Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Executive Summary

The UK Government welcomes the release of the European Commission’s proposals. The current CFP has clearly failed. It has not given us healthy fish stocks and it has not delivered a sustainable living for our fishing industry. Only genuine fundamental reform can turn around these failures. The Commission’s proposals are a good start towards undertaking this radical reform, but much of the important detail needs to be developed.

The UK Government’s priorities for reform are: ending the wasteful practice of discarding fish; delivering genuine decentralisation of decision-making; enabling fishing opportunities to be managed effectively; integrating fisheries management with other environmental policies; and applying the same principles of sustainable use of marine resources outside EU waters as within.

We will continue to work with all interested parties to focus our efforts on improvements to the Commission’s proposals, including through our current written consultation.

Introduction

1. This memorandum sets out Government comments on the European Commission’s proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) published on 13 July 2011. Comments on the issues raised by the Committee, and other important points, are set out below.

2. The current CFP is broken. The UK Government is committed to genuine, fundamental reform of the CFP, to achieve healthy fish stocks, a prosperous fishing industry and a healthy marine environment. The Commission’s proposals are therefore welcome as a good starting point to undertake radical reform to put right this policy, but there is much detail to be worked out.

3. We continue to focus on a number of key priorities. They are:

Ending the wasteful practice of discarding fish;

Delivering genuine decentralisation of decision-making;

Enabling fishing opportunities to be managed effectively;

Integrating fisheries management with other environmental policies; and

Applying the same principles of sustainable use of marine resources outside EU waters as within.

Objectives for the Future CFP

4. We welcome the Commission’s proposals on general objectives for the future CFP. They show commitment to genuine reform, and are a useful starting point to deliver this.

Discards

5. The wasteful practice of discarding fish must end. We welcome the Commission’s ambition to address this problem, but flexibility to implement the most appropriate and effective measures to achieve this is also important, and this might not always mean a blanket ban. Solutions must be practical and enforceable on a fishery by fishery basis and supported by improvements in gear selectivity. Ultimately the CFP as a whole must provide the incentives and regulatory framework to drive the necessary changes in fishing activity and behaviour.

Social and Economic Viability

6. Some aspects of the Commission’s proposals will contribute positively to the social and economic viability of UK fishers and coastal communities. For example, whilst the UK does not want to see any increased intervention or regulation in the aquaculture sector as a result of the reform of the CFP, we believe a restructured and flexible funding instrument (The EU European Fisheries Fund) should help support the sector’s growth.

7. We will consider social and economic implications at every stage in negotiating improvements to the detail of the proposals. For example, the CFP’s objectives should include a commitment to manage fisheries in a way consistent with attainment of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and with clear recourse to robust science. This will deliver the optimum economic and environmental benefit but it needs to be done with appropriate flexibility for mixed fisheries and to take account of short term socio-economic consequences.

Transferable Fishing Concessions

8. We support the Commission’s proposals to reduce fleet overcapacity through market measures rather than through subsidies that distort business decisions. The UK Government supports the ambition to deliver a more rational and economically efficient fleet and manage quota rights so that fishermen are able to plan for the long term. In keeping with the Commission’s desire to decentralise the CFP, decisions determining the appropriate management conditions on allocation and trading of fishing opportunities should be taken by national administrations.

Decentralisation

9. We welcome the Commission’s commitment to decentralisation. The current system is over-centralised and bureaucratic. We are concerned that the proposals, although a welcome start, do not go far enough in delivering the legal provisions and practical processes to allow Member States to cooperate on regionally agreed measures in practice. We are also concerned to avoid decisions effectively being centralised through a wide use of Commission powers as a result of the reform proposals.

Ecosystem Approach and Scientific Data

10. We agree that a reformed CFP should be based on an ecosystem approach to fisheries management and we welcome the focus on using sound scientific advice. In order to achieve this objective we will need to examine how scientific evidence is developed. We encourage improved co-operation with the fishing sector on the science base.

Our other Priorities

11. The CFP must stop treating fisheries in isolation from other marine environmental policies. We need to make sure the new CFP contributes fully to delivery of Good Environmental Status1 as required under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, for example, with recourse to robust science and sensible, consistent objectives in long term management plans at the centre of the CFP.

12. We also need to look beyond Europe. We support the same principles of sustainable use of marine resources being applied outside EU waters as within. In the new CFP there must be coherence between EU fisheries and development policies, and transparency in our dealings with developing countries.

UK Government Actions

13. We will continue our work with interested parties and through formal EU negotiations beginning in September 2011, to improve the package of proposals, building support for effective, practical reforms. This includes a written consultation which will close on 10 November 2011.2

14. We are also continuing to work on innovative projects to address specific issues in advance of CFP reform: for example catch quota trials for North Sea cod.

September 2011

1 http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/marine/ges.htm

2 http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2011/08/10/cmo-cfp/

Prepared 23rd February 2012