HC Deb 20 December 1999 vol 341 cc437-40W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Fisheries Council held in Brussels on 16 and 17 December; and if he will make a statement. [103840]

Mr. Morley

I represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Fisheries Council in Brussels on 16–17 December, together with Mr. John Home Robertson, Deputy Minister for Rural Affairs in the Scottish Executive and Mrs. Brid Rodgers, the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, the first Minister from the newly devolved administration to attend an EU Council.

The Council agreed by qualified majority, with France voting against, the total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas to apply in 2000 in Community waters and for Community vessels fishing in waters where catch limitations apply. Details of the final TACs are given in the following table.

Following from the advice of fisheries scientists in the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Commission had initially proposed substantial cuts in many TACs, reflecting the poor state of some stocks, reduced recruitment to them or the need to bring fishing effort back to levels which will help to sustain the future availability of stocks. Working on the basis of the scientific advice but using some of the precautionary management options identified by the scientists, we were able to secure smaller cuts than originally proposed for a number of TACs including nephrops in Area VII, anglers (monk fish) in West of Scotland, the North Sea and in Area VII, and in some flat fish TACs. As a result, at the end of the negotiations, the total UK quotas agreed were some 95,000 tonnes higher in cod equivalent tonnes than in the Commission proposals. This increase reduces the estimated loss of quota value to the industry in 2000 from £70 million to £40 million.

Recognising the need to take steps to promote the recovery of the badly depleted cod stock in the Irish Sea, we were able to secure a Council and Commission commitment to introduce a recovery programme, after consultation with a new regional group made up of fishermen, scientists, and administrators involved in this fishery. The Commission will for the first time use the emergency conservation powers available to it to bring forward measures closing those areas in the Irish Sea in which spawning cod congregate from February to April 2000, as a way of protecting the stock. This commitment to an EU recovery programme, which followed intensive preparatory discussions between us, the Irish and the Commission, sets an important precedent for regional co-operation under the Common Fisheries Policy and the involvement of the industry in management decisions on stock recovery.

The Council also agreed on the closure from 1 January 2000 of the sandeel fishery off the Firth of Forth in the interests of protecting seabirds dependent on sandeels. This measure which is in line with scientific advice resulted from close co-operation between us, Denmark and the Commission.

The Council further agreed not to reduce in 2000 the minimum landing size for plaice to 22 cm. As a result, I am pleased to confirm that this will remain at 27 cm.

I successfully invoked the Hague Preference on all those stocks where it was in our overall interest to do so.

The Regulation on TACs and Quotas adopted by the Council incorporates for the first time in a single Regulation the outcome of all the Community's international fisheries arrangements for 2000 between the Community and Norway, Faroes, Greenland and Iceland, and under the North West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation and the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission.

The Council also adopted unanimously, with Portugal abstaining, the Regulation applying control measures for Community vessels in 2000 required under the North East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation arrangements.

Commissioner Fischler confirmed that he would be meeting the Moroccan Minister of Fisheries on 20 December to initiate negotiations on a new fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco. He also made brief presentations on a Commission report on regional meetings, which will become available and be considered from January 2000, and the Commission's proposals for further amendment of the Technical Conservation Regulation, which includes provision for a three year closure of the Firth of Forth sandeel fishery.

2000 TACs
Stock 1999 TAC (tonnes) 2000 TAC (tonnes) Gain/Loss (%)
Sandeels Ha, IV 1,000,000 1,020,000 2
Herring I, II 1,300,000 1,252,000 —4
Herring IVa,b 240,000 240,000 0
Herring IVc, VIId 25,000 25,000 0
Herring Vb, VIaN, VIb 68,000 42,000 —38
Herring Via (Clyde) 1,000 1,000 0
Herring VIIa 6,600 5,350 —19
Herring VIIe,f 1,000 1,000 0
Herring VIIg-k 21,000 21,000 0
Herring ha, IV Ind. by-catch 30,000 36,000 20
Cod Ea, IV 132,400 81,000 —39
Cod Vb, VI, XII, XIV 11,800 7,480 —37
Cod VIIa 5,500 2,100 —62
Cod VIIb-k, VIII, a, X 19,000 16,000 —16
Megrim Ea, IV 3,000 3,000 0
Megrim Vb, VI, XII, XIV 4,840 4,840 0
Megrim VII 22,400 17,920 —20
Dab and Flounder lia, IV 30,070 30,070 0
Anglers lia, IV 22,070 17,660 —20
Anglers Vb, VI, XII, XIV 8,600 8,000 —7
Anglers VII 26,670 23,000 —14
Haddock Ea, IV 88,550 73,000 —18
Haddock Vb, VI, XII, XIV 19,000 19,000 0
Haddock VII, VIII, IX, X 22,000 13,200 —40
Haddock Vila 4,990 3,400 —32
Whiting lia, IV 44,000 30,000 —32
Whiting Vb, VI, XII, XIV 6,300 4,300 —32
Whiting VIIa 4,400 2,640 —40
Whiting VIlb-k 25,000 22,500 —10
Hake ha, IV 1,930 1,480 —23
Hake Vb, VI, VII, XII, XIV 30,910 23,600 —24
Lemon sole and witch Ea, IV 12,000 12,000 0
Blue whiting ha NS 90,000 90,000 0
Blue whiting Vb, VI, VII, XII, XIV 407,000 407,000 0
Blue whiting VIIIabde 26,500 26,500 0
Nephrops Ha, IV 15,200 17,200 13
Nephrops Vb, VI 12,600 12,600 0
Nephrops VII 23,000 21,000 —9
Northern prawn Ea, IV 7,013 7,113 1
Plaice lia, IV 102,000 97,000 —5
Plaice Vb, VI, XII, XIV 2,400 2,400 0
Plaice VIIa 2,400 2,400 0
Plaice VIId,e 7,400 6,500 —12
Plaice VIIf,g 900 800 —11
Plaice VIIh,j,k 1,350 1,350 0
Pollack Vb, VI, XII, XIV 1,100 1,100 0
Pollack VII 17,000 17,000 0
Saithe Ea, Iilb,c,d, IV 110,000 85,000 —23
Saithe Vb, VI, XII, XIV 7,500 7,000 —7
Saithe VII, VIII, IX, X 8,800 6,500 —26
Turbot and brill Ea, IV 9,000 9,000 0
Skates and rays Ea, IV 6,060 6,060 0
Mackerel Iia(EC), III, IV [...] [...] [...]
Mackerel Ea (non EC), Vb, VI, 500,000 560,000 12
VII, VIIIabde, XII, XIV [...] [...] [...]

2000 TACs
Stock 1999 TAC (tonnes) 2000 TAC (tonnes) Gain/Loss (%)
Sole II, IV 22,000 22,000 0
Sole Vb, VI, XII, XIV 155 155 0
Sole VIIa 900 1,080 20
Sole VIId 4,700 4,100 —13
Sole VIIa 700 660 —6
Sole VIIf,g 960 1,160 21
Sole VIIh,j,k 720 720 0
Sprat lia, IV 175,000 225,000 29
Sprat VIId,e 12,000 12,000 0
Spurdog ha, IV 8,870 9,470 7
Horse mackerel Iia, IV 60,000 51,000 —15
Horse mackerel Vb, VI, VII, 265,000 240,000 —9
VIIIa,b,d,e, XII, XIV