SUSTAINABILITY IN EU FISHERIES (11373/06)
Letter from the Chairman to Ben Bradshaw
MP, Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare,
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
I refer to your Explanatory Memorandum of 14
August on the above subject, which Sub-Committee D considered
at its meeting on 18 October 2006.
The Committee considered the proposals in this
document alongside those in another (11984/06), relating to the
rebuilding of cod stocks in the Baltic Sea. Fortuitously, we had
before us also press reports of a call, by the International Council
for the Exploration of the Sea, for a temporary halt on cod fishing
in the North Sea in order to rebuild depleted stocks.
The Committee is content to clear both proposals
but has asked to be kept in close touch with developments on the
issue of fishing sustainability.
I have been asked to seek your comments specifically
on the reports of a need for a temporary halt to cod fishing in
the North Sea and to raise with you, in addition, concerns which
a number of Members felt over the need to ensure that the rules
designed to achieve fishing sustainability are applied equally
in designated areas to all fishing nations. This latter request
stems from reports that have reached some Members of the Committee
that fishing for bass in the Bristol Channel is being exploited
by certain other Member States in contravention of the rules and
to the detriment of British fishermen.
19 October 2006
Letter from Ben Bradshaw MP to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 19 October. I am
writing in response to a number of concerns you have raised regarding
a possible temporary halt to cod fishing in the North Sea, other
Member States' compliance with enforcement rules and the current
situation on fishing for bass in the Bristol Channel. I will deal
with each in turn.
You will be aware that this is not the first
time that there has been a call from ICES for a moratorium on
cod fishing in the North Sea. In the past, the Commission and
Member States have avoided taking such draconian action in the
light of socioeconomic concerns about the future competitiveness
of the EU catching sector and other ancillary elements within
the wider industry. We would anticipate a similar approach from
the Commission this time around, with a focus on reducing the
quota for the stock and further controls to ensure the effectiveness
of the cod recovery programmein the form of additional
pressure on days at sea for vessels catching the species. We will
support the generality of such an approach. However, given the
significant contribution already made by the UK whitefish fleet
in reducing effort on cod in recent years, we will be looking
to ensure that other fisheries where cod is a by-catch, also make
a full contribution to reducing cod mortality, commensurate with
the particular impact of that fishery.
Your letter also said that some of your Members
had concerns about the need to ensure that the rules introduced
to achieve fishing sustainability are applied equally to all fishing
nations. I can assure you that inspection missions to Member States,
including the UK, are carried out by EU Inspectors on a regular
basis. These look at the levels and means of controls that are
being applied to such measures on recovery stocks, thereby ensuring
any deficiencies in application are identified and quickly addressed.
Finally, you have drawn attention to fishing
for bass in the Bristol Channel by other Member States in contravention
of EU rules. In the absence of further detail, l am assuming that
you refer to activities by Belgian beam trawlers.
I am aware that there have been reports from
the UK industry about Belgian beam trawlers switching to the use
of twin otter trawls in the six to 12 mile limit in UK waters.
I should make it clear from the outset that this activity is not
My officials have made extensive checks, using
VMS data, to assess the extent of this activity and have discovered
the following: recently, two Belgian beam trawlers have switched
to the towing of twin otter trawls instead of beam trawls as part
of a Belgian Government initiative to run trials (with subsidies
from the Belgian Government) to see if these vessels, which are
heavy users of fuel, could fish more efficiently with these lighter
trawls. Both vessels have been operating in the Bristol Channel
& Celtic Sea area and made several landings into Milford Haven.
We understand that this subsidy scheme is due to be reviewed and
may terminate shortly. Reports from the Marine Fisheries Agency
(MFA) indicate that these fishing activities have not yet proved
to be cost effective and it is considered unlikely that owners
will be able to sustain this method of fishing for much longer.
The catch composition of these landings is similar to that resulting
from beam trawling but the quantity is significantly reduced,
so that whilst fuel savings are achieved, there is no overall
improvement in profitability. Both of these vessels are active
off the south coast of Wales.
No fishing activity by any Belgian vessels over
221 kW and converted to twin otter trawling has been evident within
12 miles of the north coasts of Devon and Cornwall with the exception
of one vessel that fished for four hours in the six to twelve
mile zone off the coast of Devon. The same vessel also fished
for a period of 48 hours to the north of Lundy Island in the outer
belt towards the end of June.
We will of course continue to monitor the situation,
but at present, there does not appear to be a clear cut case on
conservation grounds for approaching the Commission to request
that the twin otter trawling activities should be banned. You
should also note that any ban could not be restricted to Belgian
vessels, but would have to be extended to all EU vessels eligible
to fish in the six to 12 mile zone.
3 November 2006