The North sea and North Western Waters regional groups agreed a discard ban for the pelagic sector earlier this year. Those plans were subsequently approved by the European Commission and will be implemented from 1 January. The Government are now developing the regional discard plans needed to support the introduction of the demersal landing obligation from January 2016.
The landing obligation comes into effect for the pelagic fleet in three weeks’ time and the revised regulations are still not in place. Of greater concern to me, however, is that there will be no consistent compliance regime for our boats and boats from non-EU countries fishing in our waters. That is unacceptable and it is undermining confidence in the policy before it has even got under way. Will the Minister look once again at the proposals brought forward by the industry to sort this out, and speak to the Commission?
I have had many discussions with the industry on the importance of having a level playing field on enforcement. Norwegian boats and other third-country boats with access to EU waters are required to abide by the discard plan. On enforcement, we got agreement at the EU-Norway deal just last week to ensure that that is now discussed. A working group will discuss how we ensure a level playing field.