Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Second Report





Draft Council Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of cod and hake stocks.

Legal base:Article 37 EC; consultation; qualified majority voting
Document originated:11 December 2001
Forwarded to the Council:13 December 2001
Deposited in Parliament:28 January 2002
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration:EM of 28 February 2002
Previous Committee Report:None; but see (22386) 7887/01: HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 11 (18 July 2001)
To be discussed in Council:8 April 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  13.1  While the general state of the fish stocks in Community waters has given rise to concern, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) identified in November 2000 that particular problems had arisen in respect of the cod stocks in the North Sea and West of Scotland and the Northern hake stock, which were said to be at serious risk of collapse. The Fisheries Council therefore agreed in December 2000 that the Community should establish a recovery plan for these stocks, and in February, June and October 2001, the Commission adopted various emergency measures, including a temporary closure of fishing and increased mesh sizes.

The current document

  13.2  The current document contains Commission proposals for the conservation of these stocks (and of cod in the Irish Sea and Kattegat) in the longer term. These would entail:

  • the setting of quantitative targets for the adult populations of cod and hake, with the stocks to be removed from the recovery mechanisms when the targets are met;

  • the setting of multi-annual total allowable catches (TACs) at a level to assist biomass to increase annually by 30% in the case of cod and 15% in the case of hake, these rates reflecting factors such as the difference in fishing mortality and growth rates for the species concerned;

  • all fishing vessels authorised to land cod and/or hake being restricted to fishing effort limits linked to their average catch of those species (but with vessels landing over 100 tonnes a year being subject to a proportionately greater reduction in effort);

  • additional monitoring arrangements, including an extension of satellite monitoring systems to vessels over 15 metres in length, together with an obligation to land catches over a certain quantity at designated ports;

  • a 20% increase in the maximum rate of Community financial assistance for scrapping vessels engaged in fishing these stocks, together with a relaxation of the rules for subsidising temporary laying-up and restrictions on the granting of public aid for the renewal and modernisation of these vessels;

  • a procedure enabling the Commission, when requested by a Member State, to close areas with a high concentration of juvenile cod or hake, for a maximum of two months;

  • an extension of the responsibilities of producers' organisations to draw up fishing plans for the species concerned.

  13.3  The Commission also intends to carry out an assessment of the impact of these measures on the fisheries sector of each Member State within 18 months of the date of their adoption.

The Government's view

  13.4  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 28 February 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) says that the UK accepts the need to bring fishing effort into better balance with available fish stocks, but has some reservations about the extent to which the proposed measures will achieve this. In addition, he believes that the potential resource implications for both the administration and enforcement of the scheme nationally are likely to be significant. The Minister says that the Government is currently seeking the views of the industry, and that it will then provide a Regulatory Impact Assessment indicating the likely costs both to the industry and in terms of administration for the Fisheries Departments.

  13.5  In the meantime, he comments that the Commission envisages that the funding required to cover proposed increases in aid rates for the scrapping of vessels and the relaxation of rules relating to assistance for temporary lay-up would be found within existing provisions for the fisheries structural fund. He also points out that a number of other Member States, including France, Spain and Portugal, are opposed to the principle of effort control, and that the Commission has recognised that achieving agreement on the package will be difficult.


  13.6  We have hitherto merely noted the temporary measures taken to protect these stocks without reporting them to the House. However, these longer-term proposals are clearly of greater potential significance, and we therefore think it right that the House should be aware of them.

  13.7  For our own part, we will reserve judgement until we have received the Regulatory Impact Assessment promised by the Minister. In the meantime, we are taking this opportunity to remind him of the Explanatory Memorandum he sent us on 20 June 2001 about the related proposal that Member States should be obliged to prevent the use and keeping on board of fishing gear which might lead to significant by-catches of stocks subject to recovery plans. In our Report of 18 July 2001,[34] we noted that the Minister had said that there was a trade-off between the benefits this might have for the stocks in question and the implications for other directed fisheries, and we said that we did not feel able, on the evidence then available, to take a firm view on the proposal until we had received a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum setting out the financial implications. We have yet to receive that information, and we would be glad if the Minister could indicate when we can expect to do so.

34   (22386) 7887/01: HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 11 (18 July 2001). Back

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