§ Lord Moran
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Why their proposal that there should be a precautionary Total Allowable Catch for sandeels in 1997, which fisheries scientists are satisfied is a practicable proposition (government response to the Report by the Select Committee on Science and Technology on Fish Stock Conservation and Management, paragraph 34), was rejected by the Commission and all other member states, and whether they intend to press the Fisheries Council to reconsider its decision.
Proposals for TACs and quotas for 1997 were made to the Council last autumn by the European Commission, in the light of the scientific advice prepared by the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management. Although ACFM advised that a precautionary TAC of 1.1 million tonnes could be envisaged for sandeels in the North Sea, the Commission did not make a corresponding proposal.
In the course of the subsequent negotiations the UK argued that a precautionary TAC of 850,000 tonnes would be appropriate, reflecting the average level of 57WA catches in recent years. However, there was no support from other delegations for an amendment to the Commission's proposals to do this.
The Commission indicated that it did not believe it appropriate to introduce such a measure in the absence of evidence of detrimental effects of sandeel fishing on human consumption fish species. However, with this in mind and at the UK's behest, the Commission is part funding a three-year international research project (ending in 1999) involving the Sea Mammal Research Unit and others, centred on the industrial fishery off the east coast of Scotland.
We have asked the researchers to inform the Commission through ICES of any interim reports which highlight potential problems, so appropriate action can be taken as soon as possible.
The Statement of Conclusions arising from the Intermediate Ministerial Meeting on the Integration of Fisheries and Environmental Issues, held in Bergen, Norway, on 13–14 March, will now provide an additional impetus for action.