Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission

Thank you for your letter of 15 November, with a request for clarification on a number of issues that were discussed in the meeting of Commissioner Damanaki with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on 27 October latest.

With regard to your questions I can provide you with the following additional information.

1. MSY 2015

Avoiding overexploitation of the fisheries resources and taking measures to manage stocks at level that can produce maximum sustainable yield was agreed as long back as in 1982 with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which the Union is a Contracting party. These commitments were confirmed in 1995 (in the UN Fish Stock Agreement) and in 2002 (at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in the Johannesburg Declaration). At the latest occasion the commitment was qualified, adding that the goal should be achieved as a matter of an urgency, and where possible not later than 2015. The Commission considers that this goal, which is central to ensure sound fisheries management, needs to be enshrined in the Common Fisheries Policy. Reaching exploitation at maximum sustainable yields rates is challenging but feasible by the proposed date. Where exact data are not available scientists tell us that it is possible to apply proxies to the value of maximum sustainable yield.

Managing fish capital at MSY levels leads to much larger stocks and thus to significantly higher catch potential, higher profit margins and higher returns on investment.

2. MSY in Mixed Fisheries

In mixed fisheries all stocks concerned must have be fished at MSY levels. Where fisheries are inextricably mixed, it will be the most vulnerable stock (ie the stock where the-fishing-mortality is highest compared to MSY values) that—would-determine—the limits of exploitation for the whole fishery. This is the only way to ensure that the target is reached for all stocks over time. Establishing the corresponding fishing opportunities in such mixed fisheries will require fixing MSY rates for each of the stocks, but also knowing how each type of fishing activity impacts on each of the stocks. Work on this issue has been developing considerably within the International Council on the Exploration of the Seas.

3. Precautionary Approach Applied to Fishing Opportunities

The precautionary approach is a general principle that is applied to all aspects of the CFP. Within the context of fishing opportunities, it is particularly relevant in cases when we do not have enough data available and scientists have to work on estimates.

The precautionary approach has been translated into a method of developing proposals for annual fishing opportunities that builds a precautionary buffer for those situations where the precautionary approach is required due to lack of data and information For stocks under multi-annual plans or stocks for which scientific assessment is based on sound and complete data, the proposals apply either the rules of the plan or the advice as received from the scientists.

4. Role of RAC and Member States Under Regionalization

Under the reformed policy, the Member States may be empowered by Parliament and Council to take measures as defined in the context of multi-annual plans or the future technical measures framework. Such measures will then be legally binding to the vessels flying the flag of the Member State taking the measures. Member States concerned can cooperate among themselves when they devise these measures while Regional Advisory Councils cannot be allocated implementing powers under the Treaty. They will have an important role to play in the process of devising these measures Member States would meet fishermen, stakeholders and Advisory Councils so as to jointly work on the design of concrete national measures. Stakeholders could propose alternative gears, for instance. Once the Member States measures are defined, the Member States can implement these measures insofar as they are compatible and effective to reach the targets of the multi-annual plan. They do not need an ex ante approval by the Commission. However, the Commission does have the obligation to monitor and assess the measures in light of the progress in reaching the targets of the plan. Provisions are available for the cases where this progress is insufficient or it becomes clear that the targets will not be met.

5. Intervention in the Case of Disagreement

Intervention in the process would be limited to a last resort, to avoid the risk of legal gaps, as this would have an adverse effect on conservation and consequently on business security. There is a need to cater for situations where the Member States concerned take no action, or take ineffective measures that do not reach the conservation targets fixed in Union law (eg the multi-annual plan). In these cases, as a last resort, the Parliament and the Council would empower the Commission to adopt delegated acts on the fisheries specific measures in question. The room of manoeuvre for the Commission will be clearly circumscribed by Parliament and Council.

6. Conservation Measures for Stocks not Under Multi-Annual Plans

For stocks that are not under multi-annual plans, the existing horizontal conservation instruments will continue to apply, for instance and where applicable annual fixation of fishing opportunities in particular Total Allowable Catches technical conservation measures as defined in the set of regulation on technical conservation measures, incentives as enabled in the financial instrument.

7. Compensation for Undersized Fish not for the Market

The landing obligation goes accompanied with an agenda for change in fishing patterns and methods, mainly towards much higher selectivity to avoid unwanted catches of undersized fish in the first place. The marketing of catches of undersized fish should be limited to fish meal and/or pet food only.

As for the unintended catches of fish above conservation reference size—these should be reduced as much as possible as well, since overshoot of the quota by one fisherman goes at the detriment of the rest of the fishers. If these overshoots occur, they are counted against the quota and they should be landed.

Charity purposes could be considered by the national authorities as an alternative destination of unwanted catches. This option will need to be analysed carefully by the national authorities, as it may present implementation difficulties (taxation regimes etc)

8. Discards from the Quota Regulation

Due to the allocation of fishing opportunities (and the somewhat static character of this allocation caused by the effects of relative stability) the catch composition of individual fishermen may well have developed away from the set quota allocation. Member States are responsible for the individual allocation of quotas. In the proposal for the reform of the CFP a part of the fishing opportunities will be brought under Transferable Fishing Concessions, allowing for more flexibility and adaptation of individual fishing allocations to the fishing patterns and catch composition. When allocating TFCs Member States would need to take into account the likely catch composition of vessels. This would contribute to the elimination of discards. Selling, leasing and swapping TFCs would contribute to the optimization of the use of fishing opportunities on an individual vessel basis. A fisherman shall undertake fishing activities only when he is in possession of sufficient individual fishing opportunities to cover all the potential catch. If this is not the case, he should not be allowed to go fishing.

9. TAC Reflecting the Fishing Mortality

The landing obligation will produce different figures for fishing mortality. In cases where discards are considered as part of the applicable method for the calculation of fishing mortality, over time this discard ratio would no longer be deduced from the estimated total fishing mortality.

10. Data Provision and Member States Compliance

Under the current Data Collection Regulation (Council Regulation 199/2008) Member States are entitled to a financial contribution for collection and provision of data. When Member States do not comply with the requirements of the Data Collection Framework, the Commission can reduce or suspend the payment of this financial contribution. In the proposal for the new CFP this possibility is broadened: the Commission can suspend or withhold payment not only of the financial contribution for data collection, but also for other actions financed under the proposed European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). This is intended to create a strong additional incentive to increase compliance with data collection and transmission requirements.

11. Current Budgetary Allocation for Obtaining Scientific Advice (Q 127)

The total financial envelope in relation to scientific knowledge and data collection is 46.6 million euros for the year 2011. Under the future EMFF this amount will increase to over 50 million euros annually.

12. Cost of the FPA with Mauritania (Q149)

The approach for the external policy should lead to a consistent, strong and sustainable contribution to the management of resources beyond the waters of the EU. We need to ensure that management decisions are underpinned by the best science available, that measures taken are complied with and that we further strengthen the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

Similarly we need to improve the effectiveness of our bilateral agreements. The future Sustainable Fisheries Agreements have to be based on the best scientific advice as well, and we need to negotiate access on the basis of the “surplus” rule. The Commission will promote improvement of the governance framework under Sustainable Fisheries Agreements, and respect for human rights. Operators should pay a reasonable contribution for the fishing rights we obtain under the agreements.

The financial contribution for the Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Mauritania in 2010–11 was 73 million euros (the Protocol goes from August to August). The contribution for the calendar year 2010 amounted to 74,3 million euros.

13. Publication Date of the Study Estimating the Transition Period before Stocks Recover (Q158)

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is undertaking a study on economics of rebuilding fisheries models, and the time required for a sample of 18 fisheries to go from a collapsed state to a fully rebuilt one under different management scenarios. The study, to which DG MARE is contributing, will be finalised next year.

I hope that I have provided you with the additional insight in the Commission’s proposal that the Committee was looking for. I thank you for your continued interest in the reform of the CFP.

7 December 2011

Prepared 23rd February 2012