Brexit: Fisheries (EUC Report)
That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report from the European Union Committee Brexit: fisheries (8th Report, HL Paper 78).
My Lords, this is the first debate on a series of Brexit reports produced by the Sub-Committees of the European Union Committee. If you are here, you know that it is about fisheries, but I stress that these reports are about identifying the challenges and opportunities of Brexit: they are not about defining what the future detailed policies in these areas should be—we leave that to our more boring colleagues at the other end of the building to sort out. We are at the front end of this, and this report therefore does not go into detail about management regimes or any other such thing.
Fisheries is different from the other subjects in a number of ways. Perhaps I could go through some of them. First, the great reform Bill will be important to regulation of fisheries, but it will in no way be sufficient. Why is that? Because the moment we leave the European Union, the EEZ will become our exclusive economic zone, exactly as it says on the tin. There will be no automatic right for us to fish in other people’s EEZs; nor will there be any automatic right for other nation states to fish in ours. We will be excluded immediately, if we have not renegotiated access, from agreements with Iceland, Norway and the Faroes, which are particularly important to our Scottish fleets. Fisheries is also all tied up with the maritime environment—the sea and the oceans—which is shared with all our neighbouring littoral states. Fish and other forms of sea life do not tend to know boundaries, so we will not have exclusive control over our stocks of biomass, even though we may have control over the EEZ boundary itself.
Importantly, in comparison with many of the other industries that are talked about in terms of Brexit—financial services and the motor industry—the fisheries industry accounts for a full 0.5% of UK GDP. You might think that that does not necessarily give us a lot of leverage in this area, but it provides the livelihood of 12,000 fishers in this country and jobs for 14,000 people in the fish processing industry. It is particularly important for coastal communities across the United Kingdom, especially in Scotland and the south-west of England—elsewhere as well, but it is concentrated in those areas.
One issue with fisheries is the curse of the commons, in that if there is no regulation, whether international or national, people are incentivised to go out to catch whatever they can while they can, before the person in the next port or in the next nation state manages to catch those fish first. Immediate individual welfare challenges long-term community welfare. That is why, wherever we live on the globe, fisheries management is an important and difficult issue. When we talk about the number of fish caught in particular EEZs or nations, we must remember that life cycles will change from area to area. For instance, it is pointed out that sole tend to spawn mostly outside the British EEZ, even though most stocks are caught within it. So we have complex systems that makes this area difficult.
When we launched this report and issued a press release, many people assumed, given my stance on the referendum, that the report would look upon fisheries as simply challenges and threats. In fact, fisheries is one area where there are perhaps good opportunities for rebalancing the UK’s position. Much of that will depend on negotiations, and I will return to that later.
One thing is certain: as we say very strongly in the report, we must have a management system. Indeed, we probably agree with the Minister on this. In many ways, I praise the appearance of the Minister, George Eustice, before the Committee. Frankly, my experience of other Ministers—I am referring, of course, not to the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, but to other Ministers from the Commons—is that they have often avoided questions or not gone into much detail. George Eustice did quite the opposite. He was well in control of his subject and gave a good indication of where the Government might go on these issues.
One area on which we agreed with him entirely is that we continue to need management systems. Almost certainly, they will be based on quotas. That is not the only way things can be done; it is the way our coastal neighbours, including non-EU states such as Norway and Iceland, operate, so it would be very difficult and probably counterproductive to come out of that system, certainly in the short term. We agree with the NFFO that it would be possible to change the regulations to make them far more specific to the needs of the UK national fleet. Changes to technical regulations could happen, and the committee hopes the Government will address that in the right way: not deregulation but different regulations to make sure they reflect the needs of the fleet.
Our most important recommendation is probably that quotas and management be based as much as possible on scientific evidence, rather than on political decisions. In the past the CFP has been based too much on politics, rather than scientific evidence. Scientific evidence on fisheries, as on all marine areas, is not perfect, but we should remain a member of ICES, we should use that evidence and we should continue to move towards sustainable seas. I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, will talk about maximum sustainable yield and other issues, but basically, we must continue with scientific evidence.
I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market for the work the committee has previously done on regional fisheries policy. We feel very strongly that, because fish know no boundaries, we must try to keep regional co-ordination with EU and non-EU states, particularly in north-western waters and in the Celtic Sea with the Republic of Ireland and others. That must continue.
Turning to international agreements, we will have to have follow-on agreements with the EU, but if we wish to have an overall plan, control and management with nations that share our stocks, we need agreements with Norway, the Faeroe Islands and Iceland. They have agreements with the European Union, which are very important, for Norway in particular, and we have an agreement with them for the Scottish fleets. We will leave that, so we have to make sure that we negotiate those relationships as well. As I said, that means concluding an interim or a permanent agreement before we leave in April 2019, as it is reckoned to be. Indeed, in leaving the common fisheries policy through Brexit, we have what is rightly named a cliff edge—a sea cliff edge—if we do not sort out international agreements. That is particularly true outside international waters and in the area of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, one of the regional organisations. Although we are a member of it, we have to become an active member, as we will not have the European Union working with us, although we very much led those negotiations at the time.
The committee was quite surprised to learn from our academic experts that there is no obligation on us internationally to continue to respect historic rights. However, when we change the quota allocations, which have been quite negative for parts of the United Kingdom, particularly in the Channel area, we have to make sure that we take historic rights into consideration to a certain degree, not least in trade, to which I am about to turn. Quota-hopping is more a matter of business ownership, rather than the common fisheries policy itself.
Trade is one of the last major areas of discussion. It is often said that we export 80% of the fish we catch, and some 60% of that goes to the European Union, and we import 80% of the fish we eat. That is more in value terms than in volume. So trade is incredibly important, and there are various tariffs on fish products. Some are set at zero, going up to about 25% for farmed salmon; that will probably present a great challenge to the Scottish industry. That is why Norway tends to inward invest in Scotland, to keep within the customs union. So we need to make sure that we maintain access to the single market and our broader international economies, which have trade agreements with the EU, as well as our ability to import to satisfy our own needs. In trying to readjust what is called relative stability—the amount of fish stocks that we catch in our own EEZ—making sure that we keep market access is equally important.
I have a couple of other important footnotes. Fisheries, like agriculture and environmental policy generally, is a devolved subject. The details of the management regimes will fall to the Scottish Government, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as to Defra. We think it important that some framework be maintained, but it is particularly important that the devolved nations be kept very close and involved in the Brexit fisheries negotiations. That is paramount, particularly as the Scottish industry is the largest in the United Kingdom.
In many ways, Defra has the greatest challenges in the changes arising from Brexit. Agricultural policy has to be redesigned and the fisheries policy dealt with through a number of international agreements. Then, there is the whole issue of the environment, given that some 80% of UK environmental legislation comes from Europe. So Defra must be well resourced and informed, and it must play an important part in the Brexit negotiations.
When I was an MEP, I was extremely critical of the common fisheries policy, which I felt did not succeed in its conservation aims; it was not particularly fair to the United Kingdom, and there were a number of other issues. The irony is that, through the great work the British Government have done over the last few years, we have regionalisation and the banning of discards, and European fish stocks are moving much closer to sustainability. Much of that work was done by the British lead on the CFP negotiations, and it showed that that change was possible. The committee thought it was important that, although there are many opportunities for further change to make the common fisheries policy work better for the United Kingdom, we should not throw away the advantages we have gained.
Lastly, despite the fact that the fisheries industry represents only a small amount of GDP—it is important to certain regional communities—for environmental, economic and cultural reasons it is vital that it not be used as a bargaining chip and then forgotten, compared with the United Kingdom’s other great industries. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank our committee’s chairman for a most wonderful exposition. He has not looked at one note. I feel really drippy now. I register my interests in the fishing industry. I have owned and worked inshore fishery boats for most of my life. I established, and am now patron of, the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, Cornwall, which is doing jolly well.
Joining this House enabled me to put forward a Private Member’s Bill to license lobster ranching. This was to encourage fishermen to trust the scientists. As our chairman said, at that time, every time the scientists told us something, the fishermen said, “What do they know? They’ve never fished in their lives”. It was important for us to come up with something that would allow the scientists to get closer to the fishermen. Therefore, it has been a great success for us to have built this aquarium right down on the edge of the water where the boats come in, where fishermen can walk up with the lobster, hand it over, and a year or so later we can hand them back a couple of thousand baby lobsters and say, “There we are, see if you can carry on growing those”. It has been a great success. It was funded by the European Community, so we must say a hurrah for that. We have an aquarium for children to learn about fish and fishing, and for PhD students to complete their studies, find new ways for lobsters to be raised and hand them back and forth between what were, in the beginning, two great enemies.
Our chairman wisely advised Members to speak to one area only. That did not apply to him, but it applies to us. It is a very good thing, otherwise we will be here all day. I will devote myself to quotas, for it is by quotas that I have seen two particular things happen. Quotas have stopped the rape of our seas that technology allowed us. I remember the first time I looked at a screen and saw that we could see the fish swimming around down there. We could pick exactly where we wanted to go fishing. When the Scottish boats came down with a cod-end net with an opening at only one end and fished in two boats, pulling the net behind them, all they had to do was look down at the screen at one or two miles of pelagic fish, which always swim together, put the net down and rape the sea with it. Standing and watching that happen, I realised this could not continue. Very quickly, they raped out their own area of pelagic fish and ours too.
I am keen on quotas in that way because they have stopped us doing that. The thing that has been difficult and caused a great deal of unhappiness for our fishermen is the lack of enforcement that has followed. It has infuriated us to see the Spanish fleet come swanning up and take as much as they like. We are not allowed to police them. They can be policed only by their own police, who sat in Madrid and never came down. As far as that was concerned, our fishermen were only too delighted to lead Cornwall to vote to leave the European Community.
Withdrawal from the common fisheries policy is an opportunity for the UK to review fisheries management practices and develop a management regime tailored to the United Kingdom. It is also an opportunity for the United Kingdom to address concerns regarding the current fisheries management regime and to reflect the needs and interests of coastal communities, the wider marine environment and the industry. However, this will need enforcement and monitoring. Therefore, my question to the Minister is: how will the Government resource the policing of the UK zone waters?
I finish where I began with science and the fishermen. As we have just heard, our UK domestic production consists of 451,000 tonnes of fish landed by UK vessels into UK ports, but 215,000 tonnes of fish is produced by United Kingdom aquaculture producers—back to the lobsters. It is amazing to see how much has been done through scientists and fishermen working together. We will do better and better at this but we still need monitoring and enforcement, as I have asked for. Will the ministry encourage this increasingly successful industry by bringing fishermen and scientists together to ensure a brighter future? Let us face it: the way they fish, there is no need for a quota.
Adam Nicolson said that the experience of evolving as an island race, with intimate contact with the waves, has had a profound effect on who we are, from love of liberty to xenophobia, practicality and propriety, our water, our common law. After never having been invaded for a thousand years, we are again to be an island race. Sink or swim, I believe we shall enjoy our freedom yet again.
I apologise to the Committee that I forgot to declare my interest as a board member of the Marine Management Organisation. That must be recorded.
My Lords, the preservation of fish stocks in the face of unbridled consumption is one of the greatest challenges to human social organisation. It is a challenge on a global scale, and it has been met with widespread failure. The failure to preserve European fish stocks is one of many examples of this all too common tragedy.
As we have heard, in spite of highly efficient modern technology aimed at locating shoals of fish and capturing them, the quantity of fish landed in UK ports is less than a third of what it was in 1930, when it reached a maximum. The UK fisheries statistics to which I refer are readily accessible in a briefing paper from the Commons Library. The quantity of fish landed today is significantly less than it was in 1890, when much of the fishing fleet consisted of small vessels under sail. The decline of the catch in the face of the ever-improving technology of fishing points unequivocally to a decline of fish stocks.
The two world wars saw sharp reductions in the size of the catches, which was largely restored when the wars ended. Leaving aside the effect of the subsequent war, there has been a steady downwards trend since the 1930s, on the back of which there have been significant annual variations. However, after 1973, the decline accelerated. That happens to be the year when Britain joined the European Union. This was also the era when the confrontation between the United Kingdom and Iceland regarding fishing rights in the north Atlantic ended with Iceland’s victory. Iceland established an exclusion zone around its territories of 200 miles from the coastline, and British trawlers ceased to fish in Icelandic waters. The fishing fleets of Hull, Grimsby and Lowestoft, and elsewhere along the east coast of Britain, were decimated.
At the same time, Britain’s accession to the European Union ensured that all European waters should be accessible to the fishing fleets of the members of the Union. In the years that followed, there was a growing recognition of the radical depletion of the fish stocks, and in 1983 a version of the common fisheries policy—the CFP—of the European Union was enunciated that has prevailed until recently. By limiting the total allowable catch, the policy aimed to address the problems of depletion. The common fisheries policy has been strongly criticised by British fishermen. They attribute most of their distress to this EU policy. They have been virtually unanimous in declaring that its constraints and empowerment of fishermen of rival nationalities are responsible for the threat to their livelihoods. They feel that others have robbed them of what is rightfully theirs.
In 1992, the European Commission proposed a policy whereby fishermen would be encouraged to scrap vessels that were surplus to their requirements. This was intended as a means of alleviating the pressure on fish stocks. The Commission proposed that money should be provided from the European Union budget for the purpose of purchasing the vessels for scrap. In the case of the UK, that money would have been deducted from the rebate to their contribution to the budget that Margaret Thatcher’s Government had won. Instead of participating in this policy, Britain proposed to allow our fishermen to dispose of their surplus vessels by selling them on the open market.
Foreign owners were keen to buy British boats because, under British regulations, if you own a boat you also have a guaranteed share of the British national quota. It was a policy of the British Government to break down the national quota boat by boat and to allow the sale of quotas in this manner. The result is that numerous Spanish and Dutch boats fly British flags and catch part of the European Union stocks allocated to Britain. Their catches are counted against the British quota. This arrangement, known as quota-hopping, exacerbated the opinion of British fishermen that they have been robbed. In fact, the ineptitude of the British Government, rather than the policies of the European Union, is to blame.
By general consent, the EU common fisheries policy enacted in 1983 has been, until recently, an unmitigated failure. It was based on a concept of allowable catches, intended to limit the amount that each nation may extract from the seas. Those quantities have been guided by scientific advice but almost invariably that advice has been ignored in the process of the competitive bidding of the nations for their quotas. Much of the blame for this can be attributed to Britain. We approached the negotiations in an aggressive manner in the belief that we were denied our rightful share of the resources. There have also been suspicions of widespread disregard of the quotas. It has been incumbent on the European Union nations to enforce the quotas but most have been lax in doing so.
The Scottish black fish scandal of 2012 was notable for uncovering illegal landings designed to evade the European Union quotas. Fraud of almost £63 million was revealed. The common fisheries policy has also been vitiated by allowing fish that have been caught in excess of the quotas for their species to be cast overboard. It has also allowed undersized fish to be discarded as well as fish of lesser commercial value. Invariably, discarded fish are dead when they hit the water.
The most recent revision of the common fisheries policy took effect in January 2014 and promised to address some of the principal defects of the former policy. The most significant revision is the intention of gradually introducing a landing obligation whereby all catches of regulated species must be landed and counted against quotas. This would ban the practice of discarding unwanted or surplus fish. Further features of the revised policy concern rules on access to waters, controls of fishing effort, and technical measures to regulate gear usage and to determine where and when fishing is allowed. There are signs that the CFP is making progress towards the objective of preserving fish stocks. Nevertheless, the policy is bedevilled by its failure to take proper account of the biological, ecological and economic principles of fish stock management.
The policy makes frequent reference to the objective of catching the fish at the rate of their so-called maximum sustainable yield or MSY. This term seems to suggest both sustainability and economic efficiency, but the pursuit of the MSY achieves neither. The MSY is the maximum rate at which the fish are capable of replacing themselves in the face of the depredations of fishing. If such a rate of fishing is exceeded for any length of time then, inevitably, the fish will be driven to extinction. To pursue the fish with such intensity is also uneconomic. It would be more profitable to derive a smaller harvest from the more abundant population that would result from lesser depredations.
I have already noted that, in 1890, more fish were caught by sailing boats from abundant stocks of fish than are caught today from depleted stocks, using technology that was unimaginable in the 19th century. A communication from the European Commission of June 2015 not only declared the objective of fishing at the MSY, but made allowances for the difficulties of achieving that objective immediately. Thus, it stated that if the policy of fishing at the MSY,
“would imply very large annual reductions of fishing opportunities that seriously jeopardise the social and economic sustainability of the fleets involved”,
“a delay in reaching the objective beyond 2016”,
“be acceptable, through a more gradual reduction of fishing opportunities to achieve MSY”.
This defies logic. If the harvest were allowed to exceed the MSY, then the only way the population could recover is if the harvest were to be reduced subsequently to a level substantially below that of the MSY. Otherwise, the extinction of the fish stocks would be guaranteed. To allow the harvest to be reduced gradually from a higher level towards the MSY would be to guarantee extinction.
The deficiencies of the CFP suggest that it should be replaced by something more rational and more effective. I have little faith that this could be achieved, as many have proposed, by our taking full possession of the fish that lie within our so-called exclusive economic zone. That would be an unprecedented assertion of our fishing rights at the expense of other European nations, and it would be met, inevitably, by counterclaims. This could have a disastrous impact on the fish stocks. The impact on our negotiations to leave the European Union would also be severely affected by an attempt to exclude the fishermen of other European nations from our EEZ.
An exclusive economic zone is a concept adopted at the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1982. We call this conference UNCLOS. This was some time after Britain’s accession to the European Union, when the basic features of the common fisheries policy were determined. An EEZ stretches out from the coastline of a maritime nation for up to 200 miles. In the case of two adjacent maritime nations, the common perimeter of their zones is equidistant from their shores. By virtue of its geography, Britain has by far the largest zone among the European nations, both in absolute terms and in proportion to the area of its landmass. Other maritime nations, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, have highly constrained zones that are of negligible area in comparison to that of the UK. Therefore, it is wholly inappropriate to propose that their rights to fish in European waters should be in proportion to the size of their zones. This would imply a significant reduction in their existing rights. Nevertheless, that is what appears to be proposed by our fishermen, seemingly with the support of at least one government Minister.
I propose that the only sensible way forward, in view of Britain’s intention to leave the European Union, is to build on the existing common fisheries policy. This is notwithstanding its history of failure. The present objective of conserving the fish stocks should be supported and reaffirmed by the adoption of more appropriate regulations and directives, which the UK should help to formulate. The prevailing spirit should be one of mutual trust and co-operation.
I end by mentioning proposals to resolve the problem of quota-hopping. This was attempted in 1988 when a Labour Government passed a law requiring three-quarters of the shareholders of British-registered trawler companies to be British. Three years later, the law was quashed by the European court as contrary to EU rules on freedom of movement of people and capital. If a similar attempt were to be made, after our leaving the European Union, to disbar foreign owners, then I fear there would be damaging political consequences.
My Lords, first, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Teverson, his committee and its staff on producing a report that is well researched, evidence based and very clear in its conclusions. Some seven months after the referendum, at a point where we expect Article 50 to be triggered imminently, there is an urgent need for an informed debate about the complexity of the choices we face and the likely consequences of various courses of action open to the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, and the EU Committee have therefore made exactly the right decision in focusing its attention and that of the sub-committees on issues which bring thoughtful and reasoned arguments to the table. I would like to think it might catch on, but I am not holding my breath.
Given the range of topics covered by the Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, it might seem strange that it chose fisheries—a sector that employed fewer than 12,000 people in 2014 and, as we have heard, accounts for only half of 1% of our GDP. But I am pleased that it did, partly because, although it is a small industry, it has a proud tradition which is a strong part of our heritage as an island nation, and because in the communities where it still holds, it is an important part of their modern economic well-being. I am also pleased because themes emerge from this report which resonate with many other sectors and are in many ways typical of the issues we will face in the coming years as we leave the EU. There is the complexity of working out transitional arrangements so that we do not create a regulatory gap. There are decisions about our future relationships with the EU27 and with neighbouring countries that are not members but are bound to the EU in various ways, and with countries—some very far away—with which the EU has fisheries agreements. Then, there are the different interests and legal frameworks governing the devolved Administrations, and the way in which different policy areas interact with each other—in the case of fisheries, predominantly environment and market access issues. Finally, there is the question of control. A post-Brexit UK will still have to operate under a number of international rulebooks, and may choose to do so in other cases.
I think it is fair to say that the CFP is not the most beloved of EU policies, although the competition is quite fierce. The committee received much evidence suggesting that it has not been fit for purpose, and I agree that all too often, its one-size-fits-all approach has been problematic. Until fairly recently, insufficient account was taken of regional variations; applying the same policies to the Mediterranean and the Baltic was clearly never going to end well. This has greatly improved in recent years, with more bespoke multi-annual plans and the development of regional fisheries management organisations. These organisations include participation from non-EU states, so I hope the Government will still seriously consider remaining part of them. There is also some justification to the argument that the CFP has not taken into account the needs of smaller local fisheries, and that many of the technical measures were simply not grounded in the realities of the harsh conditions of working life at sea.
It is clear from the evidence received from Norwegian and Icelandic representatives that Brexit provides a potential opportunity to refocus fisheries policy on wider community benefits. Revisiting quota allocation to give less advantage to larger businesses is entirely within the gift of the UK Government now, and could be a quick win. Given that €243 million has been allocated to the UK from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for the next four or five years, thought needs to be given to what, if anything, will replace it.
It is fairly clear from the evidence that the fishing industry would like some quick changes to technical regulations, and I can see why, but there is a dilemma for the Government in how they handles such piecemeal repeal and reform, which can result in emerging policies that end up out of step with broader objectives. This danger is implicitly recognised in the approach that the Government intend to take with the great repeal Bill.
The problem of quota hopping is often cited as a major shortcoming of the CFP, and it is worth emphasising that the allocation of national quota to fishers is a national competence. The issue arises from decisions made by UK fisheries companies selling their companies and their quota allocation to EU businesses. We appear to have no idea what the future arrangement will be for either quotas or the right of a foreign-owned business to buy UK assets. However, when foreign companies wish to buy UK assets, government normally regards it as inward investment and welcomes it. As far as those currently in operation are concerned, perhaps the Minister can confirm that this will be part of a wider discussion about acquired rights not just of citizens but of businesses in any post-Brexit framework. A similar issue presumably arises with the existing agreements whereby member states fish within our EEZ.
It is worth emphasising that for all its shortcomings, the underlying objective of the CFP, which was to deal with overfishing, has met with some success. The report covers very well the challenges of, as one witness described it, a common resource which can be accessed by many but which can be consumed only once. Evidence received by the committee highlighted that limitations, such as TAC and quotas, have delivered improvements in fish stocks, and the New Economics Foundation reports improved profitability.
The almost total collapse of cod fisheries in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland is a salutary lesson about what happens when overfishing and habitat destruction is allowed to continue. By the time the moratorium there was finally agreed, it had to be drastic, and it resulted in the loss of the jobs of 30,000 fishers and 15,000 ancillary workers. It is not in the best interests of the UK fishing industry to lose the momentum that we have gained, and nor should we understate the scale of the broader challenges that we face. The European Environment Agency’s 2014 Marine Messages reported that less than 20% of all biodiversity features could be considered as of good environmental status. The sub-committee’s 2015 report The North Sea Under Pressure goes into some detail on this, but for now I wish simply to make two points.
First, there is much we do not know about the marine environment. The creation of the European Marine Observation and Data Network has done much to ensure that data are shared and available. It is exactly the sort of body to which we should continue to belong and which we should support after Brexit. Secondly, the health of the marine environment has been a priority for the EU. I fully accept that the maritime spatial planning directive and the marine strategy framework directive might not be day-to-day topics in the Dog and Duck, but they are important parts of how we manage the seas and, given that the North Sea is a shared space, we will continue to be impacted by these policies even after we have left.
To return to fisheries specifically, the evidence received by the committee and that given to the balance of competencies review two years ago suggests that there has to be some sort of supranational body to manage fisheries. I was very interested in the points made in the report about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which obliges coastal states to co-operate, based on scientific evidence, in the management of their fish stocks. Does the Minister agree that for this reason alone, and put alongside environmental considerations and the need to maintain good diplomatic relationships, the UK will need to remain a close and considerate partner?
The report fairly describes the opportunities for the industry which may come from Brexit, but it also makes the complexities clear. My time as chair of this sub-committee led me to see that the team in Defra, like most of the Civil Service, is highly competent and committed, but I am concerned that it was overstretched before the Brexit decision and will need more resource to ensure that the fishing industry, coastal communities and the marine environment are still to thrive.
My Lords, I congratulate the sub-committee on an excellent and very interesting report and welcome, in particular, the opening remarks of noble Lord, Lord Teverson, about the opportunity that this represents and about the need to manage being crucial to delivering an improved fisheries policy.
It is worth starting with the point that, despite recent improvements that have been mentioned, the common fisheries policy has been an abject failure in comparison with other policies around the world. Some 80% of EU fish stocks are still overfished, which compares without about 25% globally. EU catches are 25% below their peak in 1997. Most other fisheries are getting better at managing stocks. The EU is getting better, but it is rather too slow, and 1 million tonnes of fish have been thrown back in some years, which is equivalent to 2 billion fish dinners.
Rightly or wrongly, the common fisheries policy was seen as a great act of betrayal in 1973, so it is symbolically important that we should regain control of it in leaving the EU and that we should resume our full place on the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission alongside Norway, Iceland, Russia, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and, of course, the European Union.
The report states:
“The UK Government will be in a position to renegotiate its quota of Total Allowable Catches”.
Can the Minister explain how that point interacts with the historic rights issue raised by a number of other speakers—in particular, the sale of fishing licences to foreign vessels over the past few decades? I do not fully understand that spider’s web myself. The organisation which I think is called fishermen for Britain says that 70% of the total allowable catch is likely to come back; some are bound still to remain in foreign hands. Is that number right, and what can we expect?
My main point is that, outside the perverse incentives of the common fisheries policy, which has imposed rather than evolved solutions to fisheries management top-down, whether from politicians or scientists, we should be in a position to design from first principles, on a blank sheet of paper, using best practice from recent experience around the world, a system of fisheries management that works much better. In taking best practice from around the world in casting the net as wide as we can, we should take into account the possibilities opened by new technology, in particular, to make fisheries management much more robust and sustainable than it has been in the past.
I want to touch on two examples of good practice from around the world that emphasise individual as opposed to national quotas. The first is the Falklands, which fortunately has something to do with this country, where the squid fishery was a free for all from 1986; by 2007, it was decided to impose individually transferable quotas, whereby each vessel bought a proportion of a total quota and was able to transfer it through sale. Since it was a proportion, it could increase in total tonnage. Therefore, they had skin in the game—they had the right incentives, and they were interested in policing the management of the fishery themselves. It has turned into a highly sustainable and successful fishery, economically and ecologically; it is very productive, and it deals with the problem that is rightly addressed in the report, that of shared stock. In this case, it deals with the illex squid, which come in from Argentinian waters at a certain time of year. Likewise, a similar system is working extremely well in South Georgia.
The other system, which is slightly different, is in the Faroe Islands, at the other end of the Atlantic, which regulates fishery by days at sea—by regulating effort rather than catch—and insisting that all catches be landed on shore so as to be able to check that there is no bad practice going on at sea. Again, it is crucial that those days at sea are transferable between vessels; in a sense, you can sell your days at sea.
In both cases, the Falklands and the Faroes, real-time information is being used to manage the fisheries. Instead of politicians sitting around a table in Brussels at two o’clock in the morning using two year-old data to decide a quota, in the Falklands there is live transmission of data overnight on what each boat is catching. Any vessel taking on too much by-catch is moved on the next morning. Iceland does the same thing at an hour’s notice. So technology has brought great improvements as a management tool, with transponders on vessels and things like cameras on nets.
In designing that blank sheet, we need to take into account the latest science on no-take zones. It seems clear that, if you shut off certain parts of the ocean from fishing, you have remarkably good effects on the ability of stocks to replenish themselves, as long as you choose the zones carefully. Practice around the world has proved surprisingly successful in that respect.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that we are seeing competition increasing for taking fish in the sea. What I mean by that is that seal and whale numbers are recovering remarkably well throughout the north Atlantic. For example, off Iceland, humpback whale numbers have gone from 1,800 in 1987 to 14,000 today. They are now eating 6 million tonnes of fish around Iceland. That compares with the total Icelandic catch of 1.5 million tonnes, so the whales—all of the whales, not just the humpback whales—are taking four times as many fish as the fishing fleet. That does not mean that we should kill all the whales or anything like that, but it does mean that we have to take these factors into account.
The UK grey seal population has grown from 30,000 in 1985 to roughly 100,000 today. Of course, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Wilcox, that is all pointing in the direction of aquaculture. It is very important to note that the proportion of fish eaten in the world that comes from farmed, as opposed to wild, fish—I had very nice piece of farmed salmon for lunch today—is now about 50%. It is overtaking wild fish, and that is the right way to go, because it worked on land to go from hunting-gathering to agriculture, and it will work in the sea as well, although, of course, marine aquaculture still depends heavily on wild-caught fish as a feed stock.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his excellent chairmanship of our committee, and our committee clerk and policy analyst for their outstanding drafting skills and ability to synthesise the evidence that we heard. I will spend a few minutes talking about international trade, which, as the noble Lord mentioned in his introduction, was one of the themes of this inquiry, along with access to territorial waters and allocation of quotas.
First, however, I want to set the scene by talking about what we actually do with fish: namely, eat it. A large proportion of fish that is caught is for human consumption. Given my past as the former chairman of the Food Standards Agency, I cannot resist talking for a few moments about diet and health and fish. I am tempted to pose a quiz question to noble Lords, which I posed to my wife and daughter over the weekend: how many fish and chip meals are eaten per annum in this country from fish and chip takeaway shops? My wife and daughter both guessed around 5 million to 10 million. The answer is 380 million meals a year, according to the Sea Fish Industry Authority, from the 10,500 fish and chip shops in the UK.
In spite of that apparently large figure, it is nevertheless true that most people in this country do not eat the recommended amount of fish, which is two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. I said that many times when I was chairman of the Food Standards Agency; it just rolls of the tongue without having to use the brain at all. In fact, three-quarters of adults in this country do not even know what the guidelines are. Although there are a large number of fish and chip meals eaten, and 97% of households buy some kind of seafood, only a quarter of the population eats the recommended amount. The average intake is only one portion per week, 140 grams. Among younger consumers —18 to 24 year-olds—a third of them are not even aware of what an oily fish is. As a nation, therefore, we should be doubling our fish consumption, although this is not the current trend. There was a steady increase in per capita consumption from the mid-1970s up until 2008, but for some reason the financial crash coincided with a crash in fish consumption, which has gone down by 14% since 2008.
I am leading up to international trade; noble Lords should not worry. Suppose we were all to eat more fish, where would the fish come from? There is a problem, which we have heard about eloquently from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and from the noble Viscounts, Lord Hanworth and Lord Ridley, of sustainability. The figures I will quote are slightly different from those of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, but not seriously. Daniel Pauly, the fisheries biologist, estimates that about a third of the world’s fish stocks are seriously overexploited, a third are close to overexploitation, and a third are still being exploited at sustainable levels. As we have already heard from other noble Lords, an important part of European fisheries policy over recent decades—not necessarily totally successfully—has been to try to reduce over- exploitation. After Brexit, it is really an imperative, as others have already said, that we in this country manage our fish stocks sustainably. If consumption were to increase, where would the extra fish come from?
That brings me to the question of trade. Let me give a few facts. Some 70% of the seafood that we eat is imported, with cod, salmon, tuna and prawns or shrimps occupying the top slots in the league table by value. The top four countries from which we import are Iceland, China, Germany and Canada, with 32% of our imports coming from the European Union. At the same time, we export about three quarters of the fish caught by UK fishers or grown in fish farms, with salmon, langoustine—Dublin Bay prawns or scampi, depending on what you prefer to call them—scallops and mackerel topping the value league. France, the USA, Spain and Ireland are the top destination countries. Two-thirds of our exports go to the European Union. In short, international trade is vital to the UK fishing industry, both for fishers who catch and fishers who farm fish.
The fish processing industry is, in terms of turnover, an order of magnitude larger than the fish catching and farming industries and relies heavily on imports from third countries, such as Norway, Iceland, the USA, Russia and Canada. The UK is able to access key species of fish from third countries at low or even zero tariffs because the EU has negotiated so-called autonomous tariff quotas with third countries. The UK Seafood Industry Alliance told us:
“A future relationship with the EU must maintain existing market access and our ability to import zero or reduced tariff supplies from both EU and non-EU countries”.
Does the Minister agree with this statement and can he reassure us that, in the Brexit negotiations, meeting this requirement will be a priority of the Government in order to sustain the fishing industry in this country?
Defra told us that, if the UK fails to negotiate a special trade deal with the EU, it would trade under WTO rules. For the top five fish products that we export to the EU, the tariffs would range from 2% to 20%. At the same time, EU countries would face tariffs in exporting to the UK. Will the Minister tell us what assessment his department has made of the likely impact of such tariffs both on the viability of the fishing industry and on per capita consumption, because presumably the price of fish would go up?
It was particularly instructive for me to hear the evidence from Norway and Iceland, which are both members of the European Economic Area and therefore in the single market for most purposes. Even under that relationship with the EU, these countries face substantial tariff barriers, ranging from 2% to 25% on some species. These tariff barriers were seen as a serious obstacle to trade, as were the export quotas. Perhaps it is an irony that the Norwegian witness, Mr Vidar Landmark, told us that Norway had not managed to negotiate tariff-free access for salmon to the EU. He said:
“We have not managed to do that largely due to the Scottish producers”.
Those producers have argued strongly against Norway having access. I imagine that Norway will be delighted to be able to compete with Scotland on a level playing field after Brexit, if the UK does not manage to negotiate a special trade deal.
Fishing industry witnesses were divided on whether the loss of preferential access to EU markets would be bad overall for the UK. Fishing for Leave told us that fish destined for the EU would be channelled into the domestic market or into exports to third countries. On the other hand, the Seafood Industry Alliance said that UK consumers were resistant to changing their eating habits to match the fish caught by the UK fleet. We also heard that negotiating trade deals with third countries after Brexit will be a long and complicated process.
From the evidence we heard, it would seem that international trade, both with the EU and with third countries, will be essential for the future health of the UK seafood industry. In a helpful evidence session, the Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, told us that his officials are analysing the most appropriate options for the UK post Brexit. Can the Minister give us an update on current thinking within his department? Does the department’s position align with that of Fishing for Leave, which thinks that there is a great opportunity, or that of the Seafood Industry Alliance, which thinks that there will be real challenges?
Finally, I come to the question of trade-offs in negotiations. A number of our witnesses told us that the Brexit negotiations may require balancing the benefits of trading access against quota shares and access by other countries to our waters, which really underlines what we heard from other noble Lords: the complexity of the Brexit negotiations. I look forward to the Minister’s responses.
My Lords, we all owe a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for securing this debate on such an important issue. I apologise that I was not here at the very start of his remarks and am grateful to the Committee for allowing me to continue.
We were fortunate to be able to interview a wide range of experts in the whole field of fishing. I thank the committee clerk and staff for putting together such an excellent summary of all that came before us. Brexit has caused all kinds of upset to our erstwhile continental partners but I suggest that the changes to fishing are likely to cause even more upset than other areas. The simple reason for this, touched on by my noble friend Lord Ridley, is that in the UK’s initial negotiations for entry to the common market we gave away rather more concessions in fishing than any other field. Now we are looking at how much of this we can reclaim.
I received fairly extensive briefing jointly from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the Scottish Association of Fish Producers’ Organisations, pleading that this time the Government, in considering any concessions on fishing, should look only at those that will assist the economics of the industry rather than a trade-off against other economic areas. In the final analysis, fishing—like agriculture—will have further issues to work out because the actual management competence of the activity is in the hands of the different devolved Administrations, whereas dealings with Europe must be carried out by the United Kingdom as a whole.
I find it very encouraging to hear that at this stage the fishermen’s organisations across the UK are prepared to take a joint approach as this will be important to securing the best possible deal. However, the Scots will watch these negotiations with particular interest. The UK’s exclusive economic zone was finally defined in the 2013 EEZ order, but the competence of the Scottish Government in this field goes back to the Scotland Act 1998. Many of your Lordships will be aware that 62% of the UK exclusive economic zone comes under the responsibility of Scotland. The impact on Scotland is further illustrated in a 2004 review by the Royal Society of Edinburgh which stated that although Scotland contains only 8.6% of the UK population, 60% of the total UK catch is landed there. That shows the importance of fishing in that context; it is rather more important than in the UK as a whole.
The brief from the industry states that currently 58% of the fish caught in what will become exclusively our waters is taken by other EU fishermen. The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, touched on this. As an independent coastal state, we are told we will have the power to say who fishes in our waters and, as our report outlines, there are currently about 25,000 jobs involved in the fishing and processing industry. One must look at both elements together. This can only mean that there is scope for a massive expansion of the UK industry if most of this asset is retained for our fishing fleet. This is of particular interest to the more remote coastal communities, which are numerous in Scotland and various extended parts of the United Kingdom. A great expansion in our fishing industry could put us at the centre of world sustainable seafood production.
For those who set their heart on various forms of independence there is a small consequence not mentioned in the report and which might just bear a mention. Marine conservation and biodiversity have been functions of the EU Commission. All participating states had to follow its directives and were subject to sanctions if found to be negligent. This is now an area where each Administration will have its own authority, as far as we can see, as to how far they wish to go. This puts an extra lot of work on anybody who wishes to increase biodiversity regulation because they will have to deal with each independent Administration separately.
My Lords, I speak as a member of the committee who has had the benefit of listening to and reading the words of expert practitioners and thinkers in this industry. Experts may not be the flavour of the month post-Brexit, but some of those on the leave side on the argument who gave evidence to the committee, either written or in person, are included in that term. We certainly welcomed their views. I thank my noble friend Lord Teverson for the sure touch he displayed in chairing this very complex topic, together with the clerks for producing a very well-presented document, all in record time. I take my hat off to the clerks, who must be putting in a great many extra hours in fulfilling all the requirements that producing these sector-by-sector reports must place on them.
I draw attention to one aspect of this excellent report: the great importance of adhering to scientific advice if we are to avoid depleting fish stocks to unsustainable levels, to the detriment of all. MAD—mutually assured destruction—is an acronym that can be applied not only to nuclear warfare; the fishing industry has its own version to contend with. We have already heard about the mobility of commercial fish stocks, which requires states to manage them jointly or risk destruction of the stock altogether. With the stock goes the livelihood of thousands of people in coastal communities who depend directly or indirectly on the catch. The tragedy of the commons inevitably leads to overexploitation unless there is recognition that, over its lifetime, a resource is finite. To be sustainable it must be managed jointly and/or severally by all concerned, otherwise all parties risk reaching a position where nothing is left to share.
The United Kingdom’s approach to managing fisheries is largely determined by the EU’s common fisheries policy, which ensures that fishing is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable among fishers of member states. These stocks of highly mobile or migratory commercial fish species—plaice, cod, sole, haddock, herring and mackerel all fall under one of these categories—are typically managed by setting catch limits, total allowable catches, and divvying them out in quotas. This ensures that, to the best of their knowledge, fishers of all nations will not risk over- exploitation of their livelihood. Every year, based on scientific advice from the independent International Council on the Exploration of the Sea—ICES—and the EU’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, the European Commission proposes a TAC for commercial species for each area in the EU zone. It is scientists who provide an assessment of the health and state of a given fish stock—an assessment that will become more important as climate change impacts on stocks and migratory patterns.
In disengaging from the EU, the UK will no longer be part of the common fisheries policy and in a position to reset its approach to the exploitation of its fishing waters within the EEC. The complexity of disentangling ourselves from the CFP and emerging with a fisheries policy that satisfies UK fishermen in all the devolved nations in terms of access to affordable markets, restricted access to the EEZ for EU vessels, and maintaining supply for the processing and production industries—all are not to be underestimated. The Minister, George Eustice MP, indicated in his evidence that the great repeal Bill may prevent a regulatory vacuum while we negotiate our future relationship with the EU and non-EU states. However, other elements of the CFP do not lend themselves to a great repeal Bill approach. When the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer take part in Council negotiations or the annual assessing of TACs for shared stocks. The UK will also cease to be included in the quotas and mutual access agreements that the European Commission negotiates on behalf of member states with third parties. Without this framework for co-operation, stocks that are shared between the UK and the EU risk becoming overexploited. Therefore, it was reassuring to hear the Minister fully recognise the pitfalls. He has said that he will resist mismanagement of resources. It was also reassuring to hear that witnesses unequivocally agreed that fisheries management should continue to be based on scientific evidence alone, which should remain an uncrossable line.
There was also widespread agreement that the UK should continue to fund and take advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. That is an absolute must, because although the TACs are informed by science, the ultimate decision is a political one. Sometimes political considerations lead to the scientific advice being ignored. According to the New Economics Foundation, the TAC currently held by the UK was on average 17% higher than that recommended by scientific advice, and TACs negotiated by the EU and third countries such as Norway and Iceland were often higher, so the temptation is there and is not always resisted. Therefore, I, for one, applaud the recommendation in the report that the Government’s approach to fisheries management must be based on scientific advice. I hope the Minister will confirm today that that will remain the case, as the outcome of Brexit for the fishing industry must not mean a return to past scenarios such as cod and mackerel wars.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, who rightly stressed the importance of managing stocks and sustainability, and the expertise of the clerks. They helped to produce a report which, due in large measure to the work of the chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is thoroughly comprehensive and will stand us in good stead when it is relied upon in later years. When the report was prepared, I was concerned that it should not in any way give the impression that the interests of our fishing industry are undervalued, or that they can be bargained away to benefit other sectors of the economy when Brexit negotiations get under way.
Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, claimed that leaving the European Union’s common fisheries policy offers the industry “a sea of opportunity”. However, he also warned that this opportunity must not be traded away. The United Kingdom and Scottish Governments must work together as a team to ensure,
“the best possible deal … for our hardworking fishermen”,
he told the Shetland Times.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, working alongside the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, wants the Brexit negotiations to achieve their aims of full control over fishing fleets’ access to the waters in the UK’s exclusive economic zone, which normally stretches 200 nautical miles from a state’s coastal baseline. It also wants the creation of a mutually beneficial trading relationship with the EU and other countries and a new, ambitious management strategy. In fact, our final report stressed that the hopes and aspirations of those who live in coastal communities around the UK must not be marginalised, even if some compromises may have to be accepted in the interests of the industry’s sizeable export trade, as new arrangements are agreed with our former European partners.
Achieving a successful outcome will take dedication and commitment on the part of our Brexit negotiators. Our report refers to the huge challenge facing the Government in Recommendation 29. It also states in Recommendation 24:
“Trade with the EU in fish products will be a key factor to the future success of the UK fishing industry and fish processors. We therefore urge that the fish sector should be included in the Government’s consideration of priorities for a future trading relationship with the EU”.
Fishing may make only a small contribution to our GDP—less than 1%—but its value to local societies and their sustainable economic growth is hugely important to the places around our shores where fishing communities are embedded. It is also of great importance to the health and well-being of our nation, through the provision of nutritious seafood brought up from our seas in what are often dangerous and life-threatening circumstances.
The essential importance of the role of the fishing industry in our national life should certainly not be measured solely in terms of GDP. We all know the hymn written by the Anglican churchman William Whiting in 1860 traditionally associated with seafarers, which urges God’s protection:
“For those in peril on the sea”.
One of the worst disasters ever in the waters around Scottish shores befell the fishermen of Eyemouth some miles down the coast from where I live. On 14 October 1881, a terrible storm took the lives of 189 men from the port and surrounding area, capsizing their boats and dashing them on rocks at the entrance to the harbour. A starkly poignant memorial in granite depicting a broken mast commemorates that black Friday. In addition, on the 135th anniversary only last October, a bronze sculpture entitled “Widows and Bairns” was unveiled to commemorate the many women and children who were left widowed or fatherless.
I remember, when I was very young, asking what was the purpose of the lookout, referred to as a crow’s nest, which I had spotted high up on a house on the east coast of Scotland. I was told that such places were where the concerned mothers, wives and daughters of the fishermen would stand during storms, scanning the horizon to discern the fate of their next of kin far out to sea. Fishing is a global occupation, and since then I have learned that you can see similar railed cupolas, known as widow’s walks or widow’s watches, in north American seafaring communities.
I had a very small taste of the dangers of the deep when, as a boy, my father took me out in a rowing boat off the shore at North Berwick heading for a small island. We were quite a long way from safety when the wind got up suddenly and mountainous waves began to tower over our small boat. Rowing back in such high winds might have become impossible, and eventually we were rescued by the pilot boat. I remember the kindly old fisherman who greeted us at the harbour when we arrived back with the wonderfully understated observation: “I see you’ve had a wee sea breeze”. For me, this is a painful memory because, very sadly, despite his great seafaring skills, he would fall victim to a storm and be drowned at sea.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister to assure us and make certain that the Government’s Brexit negotiators will be equal to the challenge which the UK’s exit poses for the future of our fishing industry, as identified in the report. Can he promise that the Government will not let down those who routinely put their lives on the line on behalf of their countrymen and women? Can he pledge that when they are sitting around the table in a comfortable conference room in Brussels, those representing the UK will not forget for an instant that they are negotiating on behalf of a very special community of people who have served and continue to serve their country well and with courage, come hell or high water?
My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his excellent chairmanship of our committee and this report. I echo the thanks of several noble Lords to our clerk and policy analysts for a fantastic job in pulling together a huge amount of evidence, analysing it and writing it up in a very digestible form. They are at the minute doing something like a PhD thesis every three or four weeks and are to be much commended for their efforts.
In 1833, William Forster Lloyd, an economist, wrote an essay in which he used the example of the unregulated grazing of common land to describe a situation where individuals acting out of self-interest in exploiting a common resource will tend to deplete that resource contrary to the common good. This “tragedy of the commons” has been mentioned by several noble Lords already, though it was more than a century later, in 1968, that the concept became widely known following a much-cited publication by the ecologist, Garrett Hardin.
Apart from economic situations, the concept applies to many biological, environmental and ecological situations and is especially relevant to fisheries. Indeed, it is even more complex for fisheries than Lloyd’s example of a piece of grazing land that is geographically fixed. In the seas, fish are not only a resource potentially accessible to many but they move around and migrate, spawning in one area and perhaps growing and feeding in another. Although post-Brexit we will have control of our exclusive economic zone, fish do not and will not respect such boundaries.
Others in the debate have already discussed this issue and many like it that must be considered in negotiating with the EU 27. However, the tragedy of the commons also applies to how, within the UK, we will manage our EEZ among the devolved nations. A coherent plan of how, post-Brexit, we want to manage our fisheries within UK waters is an essential prerequisite to how we approach our external negotiations. The fishing industry has particular and significant social and economic importance for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in different ways and in different parts of each of those countries. The economic importance of fishing to rural and coastal communities in particular is much greater than its overall contribution to UK GDP suggests. The particular needs and concerns of the devolved Administrations are important.
Several of our witnesses emphasised that Brexit provides an opportunity to design a UK-based fisheries policy better suited to UK needs. As Fishing for Leave argued, the UK could,
“implement a decent, fit for purpose management policy for the benefit of the whole UK industry ... and the coastal communities that depend upon it”.
This is a great opportunity, but equally our evidence indicated the variable priorities of the devolved nations. The importance of resolving and agreeing within and between ourselves what in toto best suits the component parts of the UK was accepted by our witnesses. Mr Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation told us that the size of the UK EEZ,
“creates a critical mass that gives ... a very powerful negotiating position, which we would wish to retain and not have diluted by any—what you might call arm wrestling north and south”.
It is thus regrettable that, quite recently, following the latest quota negotiations in Brussels, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which represents fishermen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has been publically critical of our Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, for what they regard as an unfair quota concession in favour of Scotland, to the disadvantage of the Humberside-based Fish Producers’ Organisation.
I am not competent, nor is it my role, to comment on the rights or wrongs of that particular issue, but I suggest that washing our proverbial dirty domestic linen in front of the EU is not likely to be to our collective advantage. As John Donne famously said, “no man is an island”. Ironically we are an island kingdom, but in the forthcoming negotiations we will still need to recognise the relationships with neighbouring states both within and outwith the EU, and with the adjacent parts of the UK. One hopes that before negotiations get serious, we will have worked out an optimal plan among all parts of the UK for how we are sustainably to manage the fisheries within our UK EEZ for the collective and long- term benefit of all the UK. Finally, what mechanisms have been set up to ensure that all the devolved nations have adequate input into formulating a UK negotiating position, a position that, by inclusivity, they can all support?
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and his sub-committee on their excellent and wide-ranging report. I fear that I will not heed his advice at the outset of this debate as, in common with other speakers, I will stray into the territory of future arrangements. I agree with many of the comments made by my noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas in his excellent speech, which set the scene for those future negotiations so well.
The UK became a net importer of fish in 1984, a year after the common fisheries policy and its quotas were introduced. The industry has been shrinking ever since, from 948,000 tonnes at the end of the 1970s to 451,000 tonnes in 2014. Although it is, perhaps, a small industry in terms of its 0.5% contribution to the UK’s GDP, it is still one of significant value to the 11,800 UK fishermen and the communities in which they live.
Brexit represents an opportunity to rebalance the industry back in favour of UK fishermen. While the UK will act as a single coastal state in its negotiations with the rest of Europe, domestic fisheries management activity is, as others have said, a devolved matter. It is therefore crucial that a co-operative management regime is established between the four states: Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. Any new post-Brexit domestic regime should reflect the needs and interests of all coastal communities, while ensuring the sustainability of a valuable, renewable, but—by definition—very mobile resource.
There will be significant differences between the needs of the four countries. Scotland lands the greatest tonnage of fish, generally from the largest vessels in the UK fleet. Fish constitute 3% of all Scottish exports. Wales, however—my home country—has the smallest fleet and the smallest number of fishermen in the UK, but the seafood sector is disproportionately important to many of its coastal areas. Professional sea fishing is worth millions to the Welsh economy. It was worth £7.6 million in 2015, up from £4.9 million in 2012.
Despite the huge diversity of species caught by the Welsh fishing fleet, whelks, scallops and lobsters account for some 70% of the value of landings. Indeed, I am told that many of the lobsters caught in north Wales are flown to China each Wednesday from Manchester airport. Equally, the Spanish are keen importers of Pembrokeshire lobster and the French of spider crabs. Mussels constitute 44% of landings by weight, but less than 1% of the total value. The reason for the focus on non-quota shellfish stocks is related to the value of the fish and the small size of the vessels. The industry in Wales is characterised by a large proportion—more than 90%—of small fishing vessels under 10 metres. When devising a new regime, it is vital to support local concerns operating smaller boats, the very sector that has been damaged most by EU regulations and legislation and by the current method of allocating quotas within the UK.
The UK is responsible for international negotiations. As a result of successful talks at the meeting in Brussels in December 2016, the EU Fisheries Council agreed a deal with Wales allowing the retention of selective netting within the sea bass fishery, a roll-over of the arrangements for recreational sea bass fishing and a 5% increase in the total allowable catch of commercially important skate and ray in the Bristol Channel.
I hope that as all devolved Administrations facilitate joint working with Her Majesty’s Government on the regimes to be put in place once we leave the EU due regard will also be given to the importance of recreational sea angling to the Welsh tourist industry. Studies by Bangor University in 2015 reported some 76,000 sea anglers resident in Wales, with approximately 6% of all tourists to Wales engaging in sea angling. The total annual expenditure of all sea anglers in Wales was estimated to be an average of more than £100 million, and total employment directly created from sea angling spending was estimated at 1,706 full-time equivalent jobs. Many regular tourists who visit coastal villages own small boats and lobster pots—including me, the proud owner of a 10-foot fishing boat and two lobster pots—operate in accordance with Defra regulations and are actively policed by the local fisheries authorities. In contemplating the new, post-Brexit world, it is vital that we create a regulatory framework that allows professional and recreational fishermen to continue their significant contribution to their local economies.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for introducing this report with such clarity. I am also grateful to all members of the committee, who have worked hard to produce a timely and authoritative piece of work. I echo a number of noble Lords’ comments about the usefulness to this House and the wider parliamentary process of the work that the committee has done.
If anyone was in any doubt about the complexities of the negotiations ahead, a quick read of this report would quickly expose the fact that, even in this one compact policy area, huge challenges and pitfalls lie ahead. As we go on to debate other issues in the coming months, that issue will be replicated time and again. As with so many other farming, food and environmental obligations, it becomes clear that we are bound not just by ongoing EU agreements but by other agreements beyond the EU. The future is not just about exiting one organisation, as some would have us believe—we have to think about our future in terms of all the other international agreements and obligations that we will continue to have. So I do not envy the Ministers, and their officials, who carry high expectations on their shoulders, for the many competing interests that they will have to balance, as well as for the impossibly short time that they have to come up with something better than the status quo, which is what lots of people expect of them.
The report captures very well the moveable feast of fish spawning and maturing around our waters. Unlike many other aspects of our EU trade, they truly have a mind of their own and cannot be neatly counted in and out. They can travel hundreds of miles from their breeding grounds to their feeding grounds. They do not respect borders and fisherman do not stop fishing at the end of their country’s territorial waters. This presents a real challenge to the scientists who are advising the EU on the total allowable catches for commercial fish stocks. This uncertainty is being compounded by the impact of climate change on warming sea temperatures. So what used to be the case no longer necessarily is. Fish are moving out of their old feeding grounds in search of cooler waters. The species on which the old fishing quotas are based are moving north, making the scientific system and calculations increasingly outdated. On the one hand, this could provide new opportunities for us, but only if we can negotiate new multilateral quota agreements. As we have learned in the past, there cannot be just a free-for-all, which means declining fish stocks for all, so acting unilaterally cannot, and must not, be the answer. Therefore, in that context, there are a number of challenges for our negotiators.
The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, raised the important issue of the necessity for us to eat more fish, and therefore questioned where it was going to come from. Historically, the UK has not eaten the fish caught by British fishermen: 80% is exported to other countries and four of the five biggest export countries are in the EU. Therefore, if we withdraw from the single market, as appears to be the Government’s intention, there is no guarantee of preferential access to that EU market in the years to come. In these circumstances, it seems almost inevitable that some tariffs will need to be paid. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, detailed the kinds of tariffs which have to be paid under the WTO trade schedules which are paid by others. They vary from 2% to 20% and would have a significant impact on the profitability of UK fishing fleets, as they do for the Norwegian and Icelandic fleets, for example.
At the same time, we import the majority of fish which we consume within the UK, 32% of which comes from the EU. Potentially that imported fish, of which we all want to eat more, would also be subject to EU tariffs. Therefore, the cost to us of importing and exporting fish within the EU could adversely affect profitability unless a special deal is done, which is desirable but highly unlikely given both the lack of precedent for this type of agreement and the limited timeframe we will have to negotiate it. Therefore, will the noble Lord clarify how these negotiations will be structured? Will the Government seek a comprehensive UK-EU trade agreement, of which fisheries will be only a very small part, or will there be some separate negotiations purely Fisheries Minister to Fisheries Minister, if I can put it that way? If this is the case, has the fisheries Minister had any initial conversations with his EU counterparts in the light of the fact that we do not have many precedents on which to base the discussions? Whatever strategy is adopted, what will happen if the negotiations are not completed within two years? Does he envisage a transitional agreement being put in place and, if so, what are its likely terms?
These negotiations will need to go well beyond trade and tariff agreements. Between 2014 and 2020, the EU allocated €243 million to the UK for sustainable fishing initiatives, diversifying coastal economies and training initiatives. As we know, many of our coastal communities are blighted by low pay and high unemployment, so these subsidies have been crucial to them. What will happen to those EU subsidies that they currently receive? The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations seems to think that this funding will continue post-Brexit. But, realistically, for how long are the Government able to guarantee these funds, and what will be the process for deciding priorities for subsidy post-Brexit? Perhaps the Minister could update us on the Government’s thinking on this issue, particularly in the light of the WTO restrictions on subsidies of this kind.
We then come to the issue of where our fishermen expect to be able to fish in future. During the referendum, lots of promises were made about reclaiming our waters and giving UK fishermen open access to our seas once more but, of course, this is not as simple as it first seems. As we have heard, the exclusive economic zones, when they were first agreed, took into account historical precedent of fishing activity around our shores. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, was right when he said that these arrangements cannot simply be ignored or be unilaterally cancelled when we have other international obligations which will also come into play. There would have to be a new deal with those countries claiming those historic rights.
There is a public perception of UK fishermen as brave and hardy trawlermen, and the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, captured the perils under which they operate extremely well, but, while our trawlermen are undoubtedly hard-working, the majority of the UK’s quotas have been allocated by the UK Fisheries Minister to large commercial fishing interests, which run huge factory ships off our shores. To complicate matters further, as my noble friend Lord Hanworth described, over a period, some of those vessels have been sold and are now owned by EU-based companies, giving them access to UK quotas—so-called quota hopping. I echo the question of several noble Lords to the Minister: can he clarify what will happen to those quotas post-Brexit? Will they be redistributed among UK-owned fleets, with an emphasis on supporting smaller enterprises, or will the Government continue to respect the current multinational ownership and involvement?
Finally, I hope that it goes without saying that we should continue to enforce genuine environmental and sustainability standards. The UK has played an important role in EU negotiations to strengthen the use of scientific evidence on the sustainability of fishing stock. Although that is not perfect, I believe that we have made progress in that area. I hope that we will continue to champion this approach and adopt it for our own total allowable catch limits and ensure that we continue the enforcement of a ban on discards. However, there may be other EU legislation that may no longer apply but is equally essential to sustainability in the longer term: for example, the EU’s marine strategy framework and the water framework directives, which act to keep areas where fish live in high-quality condition. I hope that the Minister can assure us that continued environmental protection in the broadest sense will be a priority for this Government and that the associated directives will be transposed unamended into UK law.
In conclusion, this report and today’s debate have once again underlined the complexities of the negotiating task ahead; the financial threat to our economy, if we are unable to secure favourable tariffs; and the fact that, whatever happens, we will need to be part of an ongoing international community if our global fish stocks are to be managed successfully. Sadly, I suspect that many people living and working in coastal communities will be unhappy with the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, because it simply will be unable to match the promises made during the campaign. In particular, this is why it is important that we do not hit a cliff edge, with all the detriment that could flow from that. It is also why it is important for everyone, including those coastal communities, to be kept informed of the progress of those negotiations.
I hope that, in responding, the Minister can indicate how the Government intend to keep us and those stakeholders with a direct interest in the loop as the discussions continue, so that there are no horrible surprises at the end of the process. I look forward to his response.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and all members of the committee for holding this inquiry on such an important issue and for the thought-provoking and timely debate today. Fisheries will be a key area in the UK exit negotiations, which give us a once-in-a-generation chance to regenerate UK fishing grounds and improve the conditions under which they are finished.
The committee’s valuable report highlights some of the complex and challenging issues. It was quite right that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, used the words “complex and challenging”, as did the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I do not underestimate those challenges because they will clearly have to be addressed if we are to make the most of this opportunity, and I welcome the debate that the report has stimulated today and which I am sure it will continue to stimulate.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, also said, since time immemorial, fishing has been a key part of the national fabric of our island race, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to our fishermen, who do such a difficult job in often dangerous conditions. My noble friend Lord Selkirk spoke powerfully and movingly about this. I know that noble Lords will join me in expressing sincere condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of fishermen who have lost their lives or are missing as a result of their work. We should never forget.
In the UK, the fishing, aquaculture and fish-processing sectors account for 34,600 jobs, and in 2015 UK vessels landed 708,000 tonnes of sea fish in the UK and abroad with a value of £775 million. The sector is economically significant to Scotland, where fish accounts for 3% of exports, as well as to local coastal communities across Wales, Northern Ireland and England. I was very pleased that my noble friend Lady Bloomfield expanded on the features of the Welsh fisheries industry and raised the issue of recreational sea angling, which is a very popular activity.
This Government take seriously their role in supporting the fishing industry. To deliver a profitable fishing industry, we must fish sustainably now and in future. This is why the UK has been at the forefront of arguments to ensure that catches are within sustainable scientific limits. In referring to some of the historical records and catches, the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, framed this very strongly. The approach we have been taking has started to bear fruit, and I am pleased that in December, at the Fisheries Council, we were able to agree a balanced package, including further increases in quotas on some valuable species, as stocks have recovered, especially in the North Sea. This year, 1 January saw the implementation of the next phase of the landing obligation to include two additional species, North Sea cod, and north-western pollock, which must now be landed and should no longer be wastefully thrown back into the sea. This is an important step towards helping the UK achieve sustainable fishing levels by 2020.
As we move towards leaving the EU, we will continue to work as constructively as we have always done with other member states and the European Commission to promote sustainable management of the seas and to safeguard the interests of the industry. In leaving the European Union we have an opportunity to build on this work to improve the health of our fish stocks and to improve their management in our waters. We want to take this opportunity to create a resilient, competitive and, ultimately, more profitable UK seafood sector and to deliver a cleaner, healthier and more productive marine environment. I very much agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said: it is very important that we have a cleaner and healthier marine environment. I was also very interested to hear my noble friend Lord Ridley’s examples of best practice.
As the committee’s report indicates, leaving the EU and the common fisheries policy means a new legal baseline on fisheries. This is something to which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred in his opening remarks. As an independent coastal state outside the EU, the UK will be fully responsible, under international law, for control of the waters in our exclusive economic zone—EEZ—and for the management of the resources within it, including fisheries. The Government will continue to champion sustainable fisheries. We are also committed to ongoing co-operation with other countries over the management of shared stocks. In future, our role in the annual setting of quotas will change fundamentally—something that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised—but our overall objective of championing sustainable fisheries and ending wasteful discards will be as strong as ever.
The committee’s report rightly points out that as an independent coastal state under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the UN fish stocks agreement, the UK will be required to manage the living resources in a sustainable way. This will include continued co-operation with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea to produce the best possible stock assessments and working within regional fisheries management organisations, such as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, and with neighbouring coastal states to ensure a fair share of quotas and proportionate and consistent enforcement measures. We will need to develop and implement a domestic fishing policy to do this. My noble friend Lady Wilcox referred to enforcement. We need to consider a wide range of issues, including how we would police an enlarged fishing zone and how that would be funded.
A number of noble Lords, particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, my noble friend Lord Ridley and the noble Baronesses, Lady Scott of Needham Market and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to quota hopping and historic rights. On quota hopping, we are aware that some sectors of the industry raised particular concerns about this. As the committee’s report rightly points out, this practice is possible because of the EU freedom of movement rules rather than the common fisheries policy. Issues of foreign ownership are indeed complex but we are looking at the rules on the economic link as part of the development of our future fisheries management arrangements.
The common fisheries policy has set the framework for managing fisheries since we joined the EU. Our exit will require the establishment of a sustainable fisheries management regime. Any UK regime we put in place will need to be underpinned by a legal framework. We are currently looking at the different options for doing this, and I assure your Lordships that we will consult on our plans when they have been further developed. We are working closely with the industry and other stakeholders to understand their priorities for reform. We are also looking closely at different fishing management regimes across the world to support the development of our policies in the UK. The committee heard from Iceland and Norway as part of the inquiry. We are keen to learn the lessons from these and other coastal states.
As a number of noble Lords highlighted in the debate, fisheries is a devolved matter which is important to all parts of the United Kingdom. My noble friends Lady Bloomfield, the Duke of Montrose and Lord Selkirk mentioned this, the latter two in particular in relation to Scotland, but I am very much aware of the interest in Northern Ireland as well. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, also mentioned the diversity within our islands: the different characteristics of fleets in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland reflecting the rich variety and abundance of species around different parts of our coast. Obviously, we must work—and are working—as closely as we have always done with our colleagues in the devolved Administrations and Crown dependencies as we develop our positions, and will ensure that their views are fully taken into account as negotiations move forward.
The committee rightly notes that even after we leave the EU, co-operation with it and other coastal states will remain of upmost importance. I hope that that will reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. For instance, we will remain a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This makes clear that coastal states control fishing within their territorial waters and EEZ but also includes obligations to co-operate with other countries to manage shared fish stocks. For instance, I am aware—the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned this—that some EU member state vessels currently enjoy historic access rights to fish in some parts of the UK’s inshore waters under the 1964 London convention. The Government are also considering this issue very carefully and will seek to resolve it as soon as possible.
Whatever our approach on access to UK waters, we recognise that most of our commercial fish stocks are shared between UK waters and those of other EU and European coastal states. We will continue to co-operate with all parties when we leave the EU to ensure that our stocks are managed sustainably and that decisions are science-based.
As the committee’s report rightly indicates, the setting of total allowable catches in line with maximum sustainable yield is an important tool for ensuring sustainable fisheries. We have always pushed for evidence-based policy which reflects the very latest science, and we will continue to do so on leaving the EU. This was a particular point that the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, rightly raised. Sharing quota is also hugely important to prevent overfishing. Under the common fisheries policy, quota is shared using the so-called relative stability mechanism, but this is based on outdated information and has resulted in some perceived unfairness in the allocation of quota. We estimate that other European countries, both EU and third countries, such as Norway, fishing in the UK EEZ account for more than 1 million tonnes of fish compared to in the region of 150,000 tonnes for the UK fleet in EU waters and third-country waters—predominantly Norway again—so there is a significant imbalance. We have commissioned work by experts at Cefas to look at zonal attachment of fish stocks and spawning grounds. This work is not yet complete but will better inform future discussions. My noble friend Lady Wilcox referred to the desirable partnership between scientists and industry. The two are highly interdependent, and we will be working with both to determine how best they can work together under a new management regime.
The committee also pointed out that a key issue in the negotiations will be access to waters. As the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, explained, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, coastal states control access by other countries’ fishing vessels to their waters out to 200 nautical miles or, where appropriate, the median line with other countries. This will be the case for the UK when we leave the common fisheries policy and so will form the basis for negotiations on access to waters and share of quota. As recognised in the report, catching statistics suggest that other EU countries benefit considerably more from access to UK waters than we benefit from access to their waters. Our best estimate is that EU vessels caught 784,000 tonnes of fish worth £578 million in revenue in UK waters in 2014. EU vessels have a clear interest in preserving access to UK waters.
The committee noted the significance of trade. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, specifically mentioned trade. Discussions are ongoing about the kind of trading relationship we want with the EU after we leave. We know how important market access is to the industry, a point which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, rightly raised. The catching and processing sectors export around £900 million-worth of fish to EU countries every year. The processing sector imports significant amounts of fish from the EU as raw material. It will therefore be crucial to secure access for imports and exports so that these sectors can continue to operate effectively in the EU marketplace.
I was particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for highlighting what a wonderfully nutritious source of food fish is. It was interesting that we had not reflected that this is a wonderful resource for our diet. It is essential that we ensure that it is a sustainable source.
We are committed to securing a balanced deal for British fishermen and processors, and we are already working closely with colleagues across government to taking our vital fishing interests forward. On leaving the EU, a key priority will be to take our own seat at the table in future international negotiations where the EU currently leads. An example is the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. The UK fleet benefits from significant pelagic fishing opportunities for species such as mackerel, herring and blue whiting under the coastal states agreements brokered by that commission. Indeed, the western mackerel fishery is the single most important for the UK fleet both by volume and value. In 2015, the UK fleet landed approximately 250,000 tonnes of fish with a value of around £160 million.
We will also be able to negotiate with fellow coastal states. The EU-Norway agreement remains the most important fishery agreement to the UK, with an estimated total annual value to the UK fleet of around £220 million in 2015. The agreement with the Faroe Islands provides additional opportunities to the UK fleet. I assure the Committee that Defra is aware in all these matters of the scale of the challenges and has already taken steps to ensure that suitable resources are in place to meet them. Not only have your Lordships had excellent officials working on this inquiry, but it has been my privilege to work with and see the many officials working on these matters at Defra. We are lucky to have such an outstanding team of officials.
It is very clear that there is a huge level of interest in the future of the UK’s fishing grounds and its industry as we leave the EU. We will continue to engage with all interests and take all views into account as we prepare for exit negotiations and begin to put new management measures in place. As your Lordships’ report rightly highlights, leaving the EU raises a number of complex issues for fisheries. We should be under no illusions that the discussions will be easy, but the negotiations also present great opportunities to set a future direction for sustainable fisheries which support our coastal communities.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and his committee for producing this really very insightful report as we proceed to negotiations. This is the first in a series of reports, and it was a great privilege to study and consider it—and it is very clear from all the remarks that have been made that it has been an outstanding committee, drawing together the expertise and knowledge which, I have to say, has always struck me as being of the essence of your Lordships’ House. The report flags up many crucial issues, such as the clear importance of working with international partners and, as I have said and many noble Lords have said also, the absolute imperative to manage our fish stocks sustainably. The sustainable management of fish stocks is the most crucial part that we need to reflect on. After all, if we do not look after our fish stocks, how will our fishing industry do all the things that we want it to do and provide that extraordinary resource of food? We have a responsibility to get this right and international commitments to maintain a healthy marine environment, which we will honour.
I can understand your Lordships wanting to know more—I probably would like to know more—but in answer to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, on arrangements, we are about to start negotiations, and it would be wrong of me or the rest of the Government to set out unilateral positions in advance, including what transitional measures might be. But I well understand your Lordships’ consuming interest in this. Over the coming months we will be devoting all our energies to securing the future of a vibrant UK industry and managing the stocks of fish in our waters. It is a complex matter, and this report has been of enormous value, as we work for a successful outcome—not only domestically, but internationally too.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for a very thoughtful reply and as I said, I also thank the Minister in the other place, George Eustice. In this area we have had more back from the Government in terms of intention, if not so much of evidence, than we have in many others. That is valuable and will help the industry to be more hopeful and confident about the way things might turn out.
Like others, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, for again bringing to our attention the fact that this is the most dangerous industry in terms of lives lost and injuries sustained. I have known people who have suffered in this regard.
The common fisheries policy is one of the most technical policy areas, and I thank everybody who has contributed to the debate for getting underneath its skin. Believe me, it makes the common agricultural policy look easy, and there are not many things you can say that about. The Minister mentioned quota-hopping—Defra may say, “That is not our problem, it is BEIS’s problem”—and historic rights, which are very much a constitutional area. Those issues will have to be resolved but that will be very hard to do, and we do not necessarily know what is happening about that.
I particularly thank the non-committee members who have contributed to the debate—the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Bloomfield. It is good to have a Welsh input, because I have to admit that we did not have a strong Welsh input on the committee. I also thank the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley. I absolutely agree about information technology and fisheries, but sometimes it is the other side which resists that in practice, not the bureaucrats. I say that from the heart. I of course thank our clerk, Celia Stenderup-Petersen, as has everybody else, who drew the report together excellently.
Finally, it seems to me there are two fundamental challenges. First, the fishing industry should not be forgotten about again. There was little forgiveness the first time that happened: if it happens a second time, there will be no forgiveness whatever. The second issue concerns a point made by our Norwegian witness. The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, mentioned individual transferable quotas, which I have long advocated to a certain degree. Some time ago I visited New Zealand, which has some of the best regimes, as does Iceland. Both those countries operate that system. However, if you do not stratify those regimes, you have a total concentration of the industry. It always helps if you have your own continental shelf, as those two nations do. However, New Zealand probably has about four fishing companies with about six vessels each. It is a fantastically successful industry but with very few participants. I am not against that but, as our Norwegian colleague said, the Government need to decide what sort of policy they want. Do they want a policy like Norway’s, that looks after coastal communities, or one like Iceland’s, that looks for total efficiency and GDP? That decision will have to be made.
Motion to Take Note
Committee adjourned at 5.38 pm.