Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Ministerial Statement

Statement made both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords about the last Agriculture and Fisheries Council on June 28, attended Richard Benyon and Richard Lochhead MSP.

The Statement deals with the proposed Commission plan to change various regulations in the CFP in order to turn the policy into a sustainable one.

Commissioner Damanaki spoke about the Commission's proposed framework for setting catch levels for 2012 and beyond via the total allowable catch (TAC) and quota regulation (TQR). Against a backdrop of the poor state of many EU fish stocks and the continued issue of overfishing, the Commission announced its aim to ensure that all fish stocks should be fished within the threshold of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015 and where there was insufficient scientific advice or data the precautionary approach should be adopted and a cut of 25 per cent should be applied to the TAC. Commissioner Damanaki also explained that she intended to split the TQR into two parts this year in order to improve the process: internal stocks to be decided at the November council and external (those subject to international negotiations, principally joint EU-Norway stocks) in December.

There was near universal opposition to the idea of the 25 per cent cut for data-poor stocks with 19 of the 22 fishing member states (and Austria) explicitly opposing this. There was concern that this approach would merely increase levels of discarded fish in many cases and that a more targeted approach, using all available data or advice, even incomplete, would be preferable.

There was widespread concern among all fishing member states about aspects of the MSY principle. Nearly all noted that 2015 was the target for all fisheries and that this should be achieved on a gradual basis. The UK, along with Ireland, Spain, Belgium and coastal state in the Baltic expressed concern about how individual species MSY targets could be identified correctly in a multi-species environment.

The UK, Spain, Denmark, France, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and Austria also expressed concern about the idea of splitting the TQR decision-making across two councils, creating administrative inefficiency.

Other discussions were about Ireland complaining about mackerel fishing by Iceland and the Faroe Islands as well as a report back from the Netherlands on the high-level conference on Common Fisheries Policy reform that took place in Noordwijk in March 2011.

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