Select Committee on European Union Second Report



By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.




1. On 28 May 2002 the European Commission published a series of documents containing its proposals for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).[1] Sub­Committee D,[2] after preliminary scrutiny of the documents, invited the Fisheries Minister, Elliot Morley MP, of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to give oral evidence on the proposals and the likely progress of negotiations in the Fisheries Council. The Minister's evidence of 10 July 2002 and the Committee's letter to him of 18 July (Appendix 1) form part of this Report.

2. Among the points made to the Minister in July were:

·  Fleet capacity must be reduced and aid for the fishing industry redirected;

·  Current arrangements restricting access by foreign fleets to coastal waters must be retained;

·  Greatly increased resources are needed for the EU Structural Funds in order to facilitate change in fishing communities;

·  Integration of environmental protection into the CFP remains an imperative;

·  Sustainable fisheries management is a global issue, with profound implications for world trade and international development policy.

The letter to the Minister cleared the Commission's proposals from scrutiny, on the understanding that the Committee would be kept informed of developments.

3. As negotiations have proceeded on the proposed reforms, in preparation for the meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers on 16-19 December, recent scientific reports have highlighted the grave state of fish stocks, particularly of cod, in the seas around north-western Europe as a result of over-fishing.

4. This is not a new problem. Previous reports by Committees of both House have repeatedly drawn attention to a growing crisis, most recently the 2001 Report of this Committee, Unsustainable Fishing.[3] The situation has worsened dramatically since we reported. Urgent measures to arrest further decline—even extinction—of commercially important stocks are desperately needed. These must be put in place now: the Community cannot afford to wait for agreement on longer-term reform, essential though that is.

5. In brief, we have noted the following developments since July 2002:[4]

·  27 August: Delegates to the Johannesburg Earth Summit reach agreement on a commitment to limit fishing to sustainable levels and to restore depleted stocks by 2015.[5]

·  16 October: The Agriculture and Fisheries Council fails to reach a view on the Commission's proposals of December 2001 for a North Sea cod and hake recovery plan.[6]

·  18 October: The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) publishes its advice on fisheries. In particular, for cod and the species which are most closely associated with cod (such as haddock and whiting), ICES recommends a moratorium on fishing in the North Sea, Skagerrak, West of Scotland and Irish Sea.[7]

·  7 November: WWF backs ICES' call for a moratorium.[8]

·  11 November: The Commission's Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) presented its findings. In a speech in Dublin, Commissioner Fischler says: "We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. The advice from our own scientific and economic committee (STECF) is clear: the surest way forward is a closure of the cod and associated fisheries. However I am exploring other options where fishing for cod, haddock, whiting and other stocks could continue on a very limited level, provided that Ministers agree on an improved recovery plan for cod in December."[9]

·  15 November: The European Court of Justice holds, in two cases brought by the Commission, that the UK was in breach of its obligations under the CFP to stop illegal over-fishing in the North Sea during the period 1985-1996.[10]

·  18 November: Meeting in Brussels between Commission officials and representatives of the fishing industry to discuss management measures for cod and associated stocks in EU waters. Commissioner Fischler promises to look at alternatives to the complete moratorium recommended by ICES and STECF.[11]

  1. The mounting crisis in the fishing industry has been well covered by the press in recent weeks. With critical discussions in the Council now imminent, the Committee wishes the House to be aware of the urgency of the situation. It therefore makes this short Report for information.

1   COM(2002)180, 181, 185, 186, 187 and 190, 28 May 2002. Back

2   The membership of Sub­Committee D is set out in Appendix 2. Back

3   House of Lords European Union Committee, 3rd Report, Session 2000-01, HL Paper 12. Back

4   For information on the Commission's website see: Back

5   See for example The Financial Times, 28 August 2002. Back

6   COM/2001/0724 final; see Europe Agri, no 120, 25 October 2002 and DEFRA News Release 415/02, 16 October 2002 at Back

7   For further information, see ICES website: Back

8   The Scotsman, 8 November 2002. Back

9   Commission press release of 11 November 2002 at: Back

10   C-454/99, 2002.11.14; C-140/00, 2002.11.14; The Financial Times, 16 November 2002. Back

11   See; The Financial Times, 12 November 2002. Back

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