HC Deb 22 June 2001 vol 370 cc13-4W
Vernon Coaker

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Fisheries Council held in Brussels on 18 June. [772]

Mr. Morley

I represented the UK at the Fisheries Council on 18 June together with Ms Rhona Brankin, the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development in the Scottish Executive, and Ms Brid Rogers, Northern Irish Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Council had a full discussion of the Commission's Green Paper on the 2002 Review of the Common Fisheries Policy. There was considerable support for the UK's major concerns: to work towards a policy which is economically and environmentally sustainable; to retain the system of total allowable catches and quotas distributed according to relative stability; to continue with existing restrictions on access, in particular the six and 12-mile limits which we argued should be established permanently; to provide for increased involvement of fishermen in developing fisheries policy, in particular through a regionalised approach; to address more effectively the environmental impacts of fishing, reducing discards, recognising the value of low impact fishing and angling, and minimising the adverse effects of fishing on non-target species such as small cetaceans; to ensure more consistent and effective enforcement across all member states; and to tackle more effectively the imbalance between fishing capacity and stocks, not least by ending the use of subsidies by grant aiding more powerful and efficient vessels.

The work on the Green Paper will continue under the Belgian Presidency and the Commission is expected to produce detailed legislative proposals later this year.

The Council agreed conclusions on the Commission's action plan on biodiversity. We welcomed these, in particular the commitment to give priority for action for the most sensitive species listed in the Habitats Directive.

The Commission introduced a communication setting out their thinking on the longer term multi-annual recovery plans for cod and hake stocks. There was also some discussion of the more immediate measures for North Sea cod which are currently being negotiated with Norway. The Commissioner emphasised the serious state of the stocks and the need to take substantial measures if the stocks are to be able to recover. We supported the development of action plans and the inevitable constraints on fishing which would be required if they were to be effective. But at the same time we stressed the importance of engaging the fishing industry in the development of plans and the need to take sufficient account of their impact on returns from fishing. The Commission is expecting to conclude negotiations on North Sea cod with Norway shortly and to introduce measures applicable in 2002; detailed proposals on longer term measures will be put to the Council for consideration in the autumn.

In view of the failure to establish a new fisheries agreement with Morocco the Council agreed that the existing provision for structural funds to be made available to support the fishing fleets affected would be extended until the end of 2001. The Commission plans to make proposals shortly for a restructuring scheme.

Finally, the Commission presented a proposal to extend the multi-annual guidance programme (MAGP IV) for one year until the end of 2002. This will be considered in detail by the Council in the autumn.

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