Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


TENTH REPORT


The European Scrutiny Committee has made further progress in the matter referred to it and has agreed to the following Report:—

FISHERIES: TOTAL ALLOWABLE CATCHES AND QUOTAS 2002

(22939)


Draft Council Regulation fixing for 2002 the fishing opportunities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Community waters and, for Community vessels, in waters where limitations in catch are required.
Legal base: Article 37 EC; qualified majority voting
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 5 December 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: 17 December 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: For debate in European Standing Committee A

Background

  1.1  Each year, the Fisheries Council agrees the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for particular fish stocks in the following calendar year, based on advice from the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management (ACFM) of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and of the Commission's Scientific and Technical Committee for Fisheries. In those cases where particular fisheries are jointly managed with third countries, the Council agrees the Community share following negotiations with the countries concerned; and, once the relevant TACs for the Community as a whole have been decided or negotiated, the Fisheries Council allocates the catch between Member States in the form of national quotas according to a predetermined key. At the same time, the conditions under which the quotas may be fished are specified.

The current proposal

  1.2  As is now usual with this set of proposals, we do not yet have an official text, and have had to rely substantially on the Explanatory Memorandum dated 5 December submitted by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley). This deals with:

  • TACs and national quota allocations for fish stocks in Community waters;

  • quotas for Community vessels in Third Country waters, and in international waters regulated by regional fisheries organisations;

  • quotas for Third Country vessels in Community waters; and

  • the licensing and other conditions which apply to the fishing of these opportunities.

  1.3  The Minister has also told us that the proposal covers other measures, including the carrying forward or revising of a number of technical conservation measures; an Annex revising the list of stocks subject to end-year flexibility arrangements on the banking and borrowing of quotas, as well as penalties for exceeding quotas under Council Regulation (EC) No. 847/96; and the maintenance of the special measures for North Sea herring introduced in 1996.

— TACs and national quota allocations for fish stocks in Community waters

  1.4  As before, these allocations will form the corner-stone of the opportunities available to Community fishermen in the coming 12 months, and the table in Annex I below shows, for the major stocks of interest to the UK in the North Sea, West of Scotland, Channel and Irish Sea fisheries, the proposed TACs for 2002, together with the corresponding ICES recommendations. It also sets out, by way of comparison, the figures agreed for 1999, 2000 and 2001, and the percentage changes that would arise as between 2001 and 2002 if the Commission's proposals were adopted as they stand.

  1.5  The Minister points out that the ICES advice is based on the precautionary approach, aimed at keeping stocks well above levels at which they are in danger of collapse, and, where necessary, at rebuilding them to enable sustainable fisheries in future. He adds that, as in previous years, this leads to significant cuts being recommended, since some stocks are considered to be either outside safe biological limits, or as being fished at excessively high levels. Also, for a number of stocks, ICES recommends the introduction or extension of recovery plans, along with the lowest possible level of catches.

  1.6  He also points out that, although the proposals generally follow the ICES advice, the Commission has developed what it calls a complementary philosophy, including the following elements:

  • for those stocks where ICES recommends a recovery plan, the Commission proposes treating 2002 as the first year in a long-term process of reductions on fishing mortality (or TACs): this covers a number of cod stocks (such as those in the North Sea, Irish Sea, and West of Scotland), northern hake, and nephrops stocks in southern waters;

  • a second category of stocks, not recommended for recovery plans by ICES, but which are fished outside safe limits and have very low biomass levels, will face identical measures: these include Western Channel sole, Irish Sea haddock, and West of Scotland whiting:

  • for those stocks associated with stocks in the first or second categories (for example, caught with cod or hake), the Commission proposes to reduce TACs in a complementary measure, similar to last year (when its blanket proposal of 20% cuts was reduced to 10% by the Council): this year, it has adopted a more flexible approach, though the Minister expects many of the cuts to be opposed;

  • ICES has recommended TAC cuts of more than 40% for some stocks not associated with vulnerable stocks or subject to recovery plans: for these stocks, including anglerfish in the North Sea and West of Scotland, the Commission proposes maximum cuts of 40%, in line with normal practice and to avoid unnecessary dislocation; and

  • some assessed and non-assessed stocks are consistently fished at levels lower than the permitted TAC, and the Commission proposes that such TACs should be reduced to reflect current fishing patterns more closely.

  1.7  The Minister then goes on to analyse in more detail the effect of the proposals in different areas.

— North Sea

  1.8  The UK has the greatest interest in the major North Sea stocks, including a number (cod, plaice, haddock, whiting, saithe, mackerel, blue whiting and herring) managed jointly with Norway. Negotiations on these are continuing and are expected to be completed on 14 December; in the meantime, no quota allocations have been made, and the proposal simply sets out the ICES recommendations for these stocks. These involve the introduction of a recovery plan and the lowest level of catches for cod, a 84% increase in TAC for haddock (which nevertheless equates to a 24% reduction in effort), a 52% increase in TAC for whiting (again, representing a cut in effort), a virtual rollover for plaice, an increase of 55% for saithe, a rollover for herring and a 4% increase for mackerel stocks (including those in western waters). Negotiations on blue whiting — where the ICES advice is for a complete closure of the fishery unless there is agreement on a recovery plan and a restrictive TAC - take place in an international context. The Minister says that previous negotiations with Norway suggest that the TAC for cod will be more or less the same as in 2001, and that the advice will be followed closely for other stocks.

  1.9  For other North Sea stocks, which are not jointly managed with Norway, the Commission is proposing a range of cuts, including stocks associated with those subject to recovery plans, often despite the lack of any assessment from ICES (where it has been the usual practice to suggest a rollover). The proposed cuts are of different values, which the Minister considers may reflect relative levels of association and quota uptake, and range from 12.5% for turbot and brill to 23.4% for northern prawn, whilst other stocks covered include dab and flounder, lemon sole and witch, skate and rays, and spurdog (though not megrim, for which the Commission proposes a rollover). For nephrops, ICES has recommended a slight increase on 2001 levels, but, due to the supposed association with cod, the Commission proposes a 22% cut in the TAC, in addition to the 10% cut introduced for 2001. It proposes a rollover for hake, and cuts of 18% for sandeels, 25% for sole, and 5% for sprat, in line with the Commission's philosophy and with scientific advice (except for sandeels, where ICES has made no specific recommendation). In the case of horse mackerel, the Commission proposes a mere 3% cut, as against a recommended 65%.

— West of Scotland

  1.10  The West of Scotland demersal stocks remain severely depleted, and ICES recommends the lowest possible level of catches for hake and cod. The Commission has accordingly proposed a rollover for hake and a 25% TAC increase for cod (equivalent to an effort cut of 25%). It also proposes a small cut for haddock, as opposed to the 10% increase recommended by ICES, whereas for whiting it proposes a cut of only 13%, compared with the 50% recommended by ICES. The Commission also proposes a 40% cut for anglerfish (in line with its philosophy and broad scientific advice), a 25% cut for megrim (despite scientific advice for a rollover) and for nephrops (because of its association with cod), and a 20% cut for pollack. For two stocks not assessed by ICES, the Commission proposes a 25% increase for plaice, and a 10% cut for sole. In the case of horse mackerel, it has reduced the 59% cut recommended by ICES to one of around 40%.

— Irish Sea

  1.11  On cod, for which a recovery programme was first introduced in 2000, ICES has again recommended the lowest possible level of catches. The Commission is proposing a 10% increase in TAC, though the Minister says this implies a further big cut in effort. The ICES advice is also for the lowest possible catch levels for whiting, where the Commission is proposing a 28% cut in the TAC, equivalent to a 75% cut in effort. It is proposing a 56% cut in the haddock TAC in line with the scientific advice. On plaice and sole, the Commission proposes TACs based on 25% cuts in fishing effort, and a small cut for herring. A 25% cut is proposed for the nephrops TAC, on top of the 10% cut introduced in 2001, to reflect its apparent link with cod.

— Western waters

  1.12  The Commission is proposing a 30% cut in the cod TAC in the Western approaches (slightly more than that recommended by ICES), and a 25% cut for haddock (slightly less than ICES recommends). For whiting, it proposes a 5% cut, as compared with the 53% increase advocated by ICES. However, the Commission reflects the scientific advice in recommending cuts of 2% and 11% for Celtic Sea sole and plaice, and 22% and 29% for megrim and anglerfish. In the case of pollack it proposes a 20% cut without any assessment, whilst for herring it follows the ICES advice of 6,000 tonnes for the first half of 2002, with another TAC to be decided in June 2002 for the end of the year. Other proposals include a 6% increase for plaice in the English Channel, a 13% increase for Eastern Channel sole, a 40% cut for Western Channel sole, and a rollover for sprat.

— UK quotas in Third Country and international waters

  1.13  The Community has a large number of fisheries agreements with Third Countries, and, in many such cases, the UK has little or no direct interest. However, four agreements — those with Norway, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland — do provide catching opportunities for UK fishermen, and the UK also has quotas in waters regulated by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and the North West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO).

  1.14  These quotas, which are important for the UK distant water fleet, are summarised in the table at Annex II (though the quotas in Norwegian and Faroese waters are still subject to agreement on a possible TAC and allocation key for blue whiting). There is no change in quotas in Icelandic waters; a rollover in the small NEAFC redfish quota; and a continuing moratorium on the NAFO cod stocks of interest to the UK. Also, a new Protocol was agreed in September 2000 between the Community and Greenland, which is to run until the end of 2006, and which in effect continues most of the amounts in the previous Protocol. However, current fishing opportunities for cod and redfish are reduced to reflect actual stock availability.

— Third Country quotas in Community waters

  1.15  Access by Norwegian and Faroese vessels to certain quotas in the Community zone of the North Sea and in Western waters will also be subject to the blue whiting negotiations. In addition, access will be provided for Faroese, Icelandic and Norwegian vessels to quotas held by the Community in Greenland waters. According to the Minister, these opportunities are provided as part of a balanced exchange of quotas between the Community and the countries concerned, and the quotas for 2002, as compared with 2001, are set out in the table at Annex III.

  1.16  The proposals also implement reciprocal fisheries access arrangements agreed between the Community and the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Poland and Russia. The UK has no quotas under these arrangements, which are restricted to the Baltic Sea.

— Other species

  1.17  As part of the Commission's obligations as a contracting party to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), rollover quotas have been set for bluefin tuna, albacore tuna and swordfish, and, although the UK does not have a directed fishery for bluefin tuna or swordfish, it takes limited quantities in other Atlantic fisheries and thus benefits from small amounts of unallocated quota enabling it to continue to land by-catches. The UK does however have a very small amount of the quota for albacore tuna.

  1.18  In addition, TACs and quotas are being set by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) covering a range of species, such as krill. There is no mainland UK interest in these.

The Government's view

  1.19  The Minister says that many of the most severe implications of the Commission philosophy outlined in paragraph 1.6 above affect stocks of interest to the UK, and that some of these also appear to be "highly inconsistent". He also points out that, as in previous years, no adjustment has been made for national quota allocations to take account of the Hague Preference, which provides a safety net for quotas of certain species for the Republic of Ireland and the UK.

  1.20  The Minister says that the Government's overall approach will be to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for UK fishermen consistent with the scientific advice and the need to sustain stocks for the future. He adds that the Government accepts that there is a real need to assist the recovery of those stocks which are particularly depleted, but that it normally seeks wherever possible to avoid excessive year-on-year changes in TACs so that there is no unnecessary dislocation in the fishing industry. He suggests that this may mean favouring phased reductions in TACs over two years rather than very heavy single-year cuts.

  1.21  The Minister also says that the Government has supported the establishment of stock recovery plans as necessary, and that this year, in addition to heavily restricted TACs, such plans have been in place for cod in the Irish Sea, North Sea and West of Scotland. He considers that these need further development in consultation with the industry, and he points out that a subsequent Commission proposal on a framework to cover all recovery programmes is expected in the New Year.

Conclusions

  1.22  Each year, the negotiations on total allowable catches and quotas highlight the potential conflict between the need to protect the long-term future of the fish stocks concerned and the understandable wish of fishermen to maximise their catching opportunities in the following 12 months. It is clear that these proposals are no exception to this general rule, and it should be remembered that, in many cases, the cuts proposed follow cuts of varying severity in previous years. Consequently, although the Government will need to decide precisely how to strike a balance between these considerations as they affect the recommendations for particular stocks, it seems clear that the impact on a number of those of importance to the UK fleet will be significant.

  1.23  Whatever the outcome in the Council, the Regulation eventually adopted will largely determine the opportunities available to the UK fishing fleet during 2002. These proposals do, therefore, raise issues of considerable political importance, and should be debated before any decisions are taken. Traditionally, that debate has taken place on the Floor of the House, as befits the importance of the subject. However, we recognise that it would be difficult at this late stage to arrange this before the meeting of the Fisheries Council on 17 December, and that a debate on fisheries conservation was held on the Floor on 6 December. Consequently, we think it would be reasonable on this occasion for the debate we are recommending to take place in European Standing Committee A.

  ANNEX I

COMPARATIVE TABLES OF TACs: 1999, 2000, 2001 AND 2002

  (tonnes)


1999

2000

2001

ICES

Advice

Proposal

 % ch 2002/01

Herring







I, II

1,300,000

1,252,000

851,500

853,000

851,500

0

IVa, b

240,000

240,000


265,000

265,000 to 303,000


p.m.


p.m.

IVc, VIIId

25,000

25,000

Vb, VIaN, VIb

68,000

42,000

36,360

30,000

30,000

-17.5

VIa (Clyde)

1,000

1,000

1,000

1,000

1,000

0

VIIa

6,600

5,350

6,900

6,500

4,800

-30.4

VIIe,f

1,000

1,000

1,000

-

1,000

0

VIIg,h,j,k

21,000

21,000

20,000

6,000*

6,000*

-40.0

Cod







IIa, IV

132,400

81,000

48,600

Lowest

possible


p.m.

p.m.

Vb, VI,

XII, XIV


11,800

7,480

3,700

Lowest

possible


4,600

+24.3

VIIa

5,500

2,100

2,100

Lowest

possible


2,300

+9.5

VIIb-k, VIII, IX, X

19,000

16,000

10,500

7,300

7,400

-29.5

Megrim







Vb, VI, XII, XIV

4,840

4,840

4,360

4,360

3,270

-25.0

VII

22,400

17,920

15,000

11,650

11,700

-22.0

Anglerfish







IIa, IV



14,130


10,000

8,478

-40.0

Vb, VI, XII, XIV

8,600

8,000

6,400

3,840

-40.0

VII

26,670

23,000

21,700

15,520

15,500

-28.6

Haddock







IIa, IV

88,500

73,000

61,000

112,000

p.m.

p.m.

Vb, VI, XII, XIV

19,000

19,000

13,900

15,400

13,700

-1.4

VII, VIII, IX, X

22,000

13,200

12,000

8,000

9,000

-25.0

VIIa

4,990

3,400

2,700

1,200

1,200

-55.6

Whiting







IIa, IV

44,000

30,000

29,700

45,000

p.m.

p.m.

Vb, VI, XII, XIV

6,300

4,300

4,000

2,000

3,500

-12.5

VIIa

4,400

2,640

1,390

Lowest possible

1,000

-28.1

VIIb-k

25,000

22,500

21,000

32,200

20,000

-4.8

Hake







IIa, IV

1,930

1,480

870

Lowest possible

870

0

Vb, VI, VII, XII, XIV

30,910

23,600

13,920

Lowest possible

12,714

-8.7

Nephrops







IIa, IV

15,200

17,200

15,480

18,470

12,040

-22.2

Vb, VI

12,600

12,600

11,340

11,300

8,505

-25.0

VII

23,000

21,000

18,900

17,790

14,175

-25.0

Plaice







IIa, IV

102,000

97,000

78,000

77,000

p.m.

p.m.

Vb, VI, XII, XIV

2,400

2,400

1,920

-

2,400

+25.0

VIIa

2,400

2,400

2,000

2,800

1,500

-25.0

VIId,e

7,400

6,500

6,000

6,690

6,330

+5.5

VIIf,g

900

800

760

680

680

-10.5

VIIh-k

1,350

1,350

1,215

-

970

-20.2

Pollack







Vb, VI, XII, XIV

1,100

1,100

1,100

-

880

-20.0

VII

17,000

17,000

17,000

-

13,600

-20.0

Saithe







IIa, IIIb-d, IV

110,000

85,000

87,000

135,000

p.m.

p.m.

Vb, VI, XII, XIV

7,500

7,000

9,000

13,000

p.m.

p.m.

VII, VIII, IX, X

8,800

6,500

5,600

-

p.m.

p.m.

Mackerel







IIa, IIIa-d, IV

62,455






IIa, Vb, VI, VII, VIIIa,b, d,e, XII, XIV

422,160

560,000

625,000

652,000

p.m.

p.m.

Sole







II, IV

22,000

22,000

19,000

14,300

14,300

-24.7

Vb, VI, XII, XIV

155

155

140

-

125

-10.7

VIIa

900

1,080

1,100

1,100

850

-22.7

VIId

4,700

4,100

4,600

5,200

5,200

+13.0

VIIe

700

660

600

450

360

-40.0

VIIfg

960

1,160

1,020

1,000

1,000

-2.0

VIIh,j,k

720

720

650

-

580

-10.8

Sprat







IIa, IV

175,000

225,000

232,000

225,000

220,000

-5.2

VIId,e

12,000

12,000

12,000

12,000

12,000

0

Horse Mackerel







 IIa, IV

60,000

51,000

51,000

18,000

49,400

-3.1

 Vb, VI, VII, VIIIa, b,d,e, XII, XIV

265,000

240,000

240,000

98,000

137,000

-42.9

* to end June 2002

p.m. to be confirmed

TACs are defined in terms of areas designated by ICES. Those of most immediate relevance to the UK correspond roughly to the following geographical regions:

Area II

North Sea N of 62(

Area IV

North Sea S of 62(

Area Vb

Faroes

Area VI

West of Scotland

Area VIIa

Irish Sea

Area VIIb,c,h,j,k

Western approaches

Area VII d, e

English Channel

Area VIIfg

Celtic Sea

Area VIII

Bay of Biscay

  ANNEX II

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM ON EUROPEAN COMMUNITY

LEGISLATION — TABLE OF UK EXTERNAL WATERS QUOTAS


Outcome of Commission negotiations in terms of UK Quotas in Third Country Waters and the Waters of Regional Fisheries Organisations





Location/Species

2001 Quota (tonnes)

2002 Quota (tonnes)

% Change

North Norway




Cod

7,666



Haddock

1,216



Saithe

231



Redfish

300



Greenland Halibut

50



Other species

240







Faroe Islands




Cod/haddock

430



Saithe

580



Redfish

75



Blue ling/ling

205



Blue Whiting

11,000



Flatfish

680



Other species

180







Greenland




Cod

364

364

0

Redfish (east)

115



Redfish (west)

105

105

0

Greenland Halibut (east)

210



Roundnose  Grenadier

(east)


100

86

-14





Iceland




Redfish

1,160

1,160

0





NEAFC




Redfish

22



Atlanto-scandian herring

16,459

16,459

0





NAFO




Cod 3NO (1)

0

0

0

Cod 2J3KL (1)

0

0

0

Cod 3M(1)

0

0

0

(1) Stocks under moratoria due to poor biological condition.


  ANNEX III

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM ON EUROPEAN COMMUNITY LEGISLATION — TABLE OF QUOTAS PROVIDED TO NORWAY, FAROE ISLANDS AND ICELAND AS PART OF BALANCED EXCHANGE


Outcome of Commission negotiations in terms of quotas in Community waters provided to Norway and Faroe Islands as part of the balanced exchange

NORWAY




Species

  Sea Area

  2001 Quota

  (tonnes)


  2002 Quota

  (tonnes)


Mackerel

VIa, VIId,e,f,h, IIa

13,800


Herring

VIa

0


Sprat

IV

10,000


Cod

IV

260


Haddock

IV

7,655


Saithe

IV, Skagerrak

45,240


Whiting

IV

2,970


Plaice

IV

100


Mackerel

IV, IIIa

0


Sandeel, Norway pout, blue whiting

IV

40,000


Blue whiting

II, IVa, VIa, VIb, VII

190,640


Blue ling

IV, Vb, VI, VII, IIa

500


Ling, tusk

IV, Vb, VI, VII, IIa

14,500


Dogfish

IV, VI, VII

200


Porbeagle

IV, VI, VII

100


Shrimp

IV

100


Other species

IV, IIa

5,000


Herring

IVa, b

50,000


Horse mackerel

IV

1,600


Combined quota

Vb, VI, VII

600


Greenland halibut

IIa, VI

950






FAROE ISLANDS




Ling, tusk, blue ling

VIa, Vib

800


Blue ling

VIa, VIb

940


Mackerel

VIa, VIIe,f,h,

5,240


Herring

VIa,

660


Horse mackerel

IV, VIa, VIIe,f,h,

7,000


Norway pout, sprat, sandeel

IV, VIa

20,000


Blue whiting

VIa, VIb, VII

62,000


Other white fish

IV, VIa

400


Herring

IIIa N, Skagerrak

500


Porbeagle

All except NAFO

125


EC Quotas in Greenland waters provided to Norway, Faroe Islands and Iceland as part of the balanced exchange of quotas





Species

Norway

Faroe Islands

Iceland


tonnes

tonnes

tonnes


2001

2002

2001

2002

2001

2002








Redfish

1,000


500




Greenland halibut (east)

1,055


150




Greenland halibut (west)

920


150




Deep-water prawn

2,500


1,150




Atlantic halibut (east)

200






Atlantic halibut (west)

200






Capelin

6,700


10,000


30,000


Roundnose Grenadier (east)

285






Roundnose Grenadier (west)

715







 
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