HL Deb 12 January 1998 vol 584 cc178-81WA
Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they propose to make changes to the arrangements for the licensing of United Kingdom registered fishing vessels when implementing the United Kingdom's latest multi-annual guidance programme (MAGP IV).

Lord Donoughue

The existing arrangements for the licensing of fishing vessels will continue to operate subject to certain changes which are set out below.

Segmentation of the Fleet

The UK's multi-annual guidance programme will set for each segment of our fishing fleet objectives to be met by 31 December 2001. There will be eight segments as follows:

  • pelagic trawls and purse seines
  • beam trawls
  • demersal and nephrop trawls and seines
  • lines and nets
  • shell-fish mobile gear
  • shell-fish fixed gear

distant waters subdivided according to whether the vessels are exclusively or predominately active in non-EU waters.

small scale coastal vessels under 10 metres.

The means by which these objectives are achieved will vary from segment to segment. They may involve restrictions and/or reductions in fishing effort or capacity or a combination of both.

From 1 January 1998, each fishing vessel will be assigned to a single segment, based on the principal activity recorded as being undertaken in 1996. Vessels which are new to the fleet or those which recorded no fishing activity in 1996 have been assigned to segments on the basis of earlier recorded activity or on the basis of other information available to departments. The allocation of vessels to segments will be reviewed during 1998 to take account of fishing activity up to and including 1997. Departments will take into account information provided by owners where:

  1. (i) the segmentation has been based on no recorded fishing activity;
  2. (ii) a vessel is new to the fleet;
  3. (iii) a vessel has engaged in a licence transaction as a result of which its fishing opportunities have materially changed.

Such information must be provided by 31 March 1998.

Once a fishing vessel has been assigned to a particular segment its capacity and fishing activity will continue to be recorded against that segment until further notice. Vessel owners will however be free to change the pattern of their fishing effort within any segment subject to any limitations posed by their fishing vessel licences.

Restrictions on Fishing for Pelagic Species

From 1 April 1998 UK registered fishing vessels eligible to fish for more than 500 tonnes of pelagic species—herring, mackerel, horse mackerel, pilchards, sprats and blue whiting—will be restricted to existing vessels in the fleet which on 17 December 1997;

  1. (a) held an existing category A pelagic (purse seine or freezer trawler) licence;
  2. or
  3. (b) held an existing category A licence and caught at least 500 tonnes of pelagic species in any of the four years 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997.

Eligible vessels other than purse seiners and freezer trawlers will have their existing licences replaced by a new category A pelagic (trawler) licence. Any vessel which already holds a beam trawler licence will be permitted to continue to fish by that method.

Vessels holding category A pelagic (purse seine or freezer trawler) licences or category A pelagic (trawler) licences will also be able to fish for demersal species and pelagic species other than herring, mackerel, horse mackerel, pilchards, sprats and blue whiting, subject to complying with any licence or other restrictions in force or that may be imposed.

Any person who would not qualify for a category A pelagic (trawler) licence under the criteria outlined above but who considers that they should be issued with such a licence must advise the fisheries departments by 31 January 1998. Such applicants must:

  1. (a) have introduced a registered and licensed vessel into the UK fleet during 1997 with the intention of catching more than 500 tonnes of herring, mackerel, horse mackerel, sprats, pilchards or blue whiting;
  2. or
  3. (b) have entered into an enforceable financial commitment on or before 17 December 1997 to introduce a fishing vessel intended to catch more than 500 tonnes of herring, mackerel, horse mackerel, sprats, pilchards or blue whiting.

Documentary evidence of such an intention or enforceable financial commitment must also be presented to the fisheries departments by 31 January 1998.

Ring Fencing of Pelagic Licences

From 1 April 1998 vessels holding a category A pelagic (purse seine or freezer trawler) licence or a category A pelagic (trawler) licence will be ring fenced. Anyone wishing to introduce a new vessel into the pelagic fleet or to modify an existing pelagic vessel may only do so by acquiring an entitlement to a pelagic (purse seine or freezer trawler) licence or to a pelagic (trawler) licence. Within the ring fence it will not be possible to undertake a single licence transfer which involves the placement of a pelagic (trawler) licence on a pelagic freezer trawler or purse seiner.

Existing capacity penalties—10 per cent. for licence transfers and 20 per cent. for licence aggregations—will continue to apply to all licence transactions within the pelagic ring fence, as will existing restrictions on engine power and tonnage.

However from 1 April 1998 the replacement or modification of purse seiners or pelagic freezer trawlers will be subject to a zero capacity penalty where single licence transfers occur or to a 10 per cent. capacity penalty where the aggregation of licences occurs. Any freezer trawler must be capable of processing at least 30 tonnes of pelagic species per day.

As from today it will no longer be possible to aggregate white fish licences with pelagic (purse seine or freezer trawler) licences to undertake minor engine modifications. The provision to park licences on purse seiners or freezer trawlers for up to 2 years pending their replacement or modification will also be terminated from this date.

As at present there will be no restrictions on category A pelagic licences being downgraded to ordinary category A white fish licences.

The Recording of Engine Power on Fishing Vessel Licences

For all licence transactions which take place from 1 January 1999 the fisheries departments propose that the engine power to be recorded on the fishing vessel licence shall be the maximum continuous engine power that is capable of being generated by the vessel's engine. It is further proposed that this provision be extended on 1 January 2000 to all vessels licensed before 31 December 1998. Where fishing vessels engines have been permanently derated, the derated engine power will be treated as the maximum continuous engine power.

In parallel with the arrangements set out in the previous paragraph the fisheries departments will be undertaking random checks to ensure that the maximum continuous engine power of fishing vessels is not greater than that which is stated on the fishing vessel licence.

Review of the Licensing Arrangements

The present system of licensing has evolved over a long period following the agreement of the Common Fisheries Policy in 1982. It is the mechanism through which the fisheries departments seek to regulate both fishing activity and the size and structure of the UK fleet. Over the years the system has become highly complex in terms of the number of different licences that are issued, the conditions which are attached to the licences, the arrangements for transferring and aggregating licences, and the operation of capacity penalties and tonnage and engine power constraints which together exert downward pressure on the size of the UK fleet. Although a number of changes to the licensing arrangements have been announced today, I believe that it would be beneficial to undertake a more detailed review of the operation of the arrangements to establish whether they are necessary and if so how they may be improved. In undertaking such a review it is important to take account of the knowledge and expertise that lies within the fishing industry. To this end we propose that a series of meetings should be held with representatives of the principal fishermen's organisations and that a report on the conclusions reached be presented to Ministers. This forum will also be invited to consider what arrangements might be made to accommodate the recording of maximum continuous engine power on fishing vessel licences.