I am pleased that the Fisheries Bill passed Commons Report stage and Third Reading this week.
The Fisheries Bill provides the framework for sustainably managing our fisheries as an independent coastal state. It ends the automatic right of access for foreign vessels granted by the Common Fisheries Policy and demonstrates our strong commitment to environmental sustainability. The Joint Fisheries Statement and associated Fisheries Management Plans will revolutionise the way we manage our fisheries. This Bill sets our direction for securing the future of our fisheries to support future generations of fishermen and coastal communities.
At Report we brought forward a package of amendments on the request of the devolved administrations, as they have now consented to the Bill. These are largely technical amendments, and include provisions to make clear the ability of devolved administrations and the Marine Management Organisation to delegate functions to each other. This supports a UK wide approach where that is appropriate and helpful. I was pleased that these amendments were welcomed during Report stage.
I also want to mention the opposition amendments on sustainability as a prime objective and on supertrawlers.
It is widely recognised that there are three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental. We must not undermine this globally recognised balance. This Bill has sustainability at its heart with six out of the eight objectives being environmentally focused. The amendment put forward by the opposition would privilege one aspect of environmental sustainability over all other considerations of economic and social sustainability. This would in turn deprioritise the other environmental objectives which are also critical.
The Joint Fisheries Statement will explain how the fisheries objectives will be delivered through our policies and balanced.
The Fisheries Bill prohibits any commercial fishing vessel, including foreign-registered vessels, from operating in UK waters without a licence once the transition period ends. It also provides powers to attach conditions, such as the areas that can be fished, species that can be caught and the type of fishing gear that can be used, to fishing vessel licences. Foreign vessels operating in UK waters will have to follow UK rules, including the conditions that are attached their commercial fishing licence. Where vessels do not comply with the conditions of their licences, action can be taken to restrict or prohibit their activities in future.
It is important to note though, that supertrawlers do not necessarily damage the features protected in Marine Protected Areas.
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will shortly launch a call for evidence on their assessments of management measures needed in four offshore and one inshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This includes Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation. This is the start of engagement in advance of management measures being put in place, and will help shape and inform the MMO’s assessments and options. We are committed to making sure that our marine life can recover and thrive – and that’s what we are doing.
During the passage of the Bill, there has rightly been interest in our approach to managing additional quota negotiated, and our commitment to the national benefit objective in the Bill which seeks to ensure that the UK benefits from fish caught in UK waters by UK boats.
I am pleased therefore, to bring to your attention three consultations which have now been published.
UK level distribution of additional quota
We are seeking views on how any additional quota secured from negotiations should be apportioned between the UK administrations in 2021. The consultation proposes that that quota could be split by geographic location of stocks, by historic uptake, by the capacity of each administrations’ fleets, by policy priorities, or by a combination of all of these options. We are working closely with the Northern Ireland Executive, Scottish Government and Welsh Government on this.
Allocation and management of additional English quota
We are separately consulting on the allocation and management of quota in England and the Crown Dependencies.
This is an opportunity for stakeholders to help shape our quota policy in 2021 and beyond, including our overall aims for quota and future quota management trials. We are explicitly looking for views on whether quota can support new entrants into the industry, and the possibility of piloting community quota management schemes, amongst other points.
Revised economic link
The economic link vessel licence condition ensures that vessels fishing against our allocation of quota benefit the UK economy. We are consulting on proposals to strengthen the licence condition, thereby increasing the contribution being made to the economy, and to coastal communities. As this is a devolved issue, the proposals will only apply to English registered vessels. We intend that changes to the economic link will apply from the start of 2022 to allow time for businesses to adapt.
Remote Electronic Monitoring
Defra intends to increase the use of Remote Electronic Monitoring (technological solutions including cameras) to help us manage and monitor our fisheries and marine environment. The support and interest for this across both Houses is clear. Defra will launch a call for evidence on expanding the use of Remote Electronic Monitoring in England very shortly. This will be followed up with a formal consultation next year.
These consultations and the call for evidence will be available on gov.uk and will be undertaking a round of engagement across England.
VICTORIA PRENTIS MP