Committee (3rd Day)
Relevant document: 6th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 14: British fishing boats required to be licensed
76ZA: Clause 14, page 11, line 12, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b)
My Lords, in moving Amendment 76ZA, I shall speak also to Amendment 86 tabled by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose, who is unable to be with us today. I have added my name to his amendment as well.
I turn first to Amendment 76ZA and I shall refer in particular to Clause 14(1) and (2). My concern is that it appears that subsection (2) actually countermands and completely detracts from subsection (1). I am raising this specifically in the context of fishing,
“for salmon or migratory trout … for common eels (Anguilla Anguilla) by a boat whose length is 10 metres or less”
I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will clarify that, in both those paragraphs, such fishing is usually for recreational purposes. I am sure that it is not the Government’s intention to stop subsection (1) applying to subsection (2), but I have information on good authority that ICES is very concerned about European eel, as stocks throughout the UK and the rest of Europe are in serious difficulties. Because eel spawns at sea, it is considered to be a single stock, so it needs to be addressed in an international context.
My noble friend will be aware that I have raised the issue of salmon stocks in the context of allowing more of the quota to go to the under-10 metre fishing fleet. Salmon is considered on a river by river basis because it spawns in rivers. Both species undergo major migrations, but effectively in opposite directions.
I hope that my noble friend will be able to clarify why subsection (2) has been drafted in this way because, if the two derogations were to be used in the way provided for here, we will end up with unregulated marine fisheries in which these already depleted stocks will create additional problems, so I hope that my noble friend can put my mind at rest on this. I understand that the Government are committed to taking the figures from ICES, so by definition they will be fairly gospel. They will be accurate because our own national authorities are feeding into the research in this regard.
I know that the Minister has been given advance notice of the reason that my noble friend the Duke of Montrose has tabled Amendment 86. It is in order to insist that the authority may require information only where such information is reasonably needed for the exercise of its function. The reason is that we do not wish for information to be received which the Government have no right to receive. I understand that, in the Government’s view, this amendment is not necessary. In the department’s view, the power to request information is related to the exercise of licensing functions, and data protection legislation provides that information may be collected only for legitimate purposes. We seek to insist that this is information relevant to the very needs of the licence. No reference is made within the schedule to the reinstatement of the licence, but we would like that information included. With that clarification, I hope my noble friend will look kindly on Amendment 86 to Schedule 3 as allowing such powers to obtain information relating only to information relevant to the purposes of the licence to be issued.
With those few remarks, I hope my noble friend will look kindly on those two amendments.
My Lords, I shall speak to my own amendments in this group–Amendments 76A and 79. One of the characteristics of this Bill is that we start to talk about recreational fishing, which is an important leisure activity—not one I indulge in myself, but one I would certainly encourage.
However, there is a big difference between someone going out in their own unpowered vessel and the charter recreational sector, which could have a significant impact on local fisheries. In a way, this is a probing amendment to better understand the Government’s view on the recreational side, but there is a strong argument that charter vessels should be licensed. They are quite substantial, have a number of people on board who are fishing recreationally, and they may be targeting certain fisheries which are significant in terms of environment and biodiversity. Although this amendment does not cover it, there might be an argument that, now that Defra has invented the very simple catch app—controversial in certain areas, but I think it is a pretty good idea—we could easily use that for this type of fishing, as that would give extra information about the types of fish that are being caught and landed in the recreational sector.
My second amendment looks at the area of capacity. It has been mentioned by many noble Lords during Second Reading that the British fleet has gone down and down in size. Of course, the prime reason for that is that the efficiency of fishing vessels has increased hugely over recent decades, so you need much fewer vessels due to their power, fishing techniques, electronics, sonar and engine power. All of those features have led to a reduction in the fleet. In the past, we have had to have decommissioning schemes to equate fishing fleet levels with available stocks. They are never the best things to do, but sometimes they are necessary.
I am trying to find out how the Government expect the capacity of the fleet to be managed. I would be interested in the Minister’s comments and he may well be able to reassure me in this area. My amendment says that there should be no additional licences granted if there is already a sufficient capacity for the fishing stocks available for the total allowable catch. We know from history that a mismatch in that area, whatever the rest of the regulations are, is highly negative to sustainability.
I will speak to Amendments 85 and 87 in my name, tabled for probing purposes. Amendment 85 concerns conditions being imposed on sea fishing licences regarding matters that are not themselves directly related to the regulation of sea fishing. I am sure there will be a number of examples of conditions that it would be both logical and reasonable to impose, and I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify for the record what these include.
Amendment 87 deals with the duty of a sea fish licensing authority to comply or not with a request submitted by another licensing authority. In paragraph 4(3) of Schedule 3, there is an exemption to the statutory duty to comply:
“unless … it is unreasonable to do so.”
This amendment merely seeks clarity from the Minister to highlight the designation between reasonable and unreasonable, as presumably the requesting authority may consider the request entirely reasonable. What steps must a fish licensing authority take when a request is denied, and is that the end of the matter? Would the licensing authority need to justify that denial and, if so, is there a timetable for this, should the requesting authority wish to follow up?
I turn now to other amendments in this group. Amendment 76ZA in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, brings into focus in my mind the interplay between farmed salmon, which is not regulated in this legislation, and the Fisheries Bill. The Norwegian Government believe that farmed salmon escapes are the biggest threat to Norway’s wild salmon population. The Scottish Government are certainly aware of the significant risk to the vital recovery of remaining west coast salmon stocks. Experts estimate that the number of escapes—often laden with disease, especially lice burdens—is around double the number of wild Atlantic salmon that return to their spawning rivers on the west coast of Scotland. During Storm Brendan in January, around 73,000 farmed salmon escaped from the open-net cage near Colonsay. I draw attention to the considerable effect this may have on west coast fisheries.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his amendments in this group. In Amendment 76A, he poses the question of whether the recreational use of a charter fishing vessel requires a full licence and in what circumstances. Would the planned exemption for recreational activities still stand? The Committee has welcomed the previous positive comments from the Minister about recreational fishing. Indeed, my comments on salmon are apposite. It is an often overlooked yet important part of our fisheries industry, reported to be valued at over £2 billion annually and supporting more than 18,000 jobs. I am grateful to David Mitchell at the Angling Trust for making contact regarding the size of recreational fishing and the economic impact it has. This merits some attention.
Finally, I thank the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, for his careful scrutiny of the provisions under Schedule 3, seeking clarity on the balance and pertinence of information required by a licensing authority.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady McIntosh for her Amendment 76ZA. I understand her interest in querying eels, salmon and migratory trout’s apparent exemption from the licensing regime, as they are all valuable and vulnerable species. However, I think I can provide the reassurances that my noble friend and other noble Lords would expect—that they are licensed and controlled.
Legislation is already in place at the devolved level to manage the licensing or authorisation of fishing for these species. In England and Wales, it is the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975, as amended by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, that already makes provision for the licensing or authorisation of fishing for salmon and eels in England and Wales. Marine Scotland does not “license” fishing in inland waters as is done in England and Wales. Salmon fishing in rivers, estuaries and coastal waters is managed by way of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003 and, more specifically, the Conservation of Salmon (Scotland) Regulations 2016, as amended annually.
For eels, the Freshwater Fish Conservation (Prohibition on Fishing for Eels) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 prohibit the taking of eel without a licence from Scottish Ministers. In Northern Ireland, the Salmon Drift Net Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 and the Salmon Netting Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 prohibited the use of any nets to catch and kill salmon and sea trout in tidal waters and inland fisheries. The Eel Fishing Regulations 2010 license only eel fishing activity using long lines and draft nets on Lough Neagh and eel weirs at Toome and Portna. Because of the state of both species, these fisheries are closely managed and heavily restricted in all four Administrations.
Should we need to vary the existing regimes in the future, the Fisheries Bill provides a mechanism for this. Clause 14(3) allows the Secretary of State to “add, remove or vary” the current exceptions by regulation. These regulations would be made based on evidence and following consultation.
I turn to Amendment 76A. According to research published in Defra’s report Sea Angling 2012, recreational fishers fishing from charter boats account for the minority of fishing days and a limited proportion of fish caught recreationally, compared with those fishing from the shore or from private boats. Research from 2015 to 2017, due to be released later this year, shows that the percentage contribution of charter boats to fish caught has remained relatively low over this period.
Measures are already in place across the United Kingdom to protect bass from recreational fishers, including those fishing from charter boats, through daily bag limit restrictions as well as via minimum landing sizes. In England, controls are also imposed through by-laws made by the inshore fisheries conservation authorities.
Taking into account the best available evidence, the Government are of the view that licensing charter boats at this stage, would be disproportionate and not driven by evidence. Instead, officials will focus on working with the recreational sector to drive improved voluntary data collection to support conservation and sustainability and, where necessary, to implement intervention at a species level.
The Fisheries Bill provides the mechanism to implement licensing in the future, should this be deemed necessary. Clause 14(3) allows the Secretary of State to “add, remove or vary” the current exceptions by regulation. This would be done based on evidence and following consultation. I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this issue, which we wish to keep under review, but I hope my explanation of where we are provides some reassurance, and I emphasise that we take all these matters into account and take them seriously.
The noble Lord’s Amendment 79 seeks to ensure that fleet overcapacity does not threaten the sustainability of fish stocks when granting licences. The common fisheries policy requires member states to take steps to ensure that their fishing fleet capacity does not exceed the fishing opportunities available to them. Each member state is obliged to provide annual reports on the status of its fleets. These reports make clear that the United Kingdom has consistently operated within the capacity ceiling.
The licence system in place in the United Kingdom is designed to ring-fence the UK fleet capacity to the level seen at the creation of the UK licensing regime in the mid-1990s. No new capacity has been created in that time. No new licences have been issued and a new entry to the fleet can take place only when another vessel is removed from it. Any new entrant to the fleet must not be larger than the vessel that was withdrawn. Any vessel owner wishing to fish in UK waters in this scenario must purchase a licence entitlement from an existing registered vessel. The requirement on the UK to limit its fleet will become part of retained EU law. In addition, as we considered last week, the sustainability objective in Clause 1 requires that the fishing capacity of fleets is economically viable but does not overexploit marine stocks.
I am grateful for the clarification from the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that his Amendment 85 is a probing amendment that seeks clarification on what conditions could be attached to licences not directly related to fishing. The wording the amendment seeks to remove was added to Section 4(6) of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 by Section 1(2) of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1992. The condition-making power in paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 3 therefore simply restates the existing position. For example, we have previously discussed the “economic link” condition, which requires all UK-licensed vessels to demonstrate a genuine economic link to the United Kingdom. The economic link is an important area that does not relate directly to fishing, as it pertains to what happens to the fish after they are caught; for example, where they can be landed, or the percentage of the crew who must be normally resident in the UK.
I also highlight that because conditions on licences is a devolved matter, this amendment would cut across the competence of the devolved Administrations, all of which I imagine would not want to lose this important fisheries management flexibility.
Amendment 86 would limit a sea fish licensing authority’s ability to request information. The purpose of the underlying provision in the Bill is to give sea fish licensing authorities the power to obtain information from a vessel master, owner or charterer. This is to ensure that they have fulfilled the requirements necessary for them to obtain and use a UK fishing licence. There may be information ancillary to the direct function of licensing the vessel that is nevertheless necessary for the authorities to request for a number of reasons. The amendment would make licensing of vessels more difficult because of the danger of not being able to identify precisely what is, and what is not, related to a licensing function. Were a restrictive approach taken, and such terms interpreted narrowly, the amendment might impair cases where an authority may genuinely need to obtain information about issues such as quota holdings and fishing patterns; for example, to help fishers establish an historical track record of fishing for particular species, which does not always relate directly to licensing.
It is important to remember that, again, the provision replicates and replaces the existing licensing framework in Section 4 of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. This is a tried and tested framework and has worked well up until now. As I said, the licensing of fishing boats is a devolved function. This amendment would go against that principle.
In addressing Amendment 87, the purpose of this clause is to prevent one fisheries administration putting in place rules that would have little or no effect on its own vessels but could be to the detriment of vessels from another fisheries administration. One example of this could be the closure of an area not fished by fishers from the administration imposing the condition but by those from another part of the United Kingdom. Another example could be prohibiting the use of a gear type used only by fishers from another part of the United Kingdom. This would clearly be to the disadvantage of one group of fishers and would not be in the spirit of the mutual access clause.
The Bill seeks to ensure that vessels from all parts of the United Kingdom can fish in each other’s waters and follow the same rules as other fishers within those waters. However, it is possible that one Administration could seek to impose unfair restrictions on another. This amendment would remove what we believe is an important safety valve to prevent a fisheries administration having to comply with an unreasonable request. I also say to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that the memorandum of understanding being developed with the devolved Administrations would be a vehicle through which Administrations can set out what is considered reasonable.
We take all amendments very seriously but I hope, particularly in this group, that noble Lords and my noble friend will feel able to reflect that all these matters are either found in other pieces of legislation or are acknowledged to be important. For the moment, I ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister, particularly for his very helpful answer on recreational fisheries matters. I felt his answer on capacity was useful, but I just want to be clear. Is he saying that after this year, even when the Bill becomes an Act, through retained common fisheries policy law, the capacity rules from the common fisheries policy will remain for the United Kingdom? That is what I understood, and I am fully reassured.
My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this little group of amendments and explained their concerns. I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister, who I hope has put my mind at rest. Obviously, this is something I will keep an eye on, and I will share his reply with the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose. With the permission of the Committee, I wish to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 76ZA withdrawn.
Amendment 76A not moved.
Clause 14 agreed.
Clause 15: Power to grant licences in respect of British fishing boats
Amendment 77 not moved.
77A: Clause 15, page 12, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) is subject to the requirement that on-board monitoring equipment and cameras be fitted in accordance with a reduction in by-catch and discards.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 77A, I will speak also to Amendment 80A. I also have a few comments on Amendment 124 from the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, which seems very sensible.
The Minister will recall my concerns on earlier clauses as to how policies such as discard charging schemes and other items will be policed. I have tabled these two amendments as a way of allowing me to debate these issues. In particular, I understand that it is quite possible—this was not news to my noble friend and other noble Lords—that a Scottish fisheries Bill may be introduced. While I understand that Clauses 15 and 17 will apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, is the discard charging scheme intended to apply only to English boats or also to foreign boats operating in UK waters? In that case, Scottish boats would be included as well. How will REM—the remote electronic monitoring—work? Is it envisaged that cameras will be included in all cases? Will it be a mandatory scheme? Will it be a statutory provision of the licence that British fishing boats under Clause 15 or foreign boats under Clause 17 require as to how it will apply? I do not see how the scheme will work if it is not mandatory and does not include cameras.
As my noble friend is aware, I am particularly exercised about the discard charging scheme. I would have preferred the original government policy, which clearly pointed to complete elimination. The purpose of these amendments is to allow my noble friend to explain how it will operate in practice. Will it apply to all British boats or only to English boats? What will the relationship be if the Scottish Parliament passes a separate fisheries Bill, and what will our relationship be with foreign fishing vessels? Will they be put on exactly the same footing and will it be a mandatory scheme? Which clauses will it apply to?
In Amendment 124, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, is doing something not dissimilar to what I am doing. He too refers to remote electronic monitoring with cameras, which, unless my noble friend can put my mind at rest about how any remote electronic scheme could work without cameras, I am keen on. Can the noble Lord tell me why he seeks to phase this in? I am much more at one with the Government, unless I have misunderstood the drafting of his amendment, which talks about this being phased in. I hope my noble friend insists that this is brought in immediately as a provision of the licencing regulatory regime.
My Lords, we come now to one of the most important groups of amendments. I was interested in the reply given by the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, to the fourth Oral Question earlier, which was about what the Government are doing to make this country an environmental leader. He went through a number of Bills which are going through at the moment, including the Agriculture Bill and the Environment Bill, before mentioning the Fisheries Bill. He is right on the first two. Under the Agriculture Bill, there is ELMS, a very radical policy to ensure that farmers who are paid a subsidy produce public goods. A lot of those are going to be focused on the environment. As the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said, as part of the Environment Bill we have net gain and nature recovery networks, both of which I applaud. They will add greatly to the environmental growth of the United Kingdom.
What does the Fisheries Bill do to enhance the UK’s environment? The withdrawal Act gave us control over the EEZ, but all the Fisheries Bill does is change one set of administrators to another, replacing a lot of objectives in the common fisheries policy with similar ones. There is nothing in this Bill that enhances the marine environment. I cannot think of anything in it, as it stands, that does that.
I think quite the contrary, because they do not co-ordinate with other adjacent EEZs. They account only for fisheries in our EEZs, not the rest of the circulation of those stocks. As they stand, they are substantially inferior—they are unable to carry out their mission. The one area where we can change this is remote electronic monitoring. That is one of the most important challenges. The Government believe in remote electronic monitoring in terms of making the discard ban effective and in terms of much better data, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, stresses far better in his amendment than I do in mine. I fully endorse what he is trying to do.
I have the privilege of chairing the House’s EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee. We did two reports on the discard ban, and it was absolutely clear that the only way to ensure best data and the implementing of the discard ban was to use remote electronic monitoring.
Just over a year ago, when the ban was fulfilled after four years of inaction within the European Union and the common fisheries policy, I went to a conference in Copenhagen attended primarily by marine scientists and people very knowledgeable about fisheries management, rather than politicians or members of the Commission. It became clear that no other nation was really enforcing the discard ban, and that no one wanted to go first on the technology that worked—remote electronic monitoring. Now that, as the Government remind us so often, we are an independent coastal state, we have the ability to take control—we will have even more control from 1 January next year—and we can implement this major form of marine conservation.
My amendment—amendments tabled by others are certainly as good—says that within a limited period, we should apply this provision to the over 10-metre fleets and then consult on applying it to the 2% to 5% of quota and the under 10-metre fleets. Obviously, remote electronic monitoring might not be appropriate for local potting vessels, so consultation is needed. The technology already exists; it is cheap, it works and it will get even better thanks to machine learning. Within probably five years, it will not be necessary to complete log books because fish species can already be identified by quantity as they come on board.
These amendments would enable the Bill to make a real change to the marine environment, so that we as a nation and an independent coastal state can take a lead and make a difference to biodiversity and the sustainability of fish stocks. That is why I believe that this amendment, together with other amendments tabled by Members, are so important and should be pursued.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who has expressed so eloquently many of the points I want to make. I shall try to avoid repeating them; nevertheless, I want to extend the argument. I agree with the noble Lord that if the Government are to make only one change to the Fisheries Bill, this should be it.
The purpose Amendment 124, in my name and those of my noble friend Lady Worthington and the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, is to ensure that all boats fishing in UK waters are fitted with remote electronic monitoring. My amendment focuses on data collection as opposed to the discard ban, but the two are not incompatible and REM would support both. If we introduce it on a phased basis and with consultation, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, suggested, it could be achieved in a way that does not disrupt the industry. It will be accepted internationally as the way to collect accurate data on what is being taken from the sea, to inform the scientific analysis of sustainability.
As the Minister said last Wednesday,
“One of the things that we must all wrestle with is that currently, we do not have adequate scientific information on all stocks and we need a better assessment”.
This will help to achieve that. The Minister also said:
“Where we cannot make such an assessment, we will gather scientific data so that such an assessment is possible”.—[Official Report, 4/3/20; cols. 652-53.]
Well, here is a method of contributing to that. Without direct on-board monitoring of fish catch, there would be a crucial gap in the scientific data on which to assess sustainable harvests. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has already said, while we were in the CFP it was argued that compelling our boats to deploy REM would put them at a disadvantage compared with fishers from other countries. That in itself tells you something about fishers’ behaviour. But now we have taken back control, we can set our own rules to require all boats in UK waters, whether or not they are UK-registered boats, to operate on a level playing field with REM fitted to their boats.
It was also argued that it was unaffordable and not suitable for smaller boats—the under 10-metre fleet. However, a recent report on the San José gillnet fishery in Peru, concluded that
“small-scale fishing vessel remote electronic monitoring offers potential for affordable at sea monitoring costs in coastal fisheries.”
I am told that there are also new technologies—the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to this—such as Shellcatch, which is cheap and easy to use. Is the Minister aware of Shellcatch and similar technologies, the use of which would be a very appropriate step for the Government to take?
The proposed new Clause in Amendment 124 would also require all boats to have GPS, so that their location is known, and it would require the establishment of a framework for monitoring and enforcement to prevent illegal fishing. The accurate collection of data is always important in fisheries management, but even more so as the Government are intent on pursuing the mistaken notion that maximum sustainable yield is the right way to manage sustainable fisheries. At Second Reading, I pointed out the folly of this proposition, but my warning did not seem to elicit a warm response, so I am going to repeat it at greater length now, for the record.
I am delighted that the notion of experts seems to be coming back into fashion, because I will refer to a number of experts in fisheries science. I first quote from two of the leading fisheries scientists of the 20th century. Canada’s P.A. Larkin, one of the leading fisheries scientists of his generation, wrote in his 1977 paper An Epitaph for the Concept of Maximum Sustained Yield:
“In many ways, it is a pity that now, just as the concept of MSY has reached a world-wide distribution and is on the verge of world-wide application, it must be abandoned.”
J.A. Gulland, who wrote the world-standard FAO manual on fisheries science, said:
“It is very doubtful if the attainment of MSY from any one stock of fish should be the objective of management except in exceptional circumstances”.
I also consulted two colleagues who are fisheries experts: Professor Marc Mangel from the University of California, arguably the top fisheries scientist in the United States, and Professor Sir John Beddington, former Government Chief Scientific Adviser and adviser to the UK Government in international fisheries negotiations. Both confirmed that MSY is not a desirable tool for fisheries management. Professor Mangel said:
“MSY as a management tool simply won’t go away, regardless of evidence that ‘managing for MSY’ has not been effective”,
“MSY is a very dangerous fishery management target unless one knows lots about the stock, about fishing mortality, and has the ability to really control fishing effort (particularly shut it down if needed). MSY is generally not used as a target in North America.”
Sir John Beddington is even blunter in his assessment that there is complete consensus among fisheries scientists that to set harvest levels at MSY is not appropriate. I apologise for going on at some length about MSY, but also note that I could have gone on a lot longer. Instead, I commend to those who would like to follow up my points a book entitled Quantitative Fisheries Stock Assessment, by Hilborn and Walters.
Sadly, the Government are committed to a misguided fisheries policy. I am not an expert fisheries scientist, but I have looked carefully at the issue and consulted experts, and the consequences of this misguided policy will be felt by UK fishers in the years ahead. I urge the Minister to listen to world fisheries experts and consider whether the Bill needs to be changed accordingly. However, I am not optimistic that the Government are prepared to do that, so, at the very least, they should agree to record properly what is being caught and where, so that when things go wrong—as they certainly will—they can change the policy. This amendment would enable the Government to do just that.
The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, asked why the amendment refers to phasing in REM rather than introducing it straight away. I have talked to people involved in this in the Chilean fishery, where REM is required on boats over 15 metres long. I was told—as was the Select Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson—that a culture change has to go with the introduction of REM. Consultation and phasing in would therefore enable the Government to achieve buy-in from the fishing industry, particularly the important, smaller boats under 10 metres long.
That does not undermine the fundamental objective: to gain accurate data to enable us to manage our fisheries, in spite of our aiming for the undesirable target of MSY. We can manage the fisheries with good data, and change the plan when the data demands it.
My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend for jumping in here, but I would like to go on for a bit to address exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has said. I could not concur more strongly with the aspersion that he made against the mantra of fishing at the level described as the maximum sustainable yield. I reiterate that it is absolutely perilous to do so.
The MSY represents an unstable equilibrium. It is akin to the equilibrium of an egg balanced on one of its ends; it is almost impossible to achieve even for an instant. One small disturbance will topple the egg, which is liable to fall on the table and break itself on a hard surface. In the case of fish stocks, that hard surface is total species extinction.
It is by an unfortunate misuse of terminology that the maximum possible harvest has acquired the misleading description of “maximum sustainable yield”. The words “maximum” and “sustainable” have specious connotations, which are spurious in this case. For a start, as I have emphasised, this level of harvesting is not sustainable. Moreover, if it could be sustained, it would not correspond to an economic optimum. To achieve this level of harvest requires an uneconomic expenditure of effort.
A vision of fish-stock ecologists is that we could harvest an ample supply of fish from an abundant stock with the least expenditure of effort. This would require the fish stocks to have an opportunity to regenerate themselves by the suspension of excessive harvesting. Such circumstances prevailed in the years immediately following the two world wars, during which fishing in European waters had been largely suspended. This did not last for long. Soon, fishing fleets armed with technological innovations were chasing an ever-diminishing supply of fish through marine deserts of the fleets’ own making.
In the face of the depletion of fish stocks, British fishermen have adhered to the myth that they have been robbed of fish by the depredations of foreign fishing fleets. They now urge the Government to give them exclusive access to our supposed national waters and to allow them to substantially increase the size of their harvests. This is a recipe for disaster. I thank my noble friend for allowing me to jump in.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend and speak to Amendment 112 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, to which I put my name—although I may now regret it, since he poked me in the eye. I will also speak to Amendment 124 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I will not repeat the arguments, which both noble Lords made so eloquently and passionately.
What is the Government’s stance on remote electronic monitoring with cameras being brought on to all vessels fishing in UK waters? Noble Lords have heard the reasons: we need to capture data on non-target and protected species and on the bycatch and discards regime, as well as better data on fish stocks to inform scientific assessments; there needs to be effective monitoring and enforcement of fisheries measures and legislative requirements; and it would provide very useful information on vessel location. The current fisheries management system is lacking in effective measures for accurately collecting data on what is caught, and lacks robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. That seems really strange in the context of the UK priding itself as a global leader in technological progress.
We can hardly stand as a world leader in the white heat of technology if we cannot see a better way of producing that data, that monitoring and that enforcement without the current stone-age solution of human observers going on to vessels and monitoring only 1% of what vessels catch—and of log books, and of surface and aerial patrols. It is really not a 21st-century solution. What improved system do the Government intend to introduce for all these purposes, which are absolutely vital in the context of our running an effective fisheries management policy, if not remote electronic monitoring with cameras on board all vessels fishing in our waters?
My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House longer than necessary. People have made the points in relation to these provisions far better than I can. I simply take this opportunity to lend my support to Amendment 124, to which I have added my name, and to repeat a quote from the conservationist EO Wilson, which I shared in my contribution at Second Reading. He said that we live in a world where
“we have Palaeolithic brains, medieval institutions and godlike technology.”
This is no more true in fisheries than in any other sector. The fisheries industry is in a complete drought as far as data and good evidence are concerned. We have godlike technology but it is currently deployed in finding the very last fish, to have it caught and brought back for consumption. We must level up the playing field. I believe that this proposed new clause, which would require the phasing in of the best and most up-to-date technology, enabling us to manage this collective action problem, should be supported. I agree with noble Lords who have said that this is one thing we could do that would be a game changer, not only in the way we manage our own fisheries but as an exemplar for other fisheries management regimes around the world. I fully support this group of amendments.
My Lords, I wish to add briefly to what has been said. This is probably the most important thing that we could do to improve the Bill. I am always happy to listen to the experts. I regard myself not even as a particularly knowledgeable amateur in the field of fisheries, but even I can see the merits of this not just for the data collection and what we are doing on bycatch but, as has been said, to put us in this country at the leading edge of what is being done. As I get a feeling that something else is about to happen, I will sit down, but the feeling from this side of the House, and my point of view, is that Amendment 124 in particular, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, is a very worthwhile amendment.
My Lords, we very much welcome the tabling of these amendments, all of which deal with the introduction of remote electronic monitoring cameras on vessels.
I say first that I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I am sorry that he felt that we did not take his comments seriously when he last made them. I certainly listened carefully to what he had to say when this was last debated. I am quite prepared to admit that maximum sustainable yield is not the best measure, but I have not read the book or the scientific treatise to which he referred. I would say back to him: if not that, then we need to find the right form of words that we can put in the Bill. We all know that we want to deliver sustainability. It does not have to be through maximum sustainable yield or, indeed, through some of the other amendments that we have elsewhere in the Bill, which talk about setting the standard above maximum sustainable yield so that there is some leeway. But if that is not the right measure, we need to find something that can practically be put in a Bill. I am very happy to talk to him and learn a bit more about how we might do that.
We agree with the noble Lord and others who have spoken that full and verifiable documentation of catch is absolutely important and can provide help with enforcement and be an added safety feature on boats. Again, I agree with particularly the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Krebs, that these amendments could be the vehicle for bringing about a major change in a Bill that in many other respects seems to maintain the status quo. They are, therefore, important amendments and we hope that we can follow them up on Report.
If the UK is to achieve its sustainable fishing goals, it needs advance data collection to allow authorities to be better informed about the true state of our fishing stocks, to ensure that quotas are set in line with the most up-to-date and accurate scientific advice. REM has the great advantage of providing data in real time, and could provide a complete snapshot of fish stocks and their movement around our waters. This could also add to our intelligence about the impact of climate change and warming waters. It could also create new economic opportunities. Historically, two-thirds of UK fishing stock has been fished beyond its sustainable limits, but better scientific advice does not necessarily mean fewer fishing opportunities. The New Economics Foundation has estimated that if catches were properly aligned with the best scientific data, the yield could actually increase to something like 45% higher landings, and an additional gross value of around £150 million across the UK coast. Better data would also allow more opportunities to classify UK-caught fish as sustainable and to qualify for the Marine Conservation Society’s approval, which could boost their sales in supermarkets and lead to more sustainability.
We therefore see the introduction of REM as a win-win for the sector. Many larger vessels already have this technology; the challenge for us is to roll this out so that it is a universal requirement for all licensed vessels fishing in our waters. Obviously, we do not want the cost to be a barrier for smaller vessels, but the cost of this equipment is coming down and the Government could help by issuing some standard specifications that would make production more efficient. We also have Amendments 113 and 120 to be debated later, which would allow financial assistance to be given to aid the gathering of scientific data that might help in this regard and could be used to subsidise REM for those on the smaller fleet.
We draw a big distinction between REM and the catch-tracking app that has been introduced by the MMO for boats under 10 metres. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, raised concerns about this in a previous debate, but I hear the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, say that he thinks it is a good idea. We will have to agree to disagree on this, because for us it seems that this has been gone about in completely the wrong way. It comes with the power to prosecute and demand heavy fines—up to £100,000—for those found to have imputed catch weights into their smartphone that are wrong by a margin of 10% or more. Many of these boats do not have accurate weighing scales on board, however, and many fishers are forced to rely on estimates, which can clearly lead to incorrect data being submitted. It feels as if a whole new layer of bureaucracy and red tape is being introduced by these measures, whereas REM would provide an independent measure of the catch.
I turn to the specifics of the amendments. Those in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, are rather absolutist in their approach, making the installation of video equipment a condition of licences being granted to both UK and foreign vessels. Amendment 112, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, offers an alternative way forward, requiring REM on vessels of more than 10 metres and commissioning a feasibility study for under-10s. Amendment 124, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, would allow a phased introduction of REM and might be the best solution if we are to find a consensus about a way forward.
Regardless of the approach, there appears to be a consensus that we should move forward towards mandatory video monitoring as part of the fight against irresponsible behaviour and for better data collection on fish stocks. I hope noble Lords will support these amendments.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for her Amendments 77A and 80A, and to other noble Lords for their amendments, which, in various ways, seek to place requirements on fisheries licensing authorities to introduce onboard monitoring equipment and cameras on British boats and foreign vessels fishing in UK waters. I reiterate that this Government remain fully committed to reducing bycatch and ending the wasteful discarding of fish. While we recognise the potential of onboard monitoring and cameras as an effective technology to monitor, control and enforce the end of wasteful discarding, Amendment 77A could divert us from taking a more appropriate, risk-based, intelligence-led enforcement approach through vessel monitoring systems and aerial surveillance, for example, as well as ones that may develop in the future, such as onboard observers or drones.
Control and enforcement, and fishing vessel licensing, are both devolved matters. The amendment cuts across devolved competence by trying to prescribe this at a UK level. It is for each devolved Administration to decide how best to control their waters, tailoring their management measures to their specific industry.
I just remind the Minister—this comes back to something the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, said—that last Wednesday, when we last discussed the Bill, the Minister made it clear that the whole area of objectives is a devolved area, yet the Government have put all those objectives in. It seems to me that the Minister is saying, “Do what I say, not what I do.” The Government have put in devolved measures, but they are saying to Parliament that we should not. I find that very difficult.
I am sorry that the noble Lord finds it difficult. The objectives have been agreed with the devolved Administrations; they have asked us to legislate with the agreement of those objectives which are in Clause 1. However, as the noble Lord knows better than I, all the things I have outlined ad nauseam about the seeking of amendments mean that they cut across the settlement we have with the devolved Administrations. I am very pleased to say that the devolved Administrations have come together, have agreed and have asked us to legislate on these matters in Clause 1 and, indeed, in the schedules that relate to those issues that the devolved Administrations would like us to deal with in the Bill.
I sense that the noble Lord and others may want it all best ways, which would mean that somehow we do not respect the fact that the devolved Administrations have it entirely in their gift to make the arrangements they so wish. For instance, my noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about the discard prevention charging scheme in Clause 29(1). This provides that
“‘chargeable person’ means—(a) the holder of an English sea fishing licence, or (b) a producer organisation that has at least one member who is the holder of an English sea fishing licence.”
We are taking measures where we can, which is where we can make those provisions, but it is entirely up to the devolved Administrations.
If the noble Lord will let me, I shall outline some of the areas where I hope he will be pleased, also, that the devolved Administrations are working on this, but it is their right to do it through their own legislation as well. I hope we will not go around in circles.
Have the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Assembly approved these measures? The Government are saying, “These are devolved areas” and have put it in a UK-wide Bill. Parliament here is doing exactly the same. We are a UK Chamber, just as the Minister’s Government are a UK Government. They have not got permission from those legislatures, so we have to take on that role ourselves. I do not take the Government’s point on this at all.
I think I will take this offline with the noble Lord, because why are those schedules in the Bill, specifically requested by the devolved Administrations, giving them the powers that we are also seeking through the Bill? The Bill comes with the working, active collaboration—as I have said almost every day in Committee and at Second Reading—of all the devolved Administrations.
No, I think I must make progress. My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised this issue but we understand there are no current proposals for a Scottish fisheries Bill. This Bill is designed to give all four Administrations the powers they need in the future, out of the common fisheries policy. This includes the powers to bring forward REM, if appropriate and after trials and consultation.
In England, trials into the use of REM for enforcement, as well as for other purposes, such as stock assessment, are ongoing. This point was referred to by the noble Baronesses, Lady Young of Old Scone and Lady Worthington. An example of this is the North Sea Fully Documented Fishery—FDF—scheme. The Fully Documented Fishery scheme employs REM systems on English-registered fishing vessels operating in the North Sea and is administered by the Marine Management Organisation. During 2019, 11 vessels participated in the scheme, receiving reserve quota as an incentive.
These trials provide valuable information not only about stocks and fishing methods, but about how to use and manage the large volumes of data gathered. As I have noted on a number of occasions, this method of piloting and evaluating is helpful in ensuring that we understand the impact of management methods. We need to understand exactly what fisheries information we could and should be collecting from REM, and, as highlighted, whether there are other technologies— I think the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to this—that could achieve better results, in our view, before mandating a system that may not be fit for purpose in the future. Therefore, the Government feel it would be prudent to wait until we have the results from these trials before confirming our approach. There are also considerable costs in dealing with and processing the vast amount of information generated through REM. The balance the UK Government are trying to achieve is a proportionate and practical approach to monitoring and enforcement.
Technologies and their utility develop at pace and we do not think it appropriate to use primary legislation to prescribe the use of particular technologies. The Bill already contains powers which will enable the UK Government and future Governments, as well as the devolved Administrations, to make full use of technology in the future.
Clause 36(4)(h) and equivalent provisions—
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, and I thank him for sitting down. The notion of an amendment proposing REM is not specifying a particular technology. As I mentioned in my introduction to Amendment 124, there are rapidly emerging technologies; I gave the example of Shellcatch, which works on your smartphone. I did not see this as prescribing a particular method, but rather saying that what we need is a system to get accurate data on what is being caught—whether it is from the point of view of the discard ban or of getting accurate harvest data to inform fisheries scientists’ modelling—without prescribing particular technologies. I just want to make it clear that I did not have a particular gadget in mind, I had the notion of using whatever was the latest technology—which will, as the Minister has said, evolve over time.
All I will say to the noble Lord is that some amendments referred to, for instance, cameras or whatever. If he will allow me, I will move into areas that might be more in tune with some of the other points. I agree with noble Lords that this is an area where the range of technologies and abilities are going to be immensely helpful in what we all want to achieve: a vibrant ecosystem, marine conservation, and sustainability.
The UK Government also recognise the effectiveness of introducing a requirement for vessels to operate a vessel monitoring system for fisheries enforcement purposes. This is a satellite-based monitoring system, which at regular intervals provides data to the fisheries authorities on the location, course and speed of a vessel. This provides a picture of fishing activity which can support targeted enforcement action, which is why it is currently a requirement for all UK-registered vessels over 12 metres in length, but this is not prescribed through primary legislation.
Defra ran a public consultation in February 2019 to introduce inshore vessel monitoring systems—IVMS—for all British fishing vessels under 12 metres in length operating in English waters. In its response to the consultation, Defra concluded that IVMS would be introduced and that it would bring forward the required statutory instrument. The requirement will also apply to all English-registered vessels wherever they are fishing. I understand that the devolved Administrations are adopting similar policy proposals; picking up on the point of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, here the devolved Administrations, entirely within their gift, are adopting similar policy proposals.
The balance the UK Government are trying to achieve is a proportionate and practical approach to monitoring and enforcement that reflects the risk of discarding. This includes factors such as the fishery being exploited, the type of gear being used and the size of the vessel. Further, in respect of Amendment 80A as it relates to foreign vessels, we are also clear that we wish to ensure a level playing field between UK-registered vessels and any foreign-registered vessels which we allow to fish in our waters. In principle, ensuring that the same standards apply to foreign vessels as to our own is a sound concept.
We wish to conclude the trials and assess them. We recognise that enhanced monitoring has huge potential benefits and I am genuinely grateful to all noble Lords who have raised this matter. It is extremely serious and we need to undertake more work to come forward with further proposals on it.
On the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on the catch certificate app, obviously the safety of fishers is paramount. While it is important that catch records be submitted as soon as practically possible, this should take place only once the vessel and its crew are in a safe place. Catch records ought to be submitted in port when it is safe to do so, not at sea. We know that most fishers operate in good faith and make efforts to comply with catch recording guidance, but I thought it helpful to say that we want to be pragmatic about these points and have an overriding objective of keeping people safe.
I turn to the requirement in Amendment 124 to develop a framework to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated—IUU—fishing. The Government agree that we should seek to eliminate IUU fishing and remain committed to co-operating globally to this end. The EU’s IUU regulation will be incorporated into UK law as retained EU law. The UK aims to be a global leader in the fight against IUU fishing.
I was interested in the exchange between the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on the fisheries management plans. I fully intend for us to have this meeting. I will ask scientists to come to it, because obviously the fisheries management plan was intended to be a new insertion into this second Bill precisely to ensure that every stock is managed and fished sustainably. I would like the opportunity, before we get too jaundiced about it, to work together with noble Lords to see, with the scientists, what we can make of it and how best to take it forward, because it is an opportunity to make sure that the management plans of all stocks are in good order.
The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, raised MSY. I am very happy to talk to him about it. MSY is—I note the number of eminent people he referred to—internationally accepted. However, if I recall right, we recognised at Second Reading that it is just one tool, which is why we have included a range of sustainability objectives in the Bill. As the noble Lord will know well, ICES provides advice about MSY. I was interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said on this. MSY is internationally accepted. I am very happy to discuss MSY with the noble Lord; it is a term used both in this country and internationally, so it would be a personal endeavour of mine to understand what other points he wishes to make.
In this context, I hope that I have explained the work already in hand on REM. We recognise that this is an extremely important area both now and for the future. We are bringing forward these proposals, but for the sake of this debate I hope my noble friend feels able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful for this debate. I am stung by the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, who said I was being absolutist—which is probably very fair—but we have had a very good discussion here.
We can trade all the experts we like. I was particularly taken by Pat Birnie, who was a one-time adviser to the then Government, and she taught me international law of the sea. I wish I retained all that she told me, for the purposes of this debate. On maximum sustainable yield, that is a wider debate that we have to have because it is my understanding, confirmed by the Minister, that we have international obligations, such as the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development which we agreed in 2002. We have to look at the wider implications of these international obligations, to which we have subscribed, in the context of moving away from the common fisheries policy to the new regime set out under the Bill.
I was delighted that my noble friend explained the results of the consultation as regards the under-10s, because that is a very particular category. I am now much more aware of why we need a lead-in period, if we are to introduce these for over-10s. This is, I am sure, something we can return to in the separate debate on the fisheries management plans and at the next stage of the Bill. In these circumstances, I thank those who contributed, I thank my noble friend for his reply, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 77A withdrawn.
Amendments 78 and 79 not moved.
Clause 15 agreed.
Clause 16 agreed.
Clause 17: Power to grant licences in respect of foreign fishing boats
Amendments 80 and 80A not moved.
House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 4.36 pm.