Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report


A. GENERAL POLICY QUESTIONS

14. CO-OPERATION IN THE SEA FISHERIES SECTOR BETWEEN THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY AND THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF MAURITANIA (8731/97)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Elliot Morley MP, Parliamentary Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Sub-Committee D considered the above proposal at a meeting last week and I am therefore writing to request further information on it.

  Your Explanatory Memorandum sets out the financial advantage to the one United Kingdom vessel involved of the proposed change in the method of payment towards the cost of scientific observation. You say that this is not consistent with the United Kingdom's general position that vessel owners should bear a greater burden of the costs of third country fishery agreements. As you will know, we strongly endorsed that general position in a Report earlier this year (Third Country Fisheries Agreements, 3rd Report, Session 1996-97). We should be grateful for further information as to how the overall costs of this particular Agreement will be met in future.

  You also mention in your memorandum that you have received assurances that the proposed changes to the Agreement would not have adverse consequences on fisheries conservation. We should be grateful for further information on that point.

  Finally, your memorandum does not make clear what position you propose to adopt in the Council on this matter, particularly in view of your reservations about the allocation of costs. It would assist the Sub-Committee to have a clear statement on that point. In the meantime, the scrutiny reserve is maintained.

29 July 1997

Letter from Elliot Morley MP, Parliamentary Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 29 July.

  You asked for further information on how the overall costs of this particular agreement will be met in future. The current Agreement was signed in 1996 and, as explained in Explanatory Memorandum 9773/96 of 6 July 1996, will cost the Community budget a total of 267 MECU (£176.25 million using the August 1997 exchange rate of 1 ecu = £0.6601) over its five year term. Of this amount, 262 MECU (£172.95 million) will be for fishing rights while 5 MECU (£3.3 million) will be for scientific, research and training projects. The new proposal would have no effect on these budgetary provisions.

  In addition, fishermen benefiting from the Agreement will have to pay annual fees for licences to take part in the fisheries. There are nine categories of fee which are levied on the basis of species type and fishing gear used and they range from 149 (£98.35) to 444 ecu (£293.08)/gross registered tonne (GRT). A number of the fees increase on an annual basis over the duration of the Agreement. Originally, all vessels with the exception of tuna seiners also had to pay a contribution of 3 ecu (£1.98)/GRT per quarter towards the cost of observers. The only change introduced by the new proposal is to alter the basis for this contribution in the case of pelagic vessels, which in future would pay a flat rate contribution of 350 ecu (£231.04) per month.

  You also asked for further information on the assurances received from the Commission that the proposed changes to the Agreement would not have adverse consequences for fisheries conservation. In the Council Working Group which considered the proposals, my officials sought specific confirmation from the Commission that the changed requirements for pelagic nets would not have adverse implications for the conservation of stocks. The Commission responded that the proposed changes had been discussed in full with the Mauritanian authorities in the Joint Committee which meets regularly to consider matters relating to the management of the fisheries agreement. The Commission also pointed out that the Mauritanian authorities normally adopt a very stringent approach to conservation matters and would not therefore have agreed to any changes which would prejudice stock conservation objectives.

  Finally, all other Member States have indicated that they are content for this proposal to be adopted as an A" point once the European Parliament's opinion has been received. I see no reason why the UK should dissent from this general consensus. We have obtained satisfactory assurances from the Commission on the conservation concerns. Although we are not entirely happy with the effects of the change in the formula for calculating pelagic vessel owners' contributions towards the cost of observers, this is not sufficient to justify the Government opposing a package of proposed changes designed to improve the overall working of the Agreement.

21 August 1997

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Elliot Morley MP, Parliamentary Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Thank you for your letter of 21 August setting out the information which the Committee had requested.

  The document was considered further by Sub-Committee D at a meeting on 15 October and the scrutiny reserve has now been lifted.

21 October 1997


 
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