TWENTY-FIFTH REPORT |
13 May 2003
By the Select Committee appointed to consider European
Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.
PROGRESS OF REFORM OF THE COMMON FISHERIES
The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), after years of failure to achieve sustainable management of European fisheries, was due for substantial overhaul by December 2002.
A promising package of proposals adopted by the Commission in May 2002 was seriously compromised by decisions taken by the Council in December 2002, as a result of special pleading by Member States.
The Committee has no confidence that the new basic CFP Regulation agreed at that meeting, despite some positive features, will meet the objectives of sustainable fisheries and prevent irreversible decline in important stocks unless it is substantially improved.
In particular, the Committee deplores the fact that:
· Total Allowable Catches (TACs) have been persistently set at levels higher than could ultimately be justified;
· Long-term recovery plans for key stocks, especially for cod and hake, have yet to be adopted by the Council: proposals from the Commission have been on the table since December 2001 and fresh proposals for cod have only now emerged, after a long delay, in May 2003;
· Funds will continue to be made available under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) for construction of new fishing vessels until the end of 2004.
The Committee urges the Government to press hard for adoption by the Council of the following measures:
· Introduction of effort controls, to work alongside TACs and quotas as appropriate;
· Significant reductions in fishing fleet capacity, over and above those necessary to neutralise "technology creep";
· Early progress towards the establishment of a Community Fisheries Control Agency;
· Urgent establishment of Regional Advisory Councils;
· Comprehensive gathering of economic data as well as scientific data, as a basis for objective long-term planning.
The Committee concludes that economic intervention in fisheries management is vital. It emphasises the importance of giving fishermen a genuine stake in the long-term financial management of fisheries and argues that transitional financial aid, linked to stock recovery plans, is needed to enable fishing communities to adjust to change.
The Committee urges the Government to promote diversification of coastal economies and the development of alternative employment opportunities. It strongly supports the Commission's proposal to explore the possibility of decoupling FIFG resources from fishing activity in favour of investment in coastal communities.
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1. The European Union has had a Common Fisheries
Policy (CFP) since 1983 in order to manage fisheries for the benefit
of both fishing communities and consumers. Already at the time
of its mid-term review in 1992 it was clear that the policy was
failing in important ways. A deadline for reform was set for 31
In late 2002, amid warnings that the cod stocks in the North Sea
were now on the brink of collapse, the Agriculture and Fisheries
Council agreed on a reform package. This Report considers whether
the new legislation is likely to reverse decades of failure to
achieve sustainable management of European fisheries. It is particularly
critical of the Council's failure to date to adopt recovery plans
for key stocks, especially for cod and hake, despite proposals
from the Commission which have been on the table since December
2001. New proposals have now emerged, as we complete this Report
(see Box 1), but they face a difficult passage through the Council
over the coming months.
COMMISSION PUBLISHES PROPOSALS FOR LONG-TERM
RECOVERY PLAN FOR COD, 6 MAY 2003
This Report was virtually complete when the Commission published fresh proposals for a long-term recovery plan for cod (COM(2003)237). The plan would replace the current interim measures (paragraph 14); a separate recovery plan for hake is to follow.
The key features of the plan are:
The overall aim is to ensure recovery of stocks to precautionary levels, as advised by scientists, within a time frame of five to ten years. This envisages a gradual movement towards setting total allowable catches (TACs) on a multi-annual basis, instead of year by year.
TACs are to be combined with effort controls in the form of an allocation to each Member State of kilowatt-days (calculated by multiplying the engine power of a vessel by the days spent fishing).
Member States will distribute the kilowatt-days (which will be transferable) among the vessels of their national fleets.
Specific measures are included for strengthening monitoring, inspection and enforcement.
The plan is allied to the 32 million "scrapping fund", already announced (see Box 6, after paragraph 52) for Member States who need to reduce fishing effort by 25% or more in order comply with recovery plans.
Given our views on the vital importance of effort controls and capacity reduction (paragraphs 30, 33, 35 and 52), we welcome these elements of the Commission's proposals. However, in the light of the fate of the Commission's December 2001 proposals, we remain pessimistic thatwithout dedicated commitment by the UK Government and its supporters in the Councilthese new proposals may be the next victims of short-term self-interest and that they will take effect too late.
2. The reforms agreed in 2002 have been long in the
making. After a three year consultation process the Commission
published a Green Paper on the Future of the Common Fisheries
Policy in March 2001, discussing the limitations of the CFP and
presenting a number of options for its reform.
We took part in that consultation process by undertaking an inquiry
that resulted in the report Unsustainable Fishing: What is
to be done with the Common Fisheries Policy?, published in
The Committee was pleased to note how the Commission, both in
the Green Paper and in its "Roadmap" proposals of May
2002, had arrived at very similar conclusions to those of the
report, in particular on the following key failings of the CFP:
alarming state of the fish stocks
Most fish stocks in Community waters are below their
safe biological limits for stock biomass. Stock sizes and landings
have declined dramatically in the past 25 years. For many commercially
important demersal (bottom-living) stocks, such as cod and haddock,
the numbers of mature fish are now less than half those of the
early 1970s. Without urgent and substantial reform of the CFP,
many fish stocks now look likely to collapse. The International
Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) suggests that the
level of fishing mortality on the most important Community fish
stocks needs to be reduced by between one-third and one-half,
depending on the species, type of fishery, and fishing area concerned.
The fishing capacity of the Community fleet far exceeds
that required to harvest the available fish stocks in a sustainable
manner. The economic incentive to use this excessive capacity
is considerable, and has impeded all attempts to reduce fishing
effort by the amounts needed to achieve effective conservation.
There have moreover been continual improvements in the efficiency
(and thus the effective fishing power) of the fleet as a whole
(a process known as "technology creep"), which has further
seriously exacerbated this problem.
Most of the Community fisheries sector faces poor
financial profitability and steadily declining employment. Over
the period 1990-1998, there has been a loss of 66,000 jobs in
the catching sector, an overall decrease of 22 per cent. Over
the same period employment in the processing sector has decreased
by 14 per cent.
Current control and enforcement arrangements have
been insufficient to ensure an equitable approach across the Union,
undermining the credibility of the CFP and seriously reducing
any incentive for individual fishermen to comply with the regulations.
Stakeholders have not been sufficiently involved
in policy formation. This lack of involvement has undermined support
for and compliance with the conservation measures adopted.
3. A second consultation process followed the launch
of the Green Paper. According to the Commission, a clear consensus
emerged that the CFP needed radical reform in order to reverse
the disastrous decline in important fish stocks and to provide
economic sustainability to the fisheries sector. Nonetheless,
the "Roadmap" for CFP reform that the Commission finally
published in May 2002 proved instantly controversial.
4. In total, the Commission will have published 18
documents concerned with fisheries reform between May 2002 and
the middle of 2003. Among these are Communications and Action
Plans on topics including conservation of fish stocks in the Mediterranean,
fishing on the high seas, fisheries with third countries, control
and enforcement, and aquaculture (see Box 2 below). The three
most important documents, however, were the three legislative
proposals included in the May 2002 package. The most controversial
of these was the proposed new basic Regulation.
The other two proposals related to financial aid to the EU fisheries.
5. At the heart of the Commission proposals was the
intention to introduce a more coherent fisheries management policy,
combining traditional fisheries management tools (catch limits,
gear restrictions etc) with a more effective fleet management
policy to ensure a balance between fishing effort and resource
availability. The main instrument for integrating these measures
was to be long-term stock management plans. These would secure
greater stability for the sector and reduce the risk of stock
collapse, while moving away from the highly political yearly negotiations
on catch limits. The Commission also emphasised that the CFP would
take greater account of the ecosystems of which commercial fish
stocks are part.
6. While the original proposals were well received
by many, including this Committee
and environmental interests in particular, they were fiercely
opposed by others. The six so-called "Friends of Fishing"
countriesSpain, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Irelanddecried
the measures as draconian. The ensuing five day long Council was
"agonising . . . , with some very difficult
choices to make".
In order to secure agreement, significant compromises were made
in many areas, including fleet policy, the use of subsidies and
the introduction of management planning.
7. The reformed CFP is
the result of over four years of analysis and consultation, but
it has in our view been emasculated by the back-sliding compromises
made by the Council. The present Report evaluates whether
the reformed CFP has any chance of succeeding where the previous
policy failed, namely in providing a sustainable future both for
the fish stocks and the fisheries which depend upon them.
The following chapter looks at the key elements of reform as contained
in the new basic Regulation. The third chapter considers a crucial
aspect for the long-term reform of the CFP which was not contained
in the new Regulationeconomic management of the fisheries.
Throughout this Report reference is made to the evidence printed.
Our witnesses are listed in Appendix 2, and we thank them all
for their contributions. We are also greatly indebted to our Specialist
Adviser, Professor John Shepherd FRS.
The CFP reform process
On 20 December 2002, three new Regulations were agreed on by the Fisheries Council (outlined in more detail in Box 3):
· Council Regulation (EC) No.2371/2002 on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy (the new basic Regulation)
· Council Regulation (EC) No. 2369/2002 amending Regulation (EC) No 2792/1999 laying down the detailed rules and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector
· Council Regulation (EC) No 2370/2002 establishing an emergency Community measure for scrapping fishing vessels
The Commission must now present proposals for measures to implement the decisions adopted in December 2002 by the Council.
Commission Proposals since May 2002
· An Action Plan to ensure the sustainability of fisheries in the Mediterranean (COM(2002)535). The measures include: a concerted approach to declaring fisheries protection zones, the use of fishing effort as the main instrument in fisheries management, improving fishing techniques so as to reduce the adverse impact on stocks and the marine ecosystem and promoting international co-operation.
· For the first time ever, a strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture (COM(2002)511). This strategy is designed to strengthen the role of aquaculture in providing jobs and in supplying quality fisheries products in a way that does not harm the environment.
· An Action Plan to integrate environmental protection requirements into the CFP (COM(2002)186). A proposal to protect sharks foreseen in this Plan is currently before the Council. Also as part of this Action Plan, in the Summer 2003, the Commission will propose measures to minimise by-catches of cetaceans in fishing gear.
· An Action Plan to eradicate illegal fishing (COM (2002)180).
· Measures to counter the social, economic and regional consequences of fleet restructuring (COM(2002)600. In addition to the measures already in place under the Structural Funds, the proposed actions mainly concern the reprogramming of structural aid in favour of reduction of fleet capacity and social measures, the improvement of the image of the sector and support for sustainable coastal development.
· The reduction of discards of fish (COM(2002)656) The measures proposed aim to prevent catches of unwanted fish, particularly immature fish and to remove incentives for discarding.
· The creation of a single inspection structure (COM(2003)130) to ensure the pooling of Community and national inspection and monitoring resources.
Commission Communications since May 2002
· The setting up of partnership agreements with third countries (COM(2002)637). This Communication looks at ways of improving fisheries agreements, in particular those concluded with developing coastal states by promoting international co-operation and strengthening measures to ensure sustainable fisheries in the waters of the partner concerned
· The improvement of scientific and technical advice for fisheries managers (COM(2003)625). The Commission identifies two main ways to achieve this: by reorganising the provision of scientific advice and by devoting more resources to obtaining the advice.
Still to come in 2003
· Action Plan on improving stock evaluation in non-Community waters; Communication on transparency, performance and compliance in the enforcement of CFP rules in the EU; and a Code of Conduct for responsible fisheries in Europe.
1 Article 14 of Council Regulation (EEC) 3760/92 of
20 December 1992 establishing a Community Framework for fisheries
and aquaculture, OJ L 389, 31.12.1992, p 1. Back
COM (2001) 135 Final, 20.3.2001. Back
Select Committee on the European Union, Session 2000-01, 3rd Report,
HL Paper 12. That Report, like this one, was prepared by SubCommittee
D, whose current members are listed in Appendix 1. Back
As summarised by the "Roadmap for the Reform of the Common
Fisheries Policies" published by the Commission in May 2002,
Commission figures available on DG Fisheries web-site: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/fisheries/policy_en.htm
(as at 11 March 2003). Back
"Roadmap for the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policies"
published by the Commission in May 2002, COM(2002)181. Back
Proposal for a Council Regulation on the sustainable exploitation
of fisheries resources (COM (2002) 185). Back
Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No
2792/1999 laying down the detailed rules and arrangements regarding
Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector (COM (2002) 187);
Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing an emergency Community
measure for scrapping fishing vessels (COM (2002) 190). Back
House of Lords European Union Committee: Reform of the Common
Fisheries Policy: The Current Crisis over Fish Stocks, 2nd
Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 16. Back
Elliot Morley, Q 1. Back
We welcome the decision by the Royal Commission on Environmental
Pollution to conduct a study into the environmental effects of
marine fisheries. Details of the study (for which evidence has
been invited by 30 May 2003) are at http://www.rcep.org.uk/fisheries.html.
The Royal Commission has commented: "Fisheries are, in the
view of many, one of the major causes of damage to the marine
environment but the extent, and even the existence, of such damage
is disputed. This is an opportune time to consider the wide environmental
consequences of fisheries. We are moving from the hunter-gatherer
stage of exploiting the ocean's resources towards farming the
oceans. Arguably we are at much the same point with fisheries
as we were with agriculture after the second world war. Technological
advances and economic pressures are leading to an intensification,
which has the potential to wreak as much damage on the oceans
as intensive agriculture has on land over recent decades. With
agriculture we asked the wrong question-how to maximise the production
of food, instead of looking at the wider functions of the rural
environment, with their rich inter-dependencies. We must try to
ensure that the problems that could arise with intensive fisheries
are foreseen, so that they can be avoided." Back