Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
In my Statement on the Welsh Fisheries Strategy on 27 March 2012, I informed members that negotiations were progressing well to reach agreement on a reformed Common Fisheries Policy. In the early hours of 13 June, the EU Fisheries Council of Ministers reached a common approach on the key proposals of a reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
The agreement will inform the further debate that will take place in the European Parliament. It is an important step toward the introduction of a reformed CFP which will see progressive measures to achieve sustainable fisheries in the EU.
Over the past year I have been pressing to ensure that our fisheries policies are more outward looking, reflecting our key role within the wider EU to sustainably manage our fish stocks, and to decentralise decision making from the European Commission so that our individual fishermen have a voice in the sustainability of their fisheries.
I attended the negotiation in Luxembourg and represented these views and those of the Welsh fishing interests. My particular concerns have been to ensure that a reformed CFP reflects the differing needs of our fishing fleet - in Wales we have a largely small scale coastal fleet which the previous CFP has failed to recognise.
I am pleased that the proposals agreed at the Fisheries Council set the framework for establishing an ecosystem-based approach for Member States to manage their fisheries. I am also pleased that the agreement rejected the Commission’s proposals for the mandatory commercialisation of quotas to seek to buy out overcapacity in larger fishing vessels. Instead the decision around the introduction of transferable fishing concessions is to be left to Member States. My concern is that this commercialisation could lead to fishing effort, which is a public good, being bought out and held by a small number of organisations that have no association with our coastal communities.
I welcome the underlying principle of the reform to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield of fisheries from 2015 and by 2020 at the latest - as part of an ecosystem based approach to Fisheries. An important tool to achieve this will be through the use of multi-annual plans to set and introduce fisheries conservation measures to achieve this goal.
The significant steps made at this Council now recognise regional differences of fisheries. The proposal establishes some tools for Member States to work together to develop management plans to achieve sustainability, tailored management solutions and to meet more local fishing practices. I welcome the political imperative from Member States and the Commission to seek to develop this as far as is achievable within the constraints of the Treaty.
There has been considerable public interest over the last year regarding discards - throwing back dead fish. This was reflected in the difficult discussions on this issue at Council. I welcome the agreement reached, by majority, which will enable us to begin to eliminate the problem of discards. This will begin in 2014 for pelagic stocks, and I feel we can work with the Presidency's suggestion to a phased approach to introduce landing obligations for mixed whitefish stocks over a three year period with an initial proposal that this should start for key species in a fishery from 2015. This timescale is both realistic and reflects the practical difficulties of implementation. However, it is important to recognise that to enable this to happen there still remains significant work to improve the collection and monitoring of landing data to ensure the industry is best placed to meet this challenge.
The agreement reached this week is a significant step forward in my aspirations to deal with the “one-size fits all” approach of the CFP through greater regionalisation and decision making at Member State level. It also moves closer to ecosystem-based fisheries management through tackling the wasteful practice of discarding dead fish and achieving maximum sustainable yield for fisheries.
I also want to record my thanks to Welsh Government Officials and to the UK Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, for their help and support in delivering these benefits for the Welsh Fishing industry.