HL Deb 15 June 1999 vol 602 cc16-7WA
Lord Sawyer

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the Fisheries Council held in Luxembourg on 10 June. [HL2951]

Lord Donoughue

The Fisheries Council met in Luxembourg on 10 June. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary represented the UK together with my noble friend Lord Sewel, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office.

The Council adopted proposals introducing and allocating in 1999 two new Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for North Sea spurdog and northern prawn. It also allocated for 1999 two existing TACs for blue whiting fished in Western waters and the Bay of Biscay. The UK secured an 81 per cent. share of the Spurdog TAC and 27 per cent. of the Northern Prawn TAC. On blue whiting we negotiated an increase of 5,000 tonnes in the proposed UK allocation. A further 7,000 tonnes was allocated to the UK under the Bay of Biscay TAC, with the option of taking this in Western waters as a linked stock. This makes an effective total allocation of over 42,000 tonnes and gives the UK a 24 per cent. share of the two TACs, the highest of arty member state. The introduction and allocation of these TACs will enhance the conservation of stocks in the North Sea and Western waters.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary drew the attention of the Council to the significance of forthcoming scientific advice sought by the Commission from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) on the need for precautionary restrictions on fishing activity to protect vulnerable seabird populations which depend on sandeels. The Commission promised to work quickly on appropriate measures once the ICES advice was available.

The. Commission introduced its second annual report on progress in the EU in following up on the recommendations of the 1997 Bergen Intermediate Ministerial Conference on the integration of environmental concerns in fisheries management in the North Sea. This report was remitted for further study.

The Commission made an interim report on the cost benefit study it is undertaking of the EU's Third Country Fisheries Agreements and the Council adopted Conclusions urging the Commission to pursue talks with Morocco on co-operation in the fisheries sector following the expiry in November of the present EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement.

After lengthy discussion, a Presidency compromise on the reform of the structural funds in the fisheries sector failed to secure a Qualified Majority. This issue will fall for further consideration by the Council in October.