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Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 24 January 2008, Official Report, columns 2123-24W, on fisheries, (1) whether he intends to re-apply to the European Commission; whether he has had further discussions with (a) the Commission and (b) other EU member states about pelagic pair trawling; and if he will make a statement; (190466)

(2) what his estimate is of the (a) damage to marine life and (b) the numbers of cetaceans killed as a result of the European Commission turning down the request made under Article 9 of Council Regulation 2371/2002; and if he will make a statement.

Council Regulation (EC) 812/2004 requires member states to set up by-catch observer programmes in certain fisheries and present an annual report to the European Commission. The latest report submitted to the European Commission for 2006 by France reported that no by-catch was observed in the 26 tows monitored in the bass fishery in International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) areas VII and VIII.

ICES has been asked by the European Commission to look at all member states’ annual reports and they are currently in the process of doing so. When ICES advice becomes available we will consider whether further representation needs to be made to the Commission in respect of pelagic pair-trawling.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the Special Report No. 7/2007 of the European Court of Auditors on the control, inspection and sanction systems relating to the rules on conservation of Community fisheries resources; and if he will make a statement. (190470)

The European Court of Auditors report has highlighted a number of weaknesses in the control regime applicable within the European Community. Those weakness undermine the overall effectiveness of the common fisheries policy and the achievement of its objective of sustainable fisheries. We therefore welcome its publication. We also welcome the positive stance taken by the Commission in response to the report and the measures that it has already announced to simplify and harmonise the control regime. Those measures include, in the short term, improving the vessel monitoring system, introducing electronic logbooks and sales notes, improving member states’ and the Commission’s databases, enhanced cross-checking of data and the application of more effective and consistent sanctions throughout the Community. In the medium term, the Commission is working towards the publication, in October 2008, of a proposal to replace the existing Control Regulation with one designed to rationalise and standardise rules, strengthen cooperation and collaboration between member states and help to develop a culture of compliance among the industry. We intend to play an active part in the discussions to ensure that these objectives are met.