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Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment her departmental scientists have made, or been advised of, of the (a) stock levels, (b) fishing mortality levels and (c) estimated biological limits for each of the commercial species known to be caught by UK fishermen in the deep water at or beyond the continental shelf. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 17 June 2002]: Scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science join with international colleagues in the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management (ACFM) of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), in agreeing and publishing annual scientific advice on the management of commercially exploited fish stocks. The latest advice from the ACFM on deep water species is contained in the committee's report published following its meeting in May 2002. Broadly, the advice on most such species is that the balance of available evidence suggests that they should be subjected only to substantially reducedor in some cases to very lowrates of exploitation.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice she has received from the European Commission on the extent of competence which it may be possible to convey under the existing regulatory framework to proposed regional advisory councils as set out under its reformed Common Fisheries Policy. 
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Mr. Morley [holding answer 27 June 2002]: Limits on the amount of crabs and lobsters that hobby fishermen can take from the sea are being considered as part of the proposed shellfish licensing scheme. The Department is looking at the possibility of bag limits for other species and I would hope to be able to reach firm conclusions this autumn. Any proposals to introduce bag limits will be the subject of consultation with both commercial and recreational interests.
Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome of the Fisheries Council held on 11 June was; what the Government's stance on the issues discussed, including its voting record was; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: I represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers in Luxembourg on 11 June, together with Ross Finnie, Minister for Environment and Rural Development in the Scottish Executive and Mrs. Brid Rodgers, the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development.
The commissioner gave an introductory presentation on his proposals for the future of the Common Fisheries Policy, as published on 29 May. Negotiations on this are scheduled to take place during the remainder of 2002, with the aim of reaching conclusions by the year-end. Ministers took the opportunity to state their initial reactions. For the United Kingdom I said that, though of course we would have concerns to pursue on some issues, we could support the broad thrust of the proposals, aimed as they are at addressing the risk of stock collapse and creating a sustainable future for the fishing industry: I said the commission was right in particular to have proposed an end to subsidies for building new vessels, continued adherence to relative stability as the method of allocating fishing opportunities among member states, and the setting up of regional advisory councils to improve stakeholders' involvement in decisions on the management of fisheries. I also emphasised the need to examine the socio-economic impact of the commission proposals and to be ready in the short-term to help the communities that depend on fishing to respond to what will inevitably be difficult circumstances.
Some member states expressed similar broad support, while others indicated significant dissent, especially in relation to the reduction of fishing effort, the ending of construction grants and what they alleged was the failure of the commission's proposals to take account of the diversity of fishing operations across the EU.
There was a useful policy debate on the commission proposal for long-term recovery plans for threatened cod and hake stocks. Aspects covered included the methodology for setting recovery targets for these stocks, the need to limit fishing effort and the ways in which this might be done, additional funding for scrapping vessels, monitoring and inspection and the introduction of emergency measures to safeguard stocks. Various views were expressed: for the UK, I gave a qualified welcome to the commission's proposal, emphasising the need for engaging with the industry in a full debate on effort control and the importance of ensuring the permanent scrapping of excess fleet capacity rather than funding the temporary tie-up of vessels. The presidency referred the dossier back to working level for development.
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On the protection of deep water species, the Council considered a joint presidency/commission compromise and by qualified majority reached political agreement on total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for certain stocks of black scabbardfish, blue ling, greater silver smelt, ling, orange roughy, red seabream, roundnose grenadier and tusk. It also agreed, again by qualified majority, a general approach on a measure introducing a permit requirement limiting fishing capacity in relation to certain deep sea species.
I declared the United Kingdom's opposition to this pair of measures. The permit system and associated provisions for data gathering are welcome in that they may eventually facilitate the introduction of the effort limitation that is truly needed to give these fragile stocks the protection that they need. But we could not support the package as a whole because of the lack of urgency in bringing about effort limitation and because of the unsatisfactory measures to protect these species in the interim. We do not consider that these measures go anything like far enough to protect these fragile species, given the bleakness of the scientists' advice. Setting TACs and quotas, especially when some species are omitted and not all areas are covered, is not in our view an adequate response. I also thought the levels of TAC too high and not based on sound science.
The Council also adopted, unanimously, conclusions reiterating its commitment to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishinga very welcome conclusion in view of the threat posed to sustainable management of global fish stocks by the activities of flag of convenience vessels.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) the European Commission and (b) other EU fishing nations in respect of the maintenance of the relative stability parameters throughout the period of the reformed common fisheries policy commencing in January 2003. 
Mr. Morley [holding answer 17 June 2002]: I have welcomed the Commission's proposal to continue to allocate Total Allowable Catches among member states on the basis of relative stability. This mechanism has widespread support, provides a degree of predictability for fishermen and is a fair way to allocate resources. The Commission's proposal on this is one element of a comprehensive package of Commission proposals on the future of the common fisheries policy: I expect extensive discussions with the Commission and other EU member states on the totality of this package to take place during coming months.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications of the proposed European road map for the reform of the common fisheries policy in respect of (a) in-shore fishermen, (b) the future management of shellfish, (c) the management of multi-annual quotas, (d) the future market for the trade in quotas, (e) the confidence in retaining relative stability, (f) the opportunities to give fishing industry stakeholders executive power to make policy and management decisions and (g) the prospects for the future of the United Kingdom fishing industry. 
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Mr. Morley [holding answer 17 June 2002]: The Commission published its first set of proposals for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy on 28 May 2002. Our preliminary assessment is that the aims of the proposals are broadly in line with the UK view developed in the light of our consultation with stakeholders last year about the Commission's Green Paper on the subject. We shall in coming weeks be assessing, again in consultation with all interested parties in the UK, all the possible implications of the Commission's proposals.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the European Commission's proposals for fleet reductions set out on page 49 of draft Council Regulation 2002/0114. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 19 June 2002]: The Commission have made clear that they do not seek to impose cuts in fleet capacity on member states. Their figures which detail fleet cuts by member states are to be taken as purely illustrative. The scale of decommissioning in any individual member state will depend on the decisions taken by the Council on measures to reduce fishing effort and on the decisions by fishermen in the light of the impact of these measures.
Mr. Morley: The Department and representatives of the UK fishing industry contributed to a workshop convened by the European Commission in May on options to reduce discarding. The Commission intends to publish an action plan this year to tackle discarding as part of its proposals for reform of the common fisheries policy. We will study carefully the Commission's proposals when they are published.
Mr. Morley: Based on 1985 diet data it is estimated that in 1998 240,000 tonnes of fish were consumed by grey seals and 75,000 tonnes by common seals. The predominant prey species of seals were sand eels, cod and whiting and most of the fish taken by seals are likely to have been juveniles. Given the high rates of natural mortality for these species, there is no guarantee that had they not been caught by seals, they would have survived to reach a size at which they would have been available to either commercial fishermen or anglers. We are currently funding the Sea Mammal Research Unit to undertake an update of this work.
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the (a) gross tonnage and (b) kilowatts of engine power permanently withdrawn from (i) the beam trawling sector and (ii) the pelagic sector under MAGP IV; and what assessment she has made of the possibility of the UK meeting the required targets set under this programme by the end of the period. 
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31 December 2001. During this period, a decommissioning scheme was operated in the UK in 1997 to permanently withdraw capacity and engine power from the UK fleet using public aid. This resulted in reductions in gross tonnage and engine power of 1,000 tonnes and 4,443 kilowatts for the beam trawl segment of the fleet, and nine tonnes and 97 kilowatts for the pelagic segment. Further reductions in the beam trawling segment are expected in 2002 as a result of the decommissioning schemes this year.
In addition, there have also been reductions in capacity resulting from capacity penalties on licence transfers and aggregations, and action to correct discrepancies in engine power. These reductions are permanent and are included within the assessments made of the overall gross tonnage and engine power of the UK fleet. However, separate data on such reductions are not routinely produced, and could not be made available without use of a disproportionate level of resources.
The MAGP IV programme uses a combination of targets for the total gross tonnage and engine power of different segments of the fishing fleet to be achieved by the end of the programme on 31 December 2002, along with an alternative of effort control objectives for each year that can be used for certain segments of the fleet. Both need to be borne in mind when considering whether or not the UK has met its objectives under MAGP IV. As such, using the fleet situation as at 31 December 2001, the UK was outside the targets for gross tonnage and engine power for the pelagic segment, but within the targets for the beam trawl segment. However, the UK was within the effort control objectives for both of these segments.
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