Skip to main content

Minister concerned EU proposals could hit fish stock sustainability

27 July 2021

Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis has revealed Government concerns that proposed changes to EU fisheries rules could result in overfishing of important stocks like mackerel and tuna in response to questions from the Commons European Scrutiny Committee.

Answering a letter from Committee Chairman, Sir William Cash, Ms Prentiss says that EU suggestions to increase approved margins of error on reporting catches ‘elevate the risk and magnitude of underreporting and overfishing with no risk of sanction’.

The European Scrutiny Committee is tasked with combing through new and proposed EU legislation and interrogating the Government for their position and plans to take up or mitigate against the impact of the new laws on the UK and raising concerns where appropriate.

Currently, margins of tolerance for mackerel and tuna stand at 10%. However, the EU’s latest plan will see these rise to 20% and 25% respectively. Ms Prentis points out that this could lead to underreporting of catches by up to 50%. The potential depletion of fish stocks could hurt fishing on both sides of the channel.

Today’s report comes after the Committee intervened, branding the scant information coming from Government on the impact of the new EU fisheries control Regulation on the UK as ‘disappointing’. After leaving the EU, the UK retained the rules, but the UK is embarking on a review as the EU Parliament and Member States negotiate the EU’s updated plans. MPs pressed home the importance of the Government outlining its position on clauses within the proposals citing the potential effect on its own fisheries review and the likely cost for businesses who need to plan to manage the new measures.

In her response, Ms Prentis also criticises the watering down of parts of the new EU Regulation that had originally required fishing vessels to install CCTV, a measure she appears to tacitly support. Ms Prentis said that the amended draft rules would only compel boats to install CCTV following discard violations, but she was concerned that infringements would not be picked up in the first place.

Noting the importance of the EU’s bid to introduce a digital database for managing catch certificates, the Committee have urged the Government to provide further information on the progress of negotiations between the EU and UK fishing body, the Marine Maritime Organisation (MMO). The new measures, known as CATCH, must also be introduced in Northern Ireland under the NI Protocol, whether or not the UK Government decides to follow suit.

More analysis from the Committee

The Committee regularly publishes reports covering proposed EU legislation across all legal and policy areas. Also included in this week’s report:

  • NI Protocol: Feeding animal protein to animals – Contains the Government’s response to concerns raised by the Committee on 23 June over EU proposals to drop laws originally implemented to protect against the risk of BSE outbreaks would restrict NI-GB trade in animal-based feeds. The Government provided assurances that trade in such goods from Northern Ireland will be allowed to continue.
  • Airport Slot Allocation and Single European Sky – The Committee seeks clarity from the Government over whether it plans to follow the EU in continuing easements on the allocation of take-off/landing slots at airports as pandemic-hit airlines continue to operate at reduced capacity as people travel less to save costs. The report also examines the potential effect of proposed changes to the EU's Single European Sky framework which aims to streamline air traffic management across Europe as the Government develops the UK's own post-Brexit aviation policy.

Further information

Image: CCO