to monitor fishing gear usage, in detail. We concluded that “REM was “the only practical and effective way to monitor compliance with the landing obligation”.
50.In the present inquiry the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) described REM as “technology that is widely available, cost effective and able to provide evidence of compliance … [and] accurate data on what is happening in our fisheries.” Barrie Deas told us it was already being used by fishers in British Columbia; it is also used in New Zealand, the United States of America and a number of other countries. WWF stated: “It is difficult to understand, given the threat posed by potential widescale non-compliance to our stocks, and in turn the businesses reliant on them, why UK administrations appear unwilling to introduce REM across UK fleets.”
51.Both the Scottish and UK administrations acknowledge the benefits of REM. Marine Scotland told us: “We believe that the proportionate use of Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) would help with future enforcement of the landing obligation.” The Minister agreed: “To actually bring a prosecution you need to be able to see exactly what is happening on board, and REM gives you that particular opportunity.”
52.Nevertheless, neither administration is prepared to require its fleets to use REM until other Member States place a similar requirement on their fleets. The Fisheries Minister restated this position: “We must not impose it on our UK boats and create an unlevel playing field with other EU vessels that do not have to have the same technology installed.”
53.Although EU-level discussions are taking place on the use of REM, progress appears slow. The Minister told us:
“A number of Member States are not as keen as we are to try to introduce it in an ordered way. Some countries raise data protection issues; others just see it as another measure that might restrict their national fleets … the UK has been keen to push for better monitoring to enable us to ensure that the landing obligation works better, and we have been frustrated to an extent.”
54.We remain of the view that remote electronic monitoring is the only way to monitor compliance with the landing obligation, and restate our disappointment that Member States did not use the lengthy phasing-in of the landing obligation to agree on its use across the EU.
55.The Minister told us that “after we have left the European Union … as a condition of fishing in our waters, we would be able to ensure that the same requirements are placed on EU vessels in our waters”, and that these requirements could include the use of REM. He cautioned, however, that this would be subject to negotiations with the EU, and that a desire to control access to UK waters and impose restrictions on EU vessels would need to be tempered with a “need to consider our markets, because the majority of fish caught in our waters is marketed in the EU”.
56.It may be contentious for the UK to insist on the universal use of remote electronic monitoring as a condition of fishing in its waters post-Brexit. Nevertheless, we believe that the UK should commit to mandating the use of remote electronic monitoring on all vessels fishing in UK waters after it leaves the EU.
57.In our previous report, we noted that pressure from retailers could result in fishers wanting to be able to demonstrate compliance. Tesco told us:
“If the regulation is not strictly followed and there is no effective enforcement there will be Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing happening in UK waters and by UK vessels with illegally caught fish entering UK and other supply chains. This risk would ultimately sit with retailers and leave them exposed in the knowledge that IUU fish may be entering their supply chains.”
The UK Seafood Alliance agreed: “We therefore have a need to assure that the fishermen that supply us are complying with the regulations.”
58.The fishing industry does not, as yet, seem to have come under pressure from their buyers to prove compliance with the landing obligation. If and when this happens, however, it could provide a driver for fishers to adopt remote electronic monitoring voluntarily.
59.Asked when he thought the landing obligation’s aim, to eliminate discarding, would be achieved, Phil Haslam told us: “When the cultural shift has been made and there is recognition that compliance with these regulations is possible and is adding value to business models.” Pete Bromley agreed that “fishermen need to want to comply”, and Barrie Deas told us: “The people on the boats need to want to do this to demonstrate their compliance, for some incentive, whether it is quota, or to be able to sell their fish in the market, or a price premium.”
60.The Minister agreed: “It is about better communication, and looking at incentives … which ensure that people see a benefit in complying with the landing obligation.”
61.We are concerned that many of our witnesses, including the Minister, feel the fishing industry will need to be given incentives in order to comply with the landing obligation. While we would support a communication campaign that emphasises to fishers the benefits of compliance, it is a legal requirement that fish stocks subject to the landing obligation are not discarded. Incentivising fishers by offering rewards to those that comply could lead to the inappropriate conclusion that compliance is voluntary.
55 European Union Committee, (26th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 276), para 141
57 Written evidence from ClientEarth, the Marine Conservation Society and WWF ()
58 Written evidence from Marine Scotland ()
68 European Union Committee, (26th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 276), para 127
69 Written evidence from World Wildlife Fund ()
71 Oral evidence taken on 5 December 2018 (Session 2017–19), (Helen McLachlan)
72 Written evidence from World Wildlife Fund ()
73 Written evidence from Marine Scotland ()
79 Written evidence from Tesco ()
80 Written evidence from the UK Seafood Industry Alliance ()