FISHERIES (15111/02; 15245/01; 14219/02)
Letter from Elliot Morley MP, Minister
for Fisheries, Water and Nature Protection to the Chairman
I am writing to inform you about four draft
proposals on fisheries, which do not yet have scrutiny clearance
but are likely to be adopted by the Council of Ministers in the
next few days.
The first is a short proposal for amendments
to the Council Regulation 2555/2001 on TACs and quotas for certain
fish stocks for 2002. This proposal was received here on 10 December
as Council Document 15111/02 and the Explanatory Memorandum is
attached. The proposed amendments flow from decisions reached
(respectively in the International Baltic Sea Fishery Commission
concerning the herring TAC in the Baltic Sea, by Greenland on
the definitive TAC for capelin in the North Atlantic, under the
EU-Faroes fisheries agreement on the balance of fishing opportunities
and on various conservation requirements in the Inter-American
Tropical Tuna Commission). The amendments are entirely unexceptionable
from a UK point of view. The revised quotas, and other provisions
the regulation would introduce, relate to fishing activities in
what little remains of calendar year 2002. In the circumstances,
I do not wish to obstruct the Presidency's efforts to get them
adopted as soon as possible, and so I should like to make you
aware that adoption is likely in the next few days.
The second proposal is the proposal for a Council
Regulation for measures for the recovery of cod and hake stocks
(doc 15245/02). The state of play on this is that I submitted
an EM on 28 February and on 11 July a supplementary EM with an
RIA. Sub-Committee D cleared the EM on 24 July.
I can now give you information about recent
developments on this proposal.
The Commission has very recently indicated that
it intends to make a formal amendment to the proposal, which is
still awaited. We understand that the amendment will respond to
the latest views of the scientific body which advises the EU on
fish stocks, that stocks, especially of cod, are in a more depleted
state than hitherto believed, and that a moratorium should be
introduced on fishing for cod in the North Sea, West of Scotland,
and the Irish Sea, and fishing for species caught with cod should
be substantially reduced.
In the light of this advice the Commission intends
to propose that its proposed limits on fishing effort (days at
sea) should be tightened. It envisages that effort on cod, haddock
and whiting should be reduced by 80 per cent, on flatfish by 40
per cent, on megrim, anglerfish and industrial species by 10 per
cent and on nephrops by 5 per cent. Measures for northern hake
would be somewhat relaxed in the light of latest scientific opinion.
Vessels would be allocated to segments depending
on their catch composition over the period 1999-2001. As originally
proposed, the total available kilowatt days at sea for each segment
of the fleet would be allocated among the relevant vessels as
each Member State wished. The Commission has stated that in the
absence of agreement by the Council on this approach the Commission
would intend to use its powers to make emergency regulations to
impose a moratorium on fishing on cod.
The catching sector of the fishing industry
have emphasised the highly damaging impact of 80 per cent cuts
in effort on the white fish sector of the UK fleet, and on the
on shore industries which depend on fishing. They reject the effort
I have been closely consulting the industry
on this proposal throughout the year and appreciate their alarm,
especially at the latest Commission views. The Government fully
accepts that a moratorium would greatly damage the white fish
fleet, and that an 80 per cent cut would be little different in
effect. I have made clear in the House that neither course is
a realistic option. On the other hand we cannot ignore the very
depleted state of the stocks. Without viable fish stocks the industry
has no future.
The issue will be considered at the Council
next week. I hope that it will be possible to reach an agreement
on a suitable way forward, which helps to ensure long term sustainable
management of the stocks and defend the future of the industry.
The Committee will appreciate that I wish to avoid the position
that in the absence of a decision next week the Commission considers
itself obliged to take emergency action by imposing a moratorium
on fishing by our fleet. Clearly these are going to be difficult
discussions and I may be asked to agree some sort of compromise.
The third proposal is for the Council Regulation
that will set Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for 2003.
The Commission yesterday released details of the contents of this
proposal on its website, so we are expecting to receive a depositable
document very shortly and will produce an Explanatory Memorandum
as soon as possible. However, the proposal is on the agenda for
adoption at next week's Council. The negotiations about this will
be unusually complex this year, because the Commission envisages
very substantial cuts in allowable catches, to correspond with
the reductions in effort which it envisages in relation to cod
recovery (see above). I will clearly be looking for higher TACs
on these key stocks than will be proposed by the Commission: the
levels of TAC that might be achieved will depend to a high degree
on the conclusions that can be reached on an alternative programme
for cod recovery. In view of the practical reality that TACs and
quotas need to be in place to provide the framework for managing
fishing from 1 January 2003, it is clearly desirable that the
content of this regulation should be agreed and adopted by the
Council next week and I propose to support its adoption.
The fourth proposal is for a council regulation
fixing for the 2003 year the guide prices and Community producer
prices for certain fishery products pursuant to Regulation (EC)
no 104/2000. Explanatory Memorandum 14219/02 regarding this proposal
was submitted to your Committee on 10 December (a signed version
was faxed on 9 December), but you were unable to consider the
EM in your sift on 10 December.
Guide prices function chiefly as the base from
which the Community withdrawal and reference prices are calculated.
It is, therefore, important that an agreement is reached before
the start of the fishing year on 1 January. The proposals meet
the UK's objective on Guide Prices for the 2003 fishing year.
It would be helpful if you could consider the EM in your next
sift on 17 December so that we can lift our reserve and the proposal
can be adopted as an "A" point at the Justice and Home
Affairs Council on 20 December.
17 December 2002
Letter from the Chairman to Elliot Morley
Esq MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Many thanks for your letter of 17 December about
the fisheries proposals going forward for adoption at this week's
Agriculture and Fisheries Council.
Sub-Committee D considered the letter at its
meeting on 18 December, and cleared the proposal for amending
the current (2002) Regulation on TACs and quotas (doc 15111/02).
Of the other proposals, the one dealing with cod and hake recovery
(15245/01) had, as your letter noted, already been cleared. We
were, however, grateful to have the account of recent developments.
The proposal on guide prices etc (14219/02) was cleared in this
That leaves the proposals for the 2003 TACs
and quotas Regulation. We appreciate that the Commission has had
to contend with an exceptionally difficult situation this year,
complicated by the continuing debate on its reform package of
last May. At the best of times it is difficult for the scrutiny
committees to make a meaningful input to the most important annual
event in the EU fisheries calendar. But it is unusual, to say
the least, to be told that the Council was likely to adopt major
proposals which had not even been deposited with Parliament, let
alone accompanied by the Government's usual detailed critique.
In the circumstances, we have no choice but
to note the position and to look forward to a full account after
the event. As you know, Sub-Committee D has decided to follow
up the oral evidence it took from you last July and to re-visit
the issues covered by our January 2001 Report (Unsustainable Fishing).
I gather that you will be giving further evidence to the Sub-Committee
on 22 January, when you can expect to be asked to give a full
account of what passed at the Council meeting.
We are grateful to you for agreeing to do this,
which will get the new inquiry off to a good start.
19 December 2002