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Saturday, 29 June 2019

The Landing Obligation - where we are right now.


Select Committee on the European Union & Energy and Environment Sub-Committee

The implementation and enforcement of the EU landing obligation


Members present: Lord Teverson (The Chairman); Lord Cameron of Dillington; Viscount Hanworth; Lord Krebs; The Duke of Montrose; Lord Selkirk of Douglas; Baroness Sheehan; Baroness Wilcox; Lord Young of Norwood Green.

Examination of witnesses transcript:

Robert Goodwill and Nigel Gooding.

Q88 The Chairman: This evidence session is around our relook at the landing obligation, but we will then move on to a broader area around quotas and sustainability.

Minister, first of all, can I very much welcome you here on your first visit to the Committee. We are very pleased to see you and to go through this particular subject with you. Can I just remind members that they should declare any interests that they have when they first speak. I also remind everybody that this is a public evidence session and is being webcast live. We will be taking a transcript and will pass it to you, Minister. If you see any inaccuracies, please let us know and we will amend them. Perhaps I could ask the Minister and Mr Gooding to introduce themselves, not just to us perhaps, but for the record.

Robert Goodwill: For the record, I am Robert Goodwill, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is very good to be here, particularly as it is the 20th anniversary of a very important incident in my life, which was my election to the European Parliament. I think, my Lord, that we passed in the doorway; as you were leaving, I was arriving.

I am pleased to have Nigel Gooding with us, who taught me everything I know about fishing but did not tell me everything he knows about fishing. He is our resident expert. It is good to be here, and I look forward to answering your questions.

The Chairman: Good, thank you. Can we start off perhaps with the fundamental question. The reason we are looking at the landing obligation again, following a report we did last year, is that we are concerned about its implementation, not just in the UK but in the broader EU. So, it came into full force, after some three years of gradual introduction, on 1 January. Minister, how do you feel it has gone so far?

Robert Goodwill: Thank you for that report, which I have read. I think it asked all the questions that I have been asking of my officials. Since 2015, the Government has worked hard with the catching sector, the wider industry and other Member States to implement the landing obligation effectively. Work has focused particularly on identifying key choke risks, and determining mitigation measures for these, as well as helping industry to understand the requirements of the landing obligation so that they can be compliant.

While a huge amount of effort has gone into this, the Government recognises that challenges remain. That is very much Sir Humphrey speak for ‘there is a lot more we need to do’. We continue to work with industry to find ways to minimise unwanted by-catch, and to work with other Member States to find solutions to chokes caused by fundamental lack of quota. Once we leave the EU, we will have greater flexibility and more options to adapt the landing obligation to meet our needs.

The Chairman: Okay. I welcome your candidness about it. I think we all recognise that is quite a challenge as a policy.

I do not know whether you have had meetings in the Fisheries Council around this recently, if perhaps you could give us a broader European context as well. Is this something that’s high on people’s agenda, or is it just that the legislation has been passed and, even at political level, it is not something that is given a great deal of attention? We slightly get the impression that maybe it is seen as being a bit too difficult, and it will sort itself out over a number of years, and in the meantime the stocks just have to cope.

Robert Goodwill: I have attended a number of Agriculture and Fisheries Councils in the three months since I was appointed, and it has not really come up. I think it is something that they put off until December, when it is all sorted out again for the next year.

I think I am a little disappointed that, for example, the amount of fish landed that would otherwise have been discarded is actually a very small amount, about 28 tonnes[1]. I would have expected a much larger figure. It may be that to some extent the fixes we have in place—the quota swaps, the de-minimis arrangements, the use of more selective fishing gear and the way we can manage the situation— may well have contributed to that low figure, but I suspect that in your report your Committee will pick on that figure and see it as one that we would like to see increased because it would indicate that the landing obligation is working, particularly as we have issued additional quota to take account of that.

In some ways, you could argue that the industry has got the additional quota to take account of the fact that there will be a landing obligation but then they are not landing that fish. I would like to have seen more progress on delivering on the landing obligation and evidence that fish that were previously being discarded being landed. That does not seem to be happening at this stage.

Nigel Gooding: If I may just add to what the Minister has said, in terms of the question about whether the issue is still at the forefront of Europe’s mind, the answer is absolutely yes. I attend regular meetings of the regional groups of Member States for the North Sea and North Western Waters that have had very strong focus on both implementing the landing obligation and trying to address some of the issues in relation to its implementation.

The December Council last year recognised that there were significant risks of choke. In particular, it advised that five stocks should be at zero TAC level. Those would have been by-catch stocks for stocks that many Member States would have been targeting. We spent many hours and days before, and during, Council trying to address that issue.

All the Member States affected, and the Commission and the Presidency are very much focused on the need to implement effectively the landing obligation. There is absolutely not a sense that I have had in my meetings in Brussels and around Europe that this is an issue that people are now forgetting about. A couple of weeks ago I was in Paris at a meeting of Member States, actually looking at solutions to improve by-catch in the North Western Waters. There are groups working on cross-European control measures. So, an awful lot of work is happening.

At December Council, the UK made a statement that we would like to see a review of the landing obligation, because we very much recognise that we have full implementation of the landing obligation and we want to see how it works and how it could be potentially improved.

The Chairman: What was the response on that? Will there be a review, or is there a timescale for it?

Nigel Gooding: We made the statement at Council and our intention now is to write to the regional chairs of the groups to try to kick off that review. We have made reference to it in meetings and their intention is now, we hope, to take it forward. It needs to be a review by all Member States, and including the Commission, as to how it is working in practice, not just in the UK but across Member States.

The Chairman: I do not want to go too far back in history, and this maybe a judgment on the European Commission, but is it not rather strange—maybe irresponsible—that this whole thing was sorted out in December Council last year, which was two weeks before the thing started, after we had had preparations for four years?

Robert Goodwill: That is how things work. We have both been in the European Parliament and in the late-night meetings when things are ironed out. From my experience, it seems that nobody makes a decision until you are virtually at the deadline. That is how it works. It is difficult for the industry that you don’t get agreement until December, at which point suddenly you have potentially new measures in place, new TACs in place and new conservation measures that people may have to comply with. So, yes, it would be much easier if we could have a more phased approach, but when we have left the European Union I cannot see that changing. We will be like Norway, negotiating as an independent coastal state, but we will still be in that particular process.

I think that the fundamental point I would make is that the landing obligation mechanism is the way we need to move forward. For years and years, everybody knew that discarding of fish of the wrong species and size or even in many cases, as I remember seeing some years ago a vessel off Hartlepool, perfectly marketable fish discarded because there were bigger fish in the last cast of the net. This was environmental vandalism. The European Union, in effect the system of the CFP, recognised that but did not have a solution. This is a solution, and we need to build on it and make this system work because it is the way forward. We need to find ways of incentivising more selective gear and incentivising more sustainable types of fishing, and the landing obligation is the key tool, together with some of the technical, electronic monitoring systems that we may wish to introduce in future, and possibly introducing the discard prevention charge.

The Chairman: We will come to some of that later.

Robert Goodwill: This is the tool we need to use to fix the problem. Going back to where we were is something we should never even consider.

The Chairman: I remind members not to get ahead of themselves in the agenda. I am sure they will not.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I hope I am not. You have mentioned twice selectivity and net technology, Minister. I would have thought that is something on which you could have evidence of. Do you know the number of boats that are using the latest technology? You said you were disappointed, understandably, about the level of discards actually landed, and then you made a reference to selectivity. What evidence do you have about the use of the latest technology in nets?

Robert Goodwill: The new nets and the new technology is available. I was in Peterhead recently and met the famous Jimmy Buchan. He was describing how, when fishing for nephrops, he has a net where haddock go up and miss the net and nephrops go down, because of the way the light affects them. That technology is there, and we need to see how we can incentivise the introduction of those better, more sustainable fishing gear types.

At the same time, we need to look at how we can help people, maybe through some grant aid, or maybe through that way that people using more sustainable gear could be able to have more of the additional quota we have allocated. At the moment the uplift, or reserve quota, has been allocated, and it is not necessarily there particularly to reward them. We have some examples with nephrops: we have a bid in at the moment, for people to bid for that reserve quota and part of that will be the type of gear they are using.

The Chairman: We will get on to some of that in a little while.

Nigel Gooding: In terms of the selectivity point, we have just finished work with a number of Member States about selectivity in North Western Waters in some of the key stocks. We are having regular meetings with industries around the coast; there was a meeting yesterday in London, talking to the leadership within the fishing industry about further measures to improve selectivity. This is growing. What we need to do is ensure that the industry recognises, as we think they do, the need for improved selectivity to avoid having to land over-quota fish.

Viscount Hanworth: At the risk of seeming obstreperous, I wish to express my scepticism. Nigel Gooding has been attending a number of Councils and policy groups, and reports that there is good consensus about the measures that are necessary to achieve sustainability, but I wonder what sort of leverage those decisions have over the national agencies of the Member States who have got to implement these measures. Do you not see a considerable lacuna here?

Nigel Gooding: There is not always consensus amongst the Member States. There is a shared view that the landing obligation is important and that we must have the right measures in place to implement it, so there is consensus around that. The detail beneath that, there is not always consensus on—for example, details around selectivity measures in shared stocks. The UK may have a view; other Member States may have a different view. We try to work those through in discussions.

In terms of the regional structure, some of the agencies that are responsible for administering, delivering and enforcing the landing obligation rules will be part of the regional structure and groups. As I mentioned before, there is a control and enforcement working group, there is a technical group that sits underneath the High Level Group that I attend and the technical group is full of people who are experts on things like gear selectivity and control and enforcement issues, so they have those discussions. Those are the experts that are in the agencies that have to deliver and enforce the rules.

The Chairman: We will come on to enforcement.

Robert Goodwill: If I may, I think one example where maybe the UK has been frustrated in its ambitions is in the introduction of remote electronic monitoring. A number of Member States are not as keen as we are to try to introduce it in an ordered way. Some countries raise data protection issues; others just see it as another measure that might restrict their national fleets. There are areas such as that, where the UK has been keen to push for better monitoring to enable us to ensure that the landing obligation works better, and we have been frustrated to an extent. Of course, when we have left the European Union, we will be in a better position to negotiate from a position of strength, in terms of access to our waters, and that may be one of the areas where we will be looking at to trying to incentivise and move forward, to get a better view of what is going on in some of those vessels.

The Chairman: We will come to that later as well.

Q89 Lord Krebs: Before I ask a question, I should declare an interest as an adviser to Marks & Spencer and Tesco.

We have touched on the subject of choke, and my question relates to choke. When we carried out our inquiry last year, we heard from the fishing industry. They thought that, as a result of choke, some fishers would have to tie up their boats, perhaps within a few weeks of the new landing obligation being implemented. The then Fisheries Minister, your predecessor, George Eustice, thought that choke would result in some parts of the fleet being tied up by the middle of the year- about now.

When we took evidence on 8 May, however, it turned out that there has not been any problem with choke. We are puzzled as to why that is. It seemed to us that there could be at least three explanations that could contribute. We have already touched on one in relation to Lord Young’s question: a magical increase in net selectivity. The second one, to which you referred, Minister, is the granting of exemptions or additional quota. The third is that fishers are simply ignoring the landing obligation, the discard ban, and are continuing to throw fish overboard.

So I wondered what your assessment is of why the choke risk has not emerged? Do you still expect the choke risk to emerge at some point later this year, and so some fishermen will have to stop fishing?

Robert Goodwill: I suppose the short answer to that question is engaging in active management and the swaps and trade-offs we can make. We do engage regularly with the industry to understand the current status of choke risks. This includes establishing a quarterly landing obligation forum to discuss uptake figures and other risks with industry and finding solutions to emerging issues.

Risks remain high in several areas, so we will continue to monitor the situation closely and take appropriate action, considering any implications for the status of particular stocks. For example, Celtic Sea haddock is a major choke risk in the south-west due to the UK’s small quota share under relative stability. Uptake so far this year is already relatively high, so we will continue to work closely with the industry to monitor the potential risk through the remainder of the year, so that is one on the radar. North Sea saithe is also a serious concern, as current uptake levels are high for this point in the year, and a 23% in-year cut in the TAC is also about to take place following updated ICES advice, further exacerbating the problem. We are looking into swapping quota with other EU Member States to address the issue.

In summary, there are still some very real choke risks this year, caused mainly by a small number of the gadoid stocks, the cod species, which are taken as by-catch.

Lord Krebs: I think that was mainly an answer to the second part of my question, about your assessment of choke risk later in the year. In answer to the first part of my question about why the choke risk has not emerged so far, as foretold in the evidence we took last year, what is your assessment of the reasons for that? I listed three possibilities: better selectivity, additional quota, quota swaps or exemptions and ignoring the landing obligation Do you have an assessment of those three?

Robert Goodwill: I think it is probably all of the above. The first two demonstrate how we can actively manage the situation to ensure that opportunities for fishing are there for fishermen; because it is not just about conserving stocks, it is about ensuring that we have a viable industry when we have rebuilt the stocks. But I have very real concerns that discarding is still taking place. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the small quantities of fish being landed that would otherwise have been discarded indicate that we still have a problem, but we need to work with the industry to enable them not only to mitigate the situation through quota stocks and the banking that can be used, but to ensure that they can develop better selectivity and work within the system. This is a system we need to make work. We certainly do not want to abandon this particular process, but we need to make it work.

I know that criticism has been levied that the industry has had since 2013 to prepare, but it is being introduced species by species and area by area, so not all the fishermen involved have had long experience of it. It was a steep learning curve for some of them when 1 January finally arrived.

Nigel Gooding: If I may just add to that. I referred earlier to the December Council. The last hearing we had was before December Council. The results of December Council managed to mitigate some of the choke risks that we were fearing before December Council. That should be added to the list of reasons why we have not seen the chokes we thought we might see in the early part of the year.

The Chairman: To come back to one of the points Lord Krebs raised, you do predict that at some point between now and the end of the year there will be a choke issue, and there will be, effectively, vessels and fishers that are affected by this and will have to tie up?

Robert Goodwill: That will depend on the availability of inter- and intra-country swaps and the other mitigation measures at our disposal. So far, we have managed to steer our way through without having to have fisheries close due to choke but, particularly for the two situations I mentioned, there is an ongoing risk.

The other issue we need to be aware of is the under ten metre fleet, which have their own problems. One of the problems your Committee raised is the monthly allocation. For some species, like pollack, for example, which is very seasonal, they can fish only a certain amount in each month, but then towards the end of the year pollack is not available. I think that is another area we need to look at to ensure that we have a vibrant under ten metre fleet, because it represents important employment in many of the most difficult areas of the country, particularly in the south-west. So I think that is something else we need to look at.

Many of these issues, particularly in terms of the 12-mile limit area, will give us new opportunities outside the European Union to manage the stocks. We have already given notice on the London Fisheries Convention, which in a month’s time will be available to us when we have left. There are pros and cons in leaving the European Union, but there are far more pros for the fishing industry than probably any other sector.

The Chairman: You are right about the representations we have had from the under ten meter fleet particularly.

Q90 Lord Young of Norwood Green: As you observed, the landing obligation was introduced because it was recognised that discards constitute a substantial waste and negatively affect the sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources, marine ecosystems and the financial viability of fisheries. We heard from Barrie Deas, from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, however, who told us that 75% of discards came from North Sea plaice and dab, both of which can still be discarded because of exemptions agreed at an EU level. This would seem to undermine the purpose of the landing obligation.

The Committee also raised concerns about the number of exemptions being granted, and whether it was consistent with scientific advice, in its report on the landing obligation.

So, in the light of that, do you believe that the current level of exemptions to the landing obligation is in line with the original objectives of the legislation? Do you hope to reduce the scale of exemptions over time? If so, when do you expect all fish subject to catch limits to be subject to the landing obligation?

Robert Goodwill: Thank you, my Lord. You mentioned, in particular, plaice and dab. There is an exemption from the landing obligation for species that have a high level of survivability. In the case of sole, plaice, skates and rays, in certain defined fisheries, as their survivability is more than 50%, they are exempted from the landing obligation. I am told that the science on that is very robust, because I was concerned that maybe there was some fixing of the figures, but I am told that that is actually very robust.

The most important area where we need to make progress is to ensure that the landing obligation is an obligation, and that species which are landed that are not within quota, are landed and that that works. At the moment, my concern is that fish are still being discarded. That is something that is of concern and regret from my point of view.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: Basically, you are saying that you are satisfied with the scientific evidence in relation to the exemptions.

Robert Goodwill: Yes.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: If you will pardon the pun, it does not let them off the hook in terms of the landing obligation. You are referring us back to your original concern, which is the level of landing obligation.

Robert Goodwill: Yes, I have pressed the science, and the same with nephrops - there are survivability issues with which I am content with. We need to ensure that we have the maximum possible science. There are some gaps in the information we have. Certainly it would be good to have more information from the under ten metre fleet about what is being caught and, also it might not be an issue in all parts of the country, we have quite a large recreational angling sector in my part of the world and the concern is that nobody is really sure what they are catching. When you look at their websites, they show massive hauls of fish: the ‘freezer filler trips’, as they describe them. I am not sure whether or not that is the case. I know that my local IFCA is trying to urge the recreational sector to give us a little bit of information. It could be anonymised and collated in a way that does not jeopardise a particular skipper’s business model.

The more science we have, the better; the more we know about what is actually going on in our fisheries, the better. We can then make informed decisions in terms of the way we continue to manage the stocks and move towards maximum sustainable yield in as many species as possible.

Nigel Gooding: If I may just add, in terms of the rigour around the exemptions, there are two exemptions: one for de-minimis and one for high survivability. They are examined very carefully by the scientific groups in the Member States before they are proposed at the regional level. We discuss them very carefully at regional level. They go through a technical group and then they go through the high-level group. Before any exemption is accepted, it then has to be examined and approved by the EU Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, which is the EU’s science committee. They can reject an exemption if they feel there is not enough science and evidence behind it. They can ask for more evidence, or they can say that the exemption will be allowed for only one year and the Member States then have to build up the evidence. There is quite a rigorous process before they are adopted into the delegated Acts.

They are often reviewed. They last for a period of time and then they are reviewed. Sometimes, if you want to renew an exemption, then you need to build up further evidence to allow it to continue.

This is something we want to keep under review. We do not want a huge number of exemptions. They have provided the balance in terms of the implementation of the landing obligation so far. It is about that balance. We have been very careful, from the UK’s perspective, not to ensure that there are exemptions for absolutely everything and that the standards are kept as high as possible. We have been pushing very hard on that point. As the Minister said, once we leave the European Union, we would wish to look at whether all or some of the exemptions should still continue to apply and, if so, for how long.

The Chairman: Do you think that there might be some that have been political ‘fudge factors’, that we’ll change once we are an independent coastal state?

Robert Goodwill: As that is a political question, I might cover that. As I think you have seen in the evidence, on the one hand there are the environmental NGOs whose priority is to build up fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield as quickly as possible. Then we have the fishermen who are keen to ensure the sustainability and, in some cases, the survival of their sector. It is not a fudge; it is a political decision that has to be made somewhere between those two parameters, to enable us to get to maximum sustainable yield in an ambitious way that, at the same time, does not destroy the industry we need to catch the fish when it is there.

My fishermen tell me that the best time for fishing ever in anyone’s memory was just after the Second World War, as soon as they had cleared the mines and the submarines were no longer lurking. Very little fishing activity had been taking place. We do not want to be in a situation where we close fisheries completely, which could devastate fishing communities. The political judgment is that the pace of building sustainable stocks needs to be cognisant of the industry itself, which we need to preserve as well. That is why these deals are done. The science is important, but we also need to ensure that we have a sustainable industry in coastal resorts.

The Chairman: Indeed. I think we have a target date to meet that.

Robert Goodwill: Yes, 2020.

The Chairman: We will move on to that later.

Q91 Baroness Sheehan: Minister, my question is in two parts. The first part is about interspecies flexibility, which allows the catch of one species to be counted against another and is something the Committee specifically expressed concerns about in its report. I understand from the Government’s response that they are drafting a policy approach to address the issue. My first part of the question: what steps are you taking to ensure that interspecies flexibility does not undermine total allowable catches set in accordance with scientific advice?

The second part of the question refers to written evidence submitted by WWF, which highlighted concerns about west of Scotland cod, for which ICES recommended a zero total allowable catch but, because of the difficulties that a zero TAC causes under the landing obligation—we have talked about fishermen’s livelihoods already—a TAC was set anyway at December Council. To what extent do you believe a desire to avoid choke risks has resulted, or could result, in fishing taking place in excess of scientifically recommended levels?

Robert Goodwill: Thank you very much indeed. Turning first to interspecies flexibility, we have opted not to use the flexibility in 2019. However, there is a risk that, by not maximising all available quota flexibility, it may encourage unreported discards, as I have already mentioned, so we will keep interspecies flexibility on the table for the future. Any future use will need to be in line with the provision for the use of interspecies flexibility under the Common Fisheries Policy, which stipulates that stocks should be in a safe biological limit at the point of that application. In terms of the second point -

Baroness Sheehan: Still on the first point, what policy steps will you be recommending?

Robert Goodwill: We have not used interspecies flexibility this year, but we still have it in our armoury to enable us to come to decisions that recognise the need to conserve stocks but also the balance that needs to be struck to ensure that we have a viable industry to catch the fish when stocks have built up.

The second part of your question was the point I made to Lord Teverson: there always has to be a balance struck between the need to act in terms of conservation, which many of those who have given evidence to your Committee say is the primary consideration, and the need to ensure that our fishing communities can be sustained. Those two are not mutually exclusive, but from time to time it requires compromises to be struck, and ambitions for reaching maximum sustainable yield to be achieved slightly later than we, or certainly people such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, would prefer.

That is the difficult decision politicians have to make, listening to the sector and the scientists to enable us to ensure that we have a situation where, as the stocks are building- which they are, the trend is in the right direction—we still have a viable industry to be able to capitalise on that resource.

Baroness Sheehan: As I understand it, it is a risk, but it is one we are prepared to take.

Robert Goodwill: It is a calculated risk, and it is a political decision because we get sometimes conflicting advice from the industry and from the science, and those compromises are struck at the Fisheries Council. Sometimes, it can be disappointing that we are not making more progress in terms of building those stocks, but if that was done at the expense of losing jobs, vessels and, in some cases, whole communities, we need to bear that in mind. That is where the wisdom of Solomon is often needed to strike the right balance. Things are moving in the right direction; we are continuing to see improvements in the stocks. The trend is in the right direction and we need to continue that.

The Chairman: As I recall, there is an obligation under the Common Fisheries Policy to meet MSY on fishing stocks by 2020. Both of us have been involved on the European side in the bad old days of the Common Fisheries Policy, and they were bad old days, when all the compromises were made every December and the politics used to trump the science. There has been a move to change that around and stocks generally, and the CFP, are better because of it. I get the impression from what you are saying that post Brexit we are likely to move back to the bad old days.

Robert Goodwill: No. If that is the impression you got, it is the wrong impression. The UK Government remains fully committed to sustainable fisheries management and the concept of maximum sustainable yield. However, we also accept that progress in receiving MSY has not been as anticipated when the 2020 target was agreed during the Common Fisheries Policy reform in 2014.

The Fisheries Bill will provide a framework to enable us to continue to push towards further stocks being fished at maximum sustainable yield and delivering our ambition for sustainable fishing in the future. Indeed, the first clause of the Bill is to enact several sustainability objectives, one of which is to restore fish stocks to levels capable of producing MSY. The Fisheries Bill further places a binding duty on the UK and devolved administrations to work in partnership and produce a Joint Fisheries Statement. That Statement must include policies for the achievement of the sustainability objectives, one of which covers MSY specifically. We are currently looking at strengthening the Fisheries Bill when it returns to the House, and to your good selves at this end, including on MSY.

The Chairman: Thank you for that clarification.

Baroness Sheehan: It seems to me, Minister, that you feel there is some latitude within the scientific advice and we that can, therefore, encroach a little on the limits they have set and take the risk. Would that be correct?

Robert Goodwill: I am not questioning the veracity of the science. The point I am making is that during the discussions at Fisheries Council in December, in the horse trading that goes on, sometimes compromises have to be struck, and other considerations—for example, the continued survival of some sectors and some fishing ports—need to be taken into account. That may in some cases mean that the achievement of MSY for some species is not as quick as many would like, but that is the very nature of the tough decisions that politicians in the Member States need to make to ensure that we have not only a sustainable ecology in our seas but a sustainable industry that will be prepared and ready to take advantage of that maximum sustainable yield that will ensure the viability of those particular ports.

Lord Krebs: I am confused by your use of the word “sustainability” because, for me, if we are looking at the long-term sustainability of the fishing industry, the fish stocks have to be healthy. What you are saying is that, in the short-term interest, we will sacrifice the health of the fish stocks to keep the fishermen in business. Surely that means that in future they will go out of business because the fish will not be there. I do not understand how you use sustainability in two apparently completely contradictory ways.

Robert Goodwill: The key word in maximum sustainable yield is the middle one—achieving a stock that is sufficiently robust that it can be fished at that sustainable level. Our ambitions are to achieve maximum sustainable yield in all the species where we wish to see it, and in all the different sea areas where that is, but the problem we have in mixed fisheries is by-catch. That is why we need the measures that we have seen in terms of de-minimis, quota swaps and exceptions where we have high levels of survivability to enable us to ensure that the industry is viable.

You could take the purist position that, acting solely on the scientific advice, you might have to close a large number of fisheries. That would have a devastating effect on the communities supported by that and so sometimes we might have to curb our ambitions slightly to ensure that we have not only a sustainable ecological situation out at sea, with maximum sustainable yield being achieved, but sustainable communities supported by those fishing industries. That is the reality. If we get an equal amount of criticism from the green groups and the fishing industry, we probably have the balance about right.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: Since our report and your response, we have had certain information from NGOs. I just want to draw to your attention the fact that, as Mr Gooding will know, at the December Fisheries Council five by-catch TACs were agreed, which related to stock that was in such a poor state that the scientific advice was that a zero catch should be set. The condition of these by-catch TACs was that we had to submit by-catch reduction plans by 30 April. Did we do that?

Nigel Gooding: Yes. Not by 30 April. The regional groups have now submitted their recommendations on the by-catch plans for North Western Waters and the five stocks in question. That was submitted last week, I think, or at the beginning of this week. They will now go to the European Commission and will be examined by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, which will give their view of the recommendations. This was a group chaired by France, as chair of the North Western Waters group. We pushed very hard for ambitious by-catch reduction plans, having consulted our industry. We shall see what the results are of the examination by STECF.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: Presumably, the plans have not yet been implemented.

Nigel Gooding: No. Member States may implement some elements of it, but this plan has been recommended to the Commission. The Commission will seek technical and scientific advice. If it is approved, it will be adopted as part of the Delegated Act and will apply for next year. That is the way the legislative process works.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: As part of our plans, bearing in mind that these are very sensitive stocks, were we going to insist on remote electronic monitoring on the boats that had privileged quota for those particular stocks?

Nigel Gooding: That is not part of the plans.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: That is a pity. The other thing that some of the NGOs mentioned, which follows on from the questions put by Lord Young, Baroness Sheehan and others, is that some stocks are subject to exemptions, as we have discussed, from the landing obligation yet TACs have been set at 100% of the ICES-advised level of total catch without any deductions for the discards. Presumably, that is the same thing as sanctioning overfishing of those stocks. That is correct, is it not?

Nigel Gooding: If you are allowed to discard some quota under a de-minimis exemption, the TAC is reduced accordingly. What we have with full implementation of the landing obligation, we have what would have been an assessment of discarding added to the TAC. Previously, the science advice would have been a TAC minus the amount of discarding, which would have been the TAC that we then share out among the Member States. With full implementation of the landing obligation, the TAC now includes what would have been discarded, so now all fish have to be landed. That is the figure we operate to.

On your question, we will continue to do science monitoring. All the Member States, CEFAS in our case, will continue to do close monitoring of the state of the stocks; they will continue close monitoring and observer work on vessels. They will be able to see whether, if there is a level of discarding is still taking place, it has an impact on the stock. There may not be a direct correlation between the two, but certainly the science advice—the ICES advice—will take account of the level of uptake from each of the stocks and the biomass for each of the stocks. It is not just taking it away and not monitoring. We are continuing to monitor; Member States will continue to monitor; and there will continue to be advice on the state of the stocks.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: But bearing in mind that there has been no real effect from the discard ban to date—in particular, for instance, undersized fish have not been brought in—it seems to me that by getting that extra quota, up to the level of 100% of the TAC, plus the exemptions, we are definitely overfishing. I cannot see how it cannot be. Would you agree?

Nigel Gooding: I would not draw that conclusion necessarily. I talked about some of the exemptions. Under high survivability, some fish can still live. If they are caught, certain fish can be returned to the sea, and they continue to live. Skate, rays and plaice are examples. And under de-minimis, the TAC is reduced to allow for the fact that there is some continual discarding. That comes to the point we were talking about earlier.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: But the TAC has not been reduced, because it has been brought back to 100%.

Nigel Gooding: The quota allocation to Member States has been reduced accordingly.

Robert Goodwill: I think the key is how we use this uplift quota, as it was called—it is now reserve quota—in an intelligent way, and how we can allocate it to people who we believe are behaving in ways that are to be encouraged. For example, we have 13 vessels, including one nephrops vessel, participating in the fully documented fisheries scheme. That is an example of how we can incentivise that type of positive behaviour. Similarly, with vessels that use more selective gear, maybe we should use uplift quota in a way that incentivises that. The Committee might have other suggestions about that additional quota, which we knew was being caught and discarded. With the landing obligation, it is now expected to be landed, but obviously it is not all landed. Perhaps it could be used as a lever to encourage more positive behaviour.

I suspect that some of those measures will be open to us only when we have left the European Union and are in a position to be a bit more decisive, as an independent state, not only with our own fishermen but with non-UK boats coming into our waters. We may be able to impose restrictions, such as electronic monitoring and the other areas that we need to move forward.

We should look at how we prioritise remote electronic monitoring, and whether it should be for bigger vessels, for those in certain sea areas, or for vessels pursuing certain species. If we introduce it, we need to do it in an ordered way. Currently, we have been held back by our EU neighbours, but it will be key to getting more information about what is happening on vessels.

The Chairman: We will come back to electronic monitoring, I am sure. We are going to move on to compliance and enforcement.

Q92 Baroness Wilcox: I have a perfectly good question here, but I have two other little ones to tick on at the end, which are my own. Here is the other one, which we officially want the answer to. Are you confident that UK fishers are complying with the landing obligation?

The Chairman: We have sort of covered that. Is there anything you want to add, Minister?

Robert Goodwill: I think 28 tonnes[2] have been landed this year, and it was a small figure last year. The evidence of those quite small quantities does not give me confidence that we are correctly applying the landing obligation. There are reasons why that may not happen; we have talked about all the de-minimis and quota swaps, and everything else. I cannot say, hand on heart, that it is being fully complied with, but we need to work with the industry to ensure that we get high levels of compliance, and I do not think that going around with a big stick hitting people is necessarily the way forward. It is about better communication, and looking at incentives, as mentioned in the answer to Viscount Hanworth, which ensure that people see a benefit in complying with the landing obligation.

Baroness Wilcox: That sounds good.

The Chairman: Did you want to ask some supplementaries?

Baroness Wilcox: Yes. We are coming out of the European Community, delightfully, because we are going to get our men in our boats fishing for fish here, and we can do it legally and properly. When we bring over people from Spain, and the rest of them - when we know that they have no fish in their own waters, all the fish are in ours - and we have a huge amount of water that they will be coming into. They have their own police, under the European Community system; they come over to fish and they have their own people, supposedly, looking after them and making sure they do not cheat. We know for sure that the Spanish just leave their police behind and do not bring them at all, and our people had to watch them taking as much fish as they wanted. I really want to see that stop.

Are we actually building enough boats to police the areas that we are going to police?

Robert Goodwill: As an independent coastal state, we will have control of our waters to the 200-mile limit, or the median line. The allocation of fishing opportunities will be subject to negotiations, in the same way as Norway, as an independent coastal state, has negotiations. That may well include some access to our waters for other vessels, but on our terms.

We have a number of fisheries protection vessels. Nigel may have the figures. Of course, if necessary, we would have recourse to other assets, possibly those controlled by the Royal Navy. I hope it will not come to another cod war in the North Sea. I hope that the negotiations we have with our EU partners, Norway, the Faroes and other stakeholders will ensure that we evolve our fishing policy in a way that does not result in that sort of conflict, as we have seen in the South-West Approaches, with boats coming in. That is not something I wish to see.

I hope we can move to a situation where we do get a fair share of our fish. There is a disproportionate amount of fishing opportunity in our waters allocated to EU boats, for historical reasons, such as the fact that we were fishing off Iceland when we joined the CFP. The species we consume in the UK, by and large, are not ones that we catch in our waters. We would also want to take into account the fact that the fish we will be able to catch need to be marketed; by and large, the majority of the fish we catch in the UK is exported, mainly to the European Union. I hope that we can move in a positive and reasonable way with our European partners. As an independent coastal state participating in the December negotiations, I hope we will have a resolution that is satisfactory to the industry and enables us to move forward, and that we get a better share of our fishing opportunity each and every subsequent year.

Baroness Wilcox: Can you tell me how many boats are being built now?

Nigel Gooding: I am afraid that I do not have the—

Baroness Wilcox: Nobody knows anything about it. Is that right?

Nigel Gooding: I would not say that nobody knows anything, but it would be a matter for the control authorities and another part of Defra. We can write to the Committee, if that would be helpful.

The Chairman: That is Lord Selkirk’s question, which we are going to come on to.

Robert Goodwill: That work has been done. As part of our no-deal Brexit preparations, we looked at what assets would be available to protect our waters. In the difficult situation following a no-deal Brexit, we would, in effect, have immediate control of our waters, and it would be up to us to police how they might be fished, pending some post no-deal Brexit accommodation, which I suspect we would have to come to.

The Chairman: Okay, I would like to keep the Committee more on the landing obligation at the moment, particularly its enforcement. Lord Selkirk has a couple of questions.

Q93 Lord Selkirk of Douglas: I shall try to put my question as concisely as possible. I have been involved in fishing for mackerel in the Forth. Whether that amounts to an interest I do not know, but it certainly was extremely interesting.

Do you believe that the United Kingdom has effective measures sufficiently in place to enforce the landing obligation? To explain the background to the question, we received evidence on 22 May from the Marine Management Organisation, who said that there was a 25% increase in inspections, and it was making greater use of aerial surveillance. Is enough being done in that connection to ensure that the measures are effective?

Robert Goodwill: Thank you for that question. I made the rash decision to give one of my local Scarborough fishermen my mobile number, and I know that inspections are taking place because every time he is boarded he complains. In that particular instance, he feels he is being picked on, so that may be some evidence, at least.

Since the start of the year, control and enforcement efforts have been enhanced to improve compliance with the landing obligation. For example, the MMO, which you mentioned, is looking at historical uptake rates, market fish grading data and discard data to identify where change has not taken place, and using that to generate a clearer picture of compliance levels. This will take time to develop but will inform risk assessments and future enforcement. Indeed, on that point, I think your earlier report talked about a potential crisis at some landing ports, where there was no capacity to deal with discards that were being landed and considered whether there was capacity for bait or industrial processing. That has not been a problem, but I would like to have seen it be a problem, because it would have been evidence of the landing obligation actually working.

The MMO is also introducing catch recording for the under ten metre sector, which will provide an opportunity better to understand the levels of fish that are caught below minimum size or discarded by the non-sector. More detailed inspections of catches at sea are also being undertaken, including my guy from Scarborough, to ensure accurate recording and counting against quota. Details have been provided to the Committee by the MMO. Going forward, the MMO will move from the initial focus on education of fishers to a more enforcement-centred approach, although challenges associated with obtaining evidence for more serious action currently remain. To remedy that, the use of remote electronic monitoring is being considered, but other methods to understand levels of compliance are being employed.

The Chairman: We are going to come on to REM in a moment, but it is interesting that the MMO commented that there was a problem with evidence. Is it your feeling that there is any way to really enforce this other than through REM? I do not want to get into REM, because we will come on to it in a minute, but is not the evidence that you actually cannot do it unless you do that? No other thing would stand up in court that allows you to enforce it at the moment. There is no other tool to do it. We have evidence that Marine Scotland has laid out two £10,000 fines in its waters, but are we not really saying that this thing is unenforceable at the moment, unless we do something pretty different?

Robert Goodwill: It is certainly difficult and a challenge. As long as we remain a member of the European Union, it will prove very difficult to get agreement. All sorts of regional issues are raised. Certainly, further conversations are required at EU level to ensure that any legal and political issues that may affect the implementation of the Control Regulation proposals are discussed and resolved.

I believe that remote electronic monitoring could have an important part to play, but we must not impose it on our UK boats and create an un-level playing field with other EU vessels that do not have to have the same technology installed. Once we are an independent coastal state, of course, we will have the ability to have much more control.

The Chairman: We will come on to that.

Robert Goodwill: We have VMS on vessels, so all boats over 12 metres report their locations. That is important, particularly, for example, for scallopers coming in where they should not, smashing up brown crab and lobster areas and towing away fleets of pots, which occasionally happens off the Yorkshire coast, much to the annoyance of the static gear fishermen who are affected. It is very destructive.

The Chairman: Yes, I think we entirely understand that in the broader context of fisheries control; it is just the landing obligation that we are discussing. Let us move on from that, with Viscount Hanworth.

Viscount Hanworth: I think you have asked my question. Do you wish me to pose it again?

The Chairman: I apologise.

Q94 Viscount Hanworth: In our report, we stated our opinion that to enforce the landing obligation effectively remote electronic monitoring was essential. I recall the Government’s opinion being that they did not wish to introduce REM unless other Member States of the European Union did the same. What progress has there been in securing EU-wide agreement on implementing REM? Beyond that, if such an agreement is not forthcoming, at what point will we take a unilateral decision to impose it on our fleet and, presumably, to require it of other people fishing in our waters? When would that happen?

Robert Goodwill: The answer is that there is slow progress, which is very frustrating. Often at EU level, we have to move at the speed of the slowest, which is very frustrating. You ask at what point we will be able to make that unilateral decision; it would be at some point after we have left the European Union, when we would be able to impose REM on some vessels, should we wish to. As a condition of fishing in our waters, we would be able to ensure that the same requirements are placed on EU vessels in our waters, and they would have to report to us rather than the EU Commission.

Of course, there are other measures that we can use to ensure better compliance. For example, in some fisheries there are no issues with the target stock, but there may be a difficult by-catch problem that could be resolved by selective gear, as I mentioned. The emphasis would therefore be to enforce the gear requirements, as we know from scientific assessment how effective that is. Using more selective gear is an important way we could move forward. As an independent coastal state, we would be in a position to have more control over the type of gear that could be used. It is encouraging that the EU itself is in the process of banning pulse fishing, which many found an unacceptable way of catching fish. The EU can make progress but often it is painfully slow.

Viscount Hanworth: In practical terms, how difficult would it be to impose REM on European Union states after Brexit? Do you see political difficulties and a big row emerging, or would it be fairly straightforward?

Robert Goodwill: It would depend on how the negotiations went forward. With the fishing opportunity in our waters, as they would be once we left the European Union, we have a lot of cards in our hand. Vessels from other EU states catch about 800,000 tonnes in our waters and we catch less than 100,000 tonnes in their waters. It would be subject to negotiation. We would need to look at which vessels it should be on first and in which sea areas, and which species are being caught, to ensure that it is done in a measured way. We would also need to look at whether any taxpayer help might be afforded to vessels installing the equipment.

As an independent coastal state, we would be in a strong position to negotiate to ensure that we can have more control over what goes on in our waters, but it would be absolutely unacceptable for us to impose REM on UK vessels when, at the same time, EU vessels fishing in our waters as part of an agreement would not have the same condition imposed on them. That has to be a red line.

Viscount Hanworth: To make a final observation, I have been thinking that pre-empting the entirety of our EEZ will create a great deal of animosity. In those circumstances, it might not be very easy to get other European fishing nations to comply with our requirement for REM. That was the thought behind my question.

Robert Goodwill: There are some who have the slightly fundamentalist view that, from day one after we have left the European Union, or after the end of the implementation period, should we have one—

Viscount Hanworth: Many fishers do.

Robert Goodwill: They think we will suddenly control all our waters. I am not sure that we have the capacity to catch all the fish anyway. We also need to consider our markets, because the majority of fish caught in our waters is marketed in the EU. There are important considerations that need to be part of the negotiation.

I wish to see evolution to a situation where we are more able to exploit the fishing stocks that are sustainable in our own waters and move to a better position. The idea that, from day one, we will have the Royal Navy out there preventing any foreign boat coming into our waters is not how things will actually work. We need to move in a much more realistic and consensual way, but the direction of travel will need to be towards getting more of our fish into our own industry. That is in no doubt at all. That is why a majority of fishermen voted to leave the European Union. They saw the unfairness of the way that relative stability allocated quota when we joined. They all said: “Ted Heath sold us out”. Actually our guys were fishing in Icelandic waters; that is why we did not have the history of fishing, which meant that we got a rough deal at the end. The cod war meant that we lost that facility, and we have always been in a difficult situation.

Negotiation is the way forward. The idea that we will unilaterally take control of every single fish in our water and get the Royal Navy to enforce that may appeal to one or two colleagues in my own party, but it is not how things are going to work.

Viscount Hanworth: That is good to hear. Thank you.

The Chairman: I am very aware of the time, and your time, Minister, because we need to go through sustainability. Can I ask everybody to be fairly short in their questions? Minister and Mr Gooding, if you can be short in your answers as well, that would be good.

Nigel Gooding: I shall be very brief. On the question about what progress is being made within Europe, discussions are happening at a technical level, at control expert level, on the technical standards that might apply to remote electronic monitoring equipment. There have been study tours and workshops, so momentum is gathering to try to overcome some of the technical and legal issues that some Member States may have about its widespread use. They are trying to address those at the moment.

The Duke of Montrose: Obviously, we have a problem in that we have a national obligation under the EU to comply with all these regulations, but is there an element where we could offer a bit of trust to the industry? I think it is parallel to the agricultural industry, in that to offer reassurance to retailers you need some kind of monitoring. We put it back to the agricultural industry to monitor itself, and we have these farm assurance and Red Tractor things going on. The fishing industry could set up its own quality monitoring system and insist that you could only get in if you had REM. It is self-financing in the farming industry. It is then a question of whether retailers will pay extra for fish that has the certificate.

Robert Goodwill: Retailers are already doing quite a lot in that direction. Responsible retailers ensure that the fish they are marketing are caught sustainably, and that applies to fish caught not only in UK and European waters but internationally. That has to be the way forward.

The Duke of Montrose: The idea would be that industry-wide recognition was offered to all those who complied, which they could monitor themselves. Fishermen who had the certificate would see who was not complying.

The Chairman: There is a feeling in the Committee that maybe, at the end of the day, it is not going to be the MMO or Marine Scotland that enforces this, but the end of the supply chain—the retailers. I think that is what the Duke of Montrose is saying. I do not know whether you have a comment on that, Minister.

Robert Goodwill: The Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls of this world have raised the agenda of sustainable fish stocks. You would need to look at the issues in the logistical system, if you are creating what is almost a higher level. At Peterhead fish market, hundreds, thousands of boxes of fish are sold. If you did not have an industry standard, there would be difficulty in ensuring that every single fish caught on a vessel with REM was actually still marketed in that way. Retailers have done tremendous work on how slaughterhouses operate and on animal welfare.

The Chairman: Do you feel that they will be key players in sorting out this issue, rather than necessarily the official enforcers?

Robert Goodwill: I do not think retailers would necessarily take the lead in the introduction of REM. We need to take the lead, but then we are creating a situation whereby we have fish stocks that could be identified by some retailers as those they wished to market as more sustainable. Fundamentally, we need to get rid of the discards and make the landing obligation work. They are obliged to land them, and they are not landing them at the moment, I suspect.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: Perhaps you could write to us on where we are with REM. Do we have a proven system that is economically viable to introduce? Secondly, where are we on aerial surveillance and the use of drones? Again, you can write if you do not have the full information now. I would be interested to know where we are on the other measures you referred to.

Robert Goodwill: As part of our no-deal preparation, we were looking at aerial assets of various kinds. It is perfectly workable to identify where a vessel is, but to actually bring a prosecution you need to be able to see exactly what is happening on board, and REM gives you that particular opportunity.

We need to work with the industry and decide which vessels should be first. Some of the very largest pelagic vessels do not actually catch a lot of by-catch, so we need to be intelligent in how we introduce the system. Maybe the Committee could come up with some suggestions as to how it could be done in a phased way that enables us to ensure that the industry can cope with the obligations placed on it. There are three aspects: the location of the boat, the gear it is towing and the evidence of what is happening on the boat. We need to ensure that we have a robust system that cannot be fiddled with, as in the days when tachographs in lorries were not electronic and you could just put in a different disc and pretend you were somebody else. We need to make sure that the system is robust. The fishermen who are doing the right thing and landing the fish will have nothing to fear from REM.

Nigel Gooding: There is a fully documented fisheries scheme operating in the North Sea. There is an annual application process, and last year about a dozen vessels participated. It is with cameras, so, essentially, it is remote electronic monitoring, and we know it works. The question is how you take such a scheme and make it work across Europe. It is about the standards and legal issues in all the different Member States. We know that the technology is there; it is just a question of how you build it up, if it is your policy decision to do so.

Robert Goodwill: Germany has some very strange—that is not quite the right word—quite restrictive data protection rules, which have been a problem in negotiation, for example.

The Chairman: Thank you. I was going to ask if you could name names, and that is one, if only for constitutional reasons.

Robert Goodwill: They are not being deliberately obstructive; it is just the fact that that is what their law says about data protection, and it has been an issue.

The Chairman: Indeed. I understand that.

Q95 Lord Krebs: The Fisheries Bill describes how we propose to continue to develop the enforcement of the landing obligation after Brexit. As far as I am aware, it does not refer to the mandatory introduction of REM, but it does refer to a discard prevention charge, which I have always been a bit puzzled about. If you say that you are going to fine people for bringing stuff ashore, in my view that would incentivise them to dump it over the side rather than bring it to shore.

Setting that on one side, what estimates have you made about the quantities of fish that are likely to be landed over quota as a result of implementing a discard charge? How great an increase in quota share would you need successfully to negotiate post Brexit to ensure that the policy did not result in overfishing?

Robert Goodwill: I noted that your previous report tried to suggest that people would just pay the fine and land the fish. I think we can all agree on the principle of the charge; it is where you set the charge, at a level that still encourages compliance but that is another incentive for people to use more sustainable methods, for example in their choice of gear.

Lord Krebs: Why does the charge encourage people not to dump the fish over the side, as they are doing at the moment, or have done in the past?

Robert Goodwill: I was just referring to the report from this Committee, which said basically that fishermen will land the fish and pay the charge as a sort of tax. There are two potential ways it could move forward.

If we have better monitoring on vessels, of course, they will not be able to discard the fish, but they might just see it as an occupational hazard; if they land fish they do not have quota for, they will pay the charge and shrug their shoulders. That will not necessarily incentivise positive behaviour.

Application of the discard prevention charge will be considered stock by stock, which will mean that the number of additional landings permitted, and the associated cost, will vary depending on the stock, its current status and the discarding situation, and the level of additional quota available for the scheme. The quota for the scheme will be drawn from the English share of the UK’s negotiated quota and a rebalancing of the UK’s current shares compared with the EU’s shares under relative stability. I cannot say precisely what level of rebalancing of quota shares will be necessary, as it will be highly variable from one stock to another.

The parameters of the scheme will be developed in consultation with the relevant parts of the industry, the MMO and scientists, to ensure that it does not result in damaging levels of overfishing, which is the point you made at the start, Lord Krebs. The Fisheries Bill sets the framework we can use to ensure that, as this is introduced, according to the various parameters to which I have referred, it can be done in a successful way.

The Chairman: Thank you, Minister. That brings us to the end of that part.

[1] Note by witness: the Minister subsequently clarified that the figure is 85 tonnes (of undersized fish landed from the beginning of the year until around the end of April)

[2] Note by witness: the Minister subsequently clarified that the figure is 85 tonnes of undersized fish


Witnesses

I: Rt Hon Robert Goodwill MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Nigel Gooding, Deputy Director for Fisheries Policy and Negotiations, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.





Examination of witnesses

Robert Goodwill and Nigel Gooding.

Q88 The Chairman: This evidence session is around our relook at the landing obligation, but we will then move on to a broader area around quotas and sustainability.

Minister, first of all, can I very much welcome you here on your first visit to the Committee. We are very pleased to see you and to go through this particular subject with you. Can I just remind members that they should declare any interests that they have when they first speak. I also remind everybody that this is a public evidence session and is being webcast live. We will be taking a transcript and will pass it to you, Minister. If you see any inaccuracies, please let us know and we will amend them. Perhaps I could ask the Minister and Mr Gooding to introduce themselves, not just to us perhaps, but for the record.

Robert Goodwill: For the record, I am Robert Goodwill, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is very good to be here, particularly as it is the 20th anniversary of a very important incident in my life, which was my election to the European Parliament. I think, my Lord, that we passed in the doorway; as you were leaving, I was arriving.

I am pleased to have Nigel Gooding with us, who taught me everything I know about fishing but did not tell me everything he knows about fishing. He is our resident expert. It is good to be here, and I look forward to answering your questions.

The Chairman: Good, thank you. Can we start off perhaps with the fundamental question. The reason we are looking at the landing obligation again, following a report we did last year, is that we are concerned about its implementation, not just in the UK but in the broader EU. So, it came into full force, after some three years of gradual introduction, on 1 January. Minister, how do you feel it has gone so far?

Robert Goodwill: Thank you for that report, which I have read. I think it asked all the questions that I have been asking of my officials. Since 2015, the Government has worked hard with the catching sector, the wider industry and other Member States to implement the landing obligation effectively. Work has focused particularly on identifying key choke risks, and determining mitigation measures for these, as well as helping industry to understand the requirements of the landing obligation so that they can be compliant.

While a huge amount of effort has gone into this, the Government recognises that challenges remain. That is very much Sir Humphrey speak for ‘there is a lot more we need to do’. We continue to work with industry to find ways to minimise unwanted by-catch, and to work with other Member States to find solutions to chokes caused by fundamental lack of quota. Once we leave the EU, we will have greater flexibility and more options to adapt the landing obligation to meet our needs.

The Chairman: Okay. I welcome your candidness about it. I think we all recognise that is quite a challenge as a policy.

I do not know whether you have had meetings in the Fisheries Council around this recently, if perhaps you could give us a broader European context as well. Is this something that’s high on people’s agenda, or is it just that the legislation has been passed and, even at political level, it is not something that is given a great deal of attention? We slightly get the impression that maybe it is seen as being a bit too difficult, and it will sort itself out over a number of years, and in the meantime the stocks just have to cope.

Robert Goodwill: I have attended a number of Agriculture and Fisheries Councils in the three months since I was appointed, and it has not really come up. I think it is something that they put off until December, when it is all sorted out again for the next year.

I think I am a little disappointed that, for example, the amount of fish landed that would otherwise have been discarded is actually a very small amount, about 28 tonnes[1]. I would have expected a much larger figure. It may be that to some extent the fixes we have in place—the quota swaps, the de-minimis arrangements, the use of more selective fishing gear and the way we can manage the situation— may well have contributed to that low figure, but I suspect that in your report your Committee will pick on that figure and see it as one that we would like to see increased because it would indicate that the landing obligation is working, particularly as we have issued additional quota to take account of that.

In some ways, you could argue that the industry has got the additional quota to take account of the fact that there will be a landing obligation but then they are not landing that fish. I would like to have seen more progress on delivering on the landing obligation and evidence that fish that were previously being discarded being landed. That does not seem to be happening at this stage.

Nigel Gooding: If I may just add to what the Minister has said, in terms of the question about whether the issue is still at the forefront of Europe’s mind, the answer is absolutely yes. I attend regular meetings of the regional groups of Member States for the North Sea and North Western Waters that have had very strong focus on both implementing the landing obligation and trying to address some of the issues in relation to its implementation.

The December Council last year recognised that there were significant risks of choke. In particular, it advised that five stocks should be at zero TAC level. Those would have been by-catch stocks for stocks that many Member States would have been targeting. We spent many hours and days before, and during, Council trying to address that issue.

All the Member States affected, and the Commission and the Presidency are very much focused on the need to implement effectively the landing obligation. There is absolutely not a sense that I have had in my meetings in Brussels and around Europe that this is an issue that people are now forgetting about. A couple of weeks ago I was in Paris at a meeting of Member States, actually looking at solutions to improve by-catch in the North Western Waters. There are groups working on cross-European control measures. So, an awful lot of work is happening.

At December Council, the UK made a statement that we would like to see a review of the landing obligation, because we very much recognise that we have full implementation of the landing obligation and we want to see how it works and how it could be potentially improved.

The Chairman: What was the response on that? Will there be a review, or is there a timescale for it?

Nigel Gooding: We made the statement at Council and our intention now is to write to the regional chairs of the groups to try to kick off that review. We have made reference to it in meetings and their intention is now, we hope, to take it forward. It needs to be a review by all Member States, and including the Commission, as to how it is working in practice, not just in the UK but across Member States.

The Chairman: I do not want to go too far back in history, and this maybe a judgment on the European Commission, but is it not rather strange—maybe irresponsible—that this whole thing was sorted out in December Council last year, which was two weeks before the thing started, after we had had preparations for four years?

Robert Goodwill: That is how things work. We have both been in the European Parliament and in the late-night meetings when things are ironed out. From my experience, it seems that nobody makes a decision until you are virtually at the deadline. That is how it works. It is difficult for the industry that you don’t get agreement until December, at which point suddenly you have potentially new measures in place, new TACs in place and new conservation measures that people may have to comply with. So, yes, it would be much easier if we could have a more phased approach, but when we have left the European Union I cannot see that changing. We will be like Norway, negotiating as an independent coastal state, but we will still be in that particular process.

I think that the fundamental point I would make is that the landing obligation mechanism is the way we need to move forward. For years and years, everybody knew that discarding of fish of the wrong species and size or even in many cases, as I remember seeing some years ago a vessel off Hartlepool, perfectly marketable fish discarded because there were bigger fish in the last cast of the net. This was environmental vandalism. The European Union, in effect the system of the CFP, recognised that but did not have a solution. This is a solution, and we need to build on it and make this system work because it is the way forward. We need to find ways of incentivising more selective gear and incentivising more sustainable types of fishing, and the landing obligation is the key tool, together with some of the technical, electronic monitoring systems that we may wish to introduce in future, and possibly introducing the discard prevention charge.

The Chairman: We will come to some of that later.

Robert Goodwill: This is the tool we need to use to fix the problem. Going back to where we were is something we should never even consider.

The Chairman: I remind members not to get ahead of themselves in the agenda. I am sure they will not.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I hope I am not. You have mentioned twice selectivity and net technology, Minister. I would have thought that is something on which you could have evidence of. Do you know the number of boats that are using the latest technology? You said you were disappointed, understandably, about the level of discards actually landed, and then you made a reference to selectivity. What evidence do you have about the use of the latest technology in nets?

Robert Goodwill: The new nets and the new technology is available. I was in Peterhead recently and met the famous Jimmy Buchan. He was describing how, when fishing for nephrops, he has a net where haddock go up and miss the net and nephrops go down, because of the way the light affects them. That technology is there, and we need to see how we can incentivise the introduction of those better, more sustainable fishing gear types.

At the same time, we need to look at how we can help people, maybe through some grant aid, or maybe through that way that people using more sustainable gear could be able to have more of the additional quota we have allocated. At the moment the uplift, or reserve quota, has been allocated, and it is not necessarily there particularly to reward them. We have some examples with nephrops: we have a bid in at the moment, for people to bid for that reserve quota and part of that will be the type of gear they are using.

The Chairman: We will get on to some of that in a little while.

Nigel Gooding: In terms of the selectivity point, we have just finished work with a number of Member States about selectivity in North Western Waters in some of the key stocks. We are having regular meetings with industries around the coast; there was a meeting yesterday in London, talking to the leadership within the fishing industry about further measures to improve selectivity. This is growing. What we need to do is ensure that the industry recognises, as we think they do, the need for improved selectivity to avoid having to land over-quota fish.

Viscount Hanworth: At the risk of seeming obstreperous, I wish to express my scepticism. Nigel Gooding has been attending a number of Councils and policy groups, and reports that there is good consensus about the measures that are necessary to achieve sustainability, but I wonder what sort of leverage those decisions have over the national agencies of the Member States who have got to implement these measures. Do you not see a considerable lacuna here?

Nigel Gooding: There is not always consensus amongst the Member States. There is a shared view that the landing obligation is important and that we must have the right measures in place to implement it, so there is consensus around that. The detail beneath that, there is not always consensus on—for example, details around selectivity measures in shared stocks. The UK may have a view; other Member States may have a different view. We try to work those through in discussions.

In terms of the regional structure, some of the agencies that are responsible for administering, delivering and enforcing the landing obligation rules will be part of the regional structure and groups. As I mentioned before, there is a control and enforcement working group, there is a technical group that sits underneath the High Level Group that I attend and the technical group is full of people who are experts on things like gear selectivity and control and enforcement issues, so they have those discussions. Those are the experts that are in the agencies that have to deliver and enforce the rules.

The Chairman: We will come on to enforcement.

Robert Goodwill: If I may, I think one example where maybe the UK has been frustrated in its ambitions is in the introduction of remote electronic monitoring. A number of Member States are not as keen as we are to try to introduce it in an ordered way. Some countries raise data protection issues; others just see it as another measure that might restrict their national fleets. There are areas such as that, where the UK has been keen to push for better monitoring to enable us to ensure that the landing obligation works better, and we have been frustrated to an extent. Of course, when we have left the European Union, we will be in a better position to negotiate from a position of strength, in terms of access to our waters, and that may be one of the areas where we will be looking at to trying to incentivise and move forward, to get a better view of what is going on in some of those vessels.

The Chairman: We will come to that later as well.

Q89 Lord Krebs: Before I ask a question, I should declare an interest as an adviser to Marks & Spencer and Tesco.

We have touched on the subject of choke, and my question relates to choke. When we carried out our inquiry last year, we heard from the fishing industry. They thought that, as a result of choke, some fishers would have to tie up their boats, perhaps within a few weeks of the new landing obligation being implemented. The then Fisheries Minister, your predecessor, George Eustice, thought that choke would result in some parts of the fleet being tied up by the middle of the year- about now.

When we took evidence on 8 May, however, it turned out that there has not been any problem with choke. We are puzzled as to why that is. It seemed to us that there could be at least three explanations that could contribute. We have already touched on one in relation to Lord Young’s question: a magical increase in net selectivity. The second one, to which you referred, Minister, is the granting of exemptions or additional quota. The third is that fishers are simply ignoring the landing obligation, the discard ban, and are continuing to throw fish overboard.

So I wondered what your assessment is of why the choke risk has not emerged? Do you still expect the choke risk to emerge at some point later this year, and so some fishermen will have to stop fishing?

Robert Goodwill: I suppose the short answer to that question is engaging in active management and the swaps and trade-offs we can make. We do engage regularly with the industry to understand the current status of choke risks. This includes establishing a quarterly landing obligation forum to discuss uptake figures and other risks with industry and finding solutions to emerging issues.

Risks remain high in several areas, so we will continue to monitor the situation closely and take appropriate action, considering any implications for the status of particular stocks. For example, Celtic Sea haddock is a major choke risk in the south-west due to the UK’s small quota share under relative stability. Uptake so far this year is already relatively high, so we will continue to work closely with the industry to monitor the potential risk through the remainder of the year, so that is one on the radar. North Sea saithe is also a serious concern, as current uptake levels are high for this point in the year, and a 23% in-year cut in the TAC is also about to take place following updated ICES advice, further exacerbating the problem. We are looking into swapping quota with other EU Member States to address the issue.

In summary, there are still some very real choke risks this year, caused mainly by a small number of the gadoid stocks, the cod species, which are taken as by-catch.

Lord Krebs: I think that was mainly an answer to the second part of my question, about your assessment of choke risk later in the year. In answer to the first part of my question about why the choke risk has not emerged so far, as foretold in the evidence we took last year, what is your assessment of the reasons for that? I listed three possibilities: better selectivity, additional quota, quota swaps or exemptions and ignoring the landing obligation Do you have an assessment of those three?

Robert Goodwill: I think it is probably all of the above. The first two demonstrate how we can actively manage the situation to ensure that opportunities for fishing are there for fishermen; because it is not just about conserving stocks, it is about ensuring that we have a viable industry when we have rebuilt the stocks. But I have very real concerns that discarding is still taking place. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the small quantities of fish being landed that would otherwise have been discarded indicate that we still have a problem, but we need to work with the industry to enable them not only to mitigate the situation through quota stocks and the banking that can be used, but to ensure that they can develop better selectivity and work within the system. This is a system we need to make work. We certainly do not want to abandon this particular process, but we need to make it work.

I know that criticism has been levied that the industry has had since 2013 to prepare, but it is being introduced species by species and area by area, so not all the fishermen involved have had long experience of it. It was a steep learning curve for some of them when 1 January finally arrived.

Nigel Gooding: If I may just add to that. I referred earlier to the December Council. The last hearing we had was before December Council. The results of December Council managed to mitigate some of the choke risks that we were fearing before December Council. That should be added to the list of reasons why we have not seen the chokes we thought we might see in the early part of the year.

The Chairman: To come back to one of the points Lord Krebs raised, you do predict that at some point between now and the end of the year there will be a choke issue, and there will be, effectively, vessels and fishers that are affected by this and will have to tie up?

Robert Goodwill: That will depend on the availability of inter- and intra-country swaps and the other mitigation measures at our disposal. So far, we have managed to steer our way through without having to have fisheries close due to choke but, particularly for the two situations I mentioned, there is an ongoing risk.

The other issue we need to be aware of is the under ten metre fleet, which have their own problems. One of the problems your Committee raised is the monthly allocation. For some species, like pollack, for example, which is very seasonal, they can fish only a certain amount in each month, but then towards the end of the year pollack is not available. I think that is another area we need to look at to ensure that we have a vibrant under ten metre fleet, because it represents important employment in many of the most difficult areas of the country, particularly in the south-west. So I think that is something else we need to look at.

Many of these issues, particularly in terms of the 12-mile limit area, will give us new opportunities outside the European Union to manage the stocks. We have already given notice on the London Fisheries Convention, which in a month’s time will be available to us when we have left. There are pros and cons in leaving the European Union, but there are far more pros for the fishing industry than probably any other sector.

The Chairman: You are right about the representations we have had from the under ten meter fleet particularly.

Q90 Lord Young of Norwood Green: As you observed, the landing obligation was introduced because it was recognised that discards constitute a substantial waste and negatively affect the sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources, marine ecosystems and the financial viability of fisheries. We heard from Barrie Deas, from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, however, who told us that 75% of discards came from North Sea plaice and dab, both of which can still be discarded because of exemptions agreed at an EU level. This would seem to undermine the purpose of the landing obligation.

The Committee also raised concerns about the number of exemptions being granted, and whether it was consistent with scientific advice, in its report on the landing obligation.

So, in the light of that, do you believe that the current level of exemptions to the landing obligation is in line with the original objectives of the legislation? Do you hope to reduce the scale of exemptions over time? If so, when do you expect all fish subject to catch limits to be subject to the landing obligation?

Robert Goodwill: Thank you, my Lord. You mentioned, in particular, plaice and dab. There is an exemption from the landing obligation for species that have a high level of survivability. In the case of sole, plaice, skates and rays, in certain defined fisheries, as their survivability is more than 50%, they are exempted from the landing obligation. I am told that the science on that is very robust, because I was concerned that maybe there was some fixing of the figures, but I am told that that is actually very robust.

The most important area where we need to make progress is to ensure that the landing obligation is an obligation, and that species which are landed that are not within quota, are landed and that that works. At the moment, my concern is that fish are still being discarded. That is something that is of concern and regret from my point of view.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: Basically, you are saying that you are satisfied with the scientific evidence in relation to the exemptions.

Robert Goodwill: Yes.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: If you will pardon the pun, it does not let them off the hook in terms of the landing obligation. You are referring us back to your original concern, which is the level of landing obligation.

Robert Goodwill: Yes, I have pressed the science, and the same with nephrops - there are survivability issues with which I am content with. We need to ensure that we have the maximum possible science. There are some gaps in the information we have. Certainly it would be good to have more information from the under ten metre fleet about what is being caught and, also it might not be an issue in all parts of the country, we have quite a large recreational angling sector in my part of the world and the concern is that nobody is really sure what they are catching. When you look at their websites, they show massive hauls of fish: the ‘freezer filler trips’, as they describe them. I am not sure whether or not that is the case. I know that my local IFCA is trying to urge the recreational sector to give us a little bit of information. It could be anonymised and collated in a way that does not jeopardise a particular skipper’s business model.

The more science we have, the better; the more we know about what is actually going on in our fisheries, the better. We can then make informed decisions in terms of the way we continue to manage the stocks and move towards maximum sustainable yield in as many species as possible.

Nigel Gooding: If I may just add, in terms of the rigour around the exemptions, there are two exemptions: one for de-minimis and one for high survivability. They are examined very carefully by the scientific groups in the Member States before they are proposed at the regional level. We discuss them very carefully at regional level. They go through a technical group and then they go through the high-level group. Before any exemption is accepted, it then has to be examined and approved by the EU Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, which is the EU’s science committee. They can reject an exemption if they feel there is not enough science and evidence behind it. They can ask for more evidence, or they can say that the exemption will be allowed for only one year and the Member States then have to build up the evidence. There is quite a rigorous process before they are adopted into the delegated Acts.

They are often reviewed. They last for a period of time and then they are reviewed. Sometimes, if you want to renew an exemption, then you need to build up further evidence to allow it to continue.

This is something we want to keep under review. We do not want a huge number of exemptions. They have provided the balance in terms of the implementation of the landing obligation so far. It is about that balance. We have been very careful, from the UK’s perspective, not to ensure that there are exemptions for absolutely everything and that the standards are kept as high as possible. We have been pushing very hard on that point. As the Minister said, once we leave the European Union, we would wish to look at whether all or some of the exemptions should still continue to apply and, if so, for how long.

The Chairman: Do you think that there might be some that have been political ‘fudge factors’, that we’ll change once we are an independent coastal state?

Robert Goodwill: As that is a political question, I might cover that. As I think you have seen in the evidence, on the one hand there are the environmental NGOs whose priority is to build up fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield as quickly as possible. Then we have the fishermen who are keen to ensure the sustainability and, in some cases, the survival of their sector. It is not a fudge; it is a political decision that has to be made somewhere between those two parameters, to enable us to get to maximum sustainable yield in an ambitious way that, at the same time, does not destroy the industry we need to catch the fish when it is there.

My fishermen tell me that the best time for fishing ever in anyone’s memory was just after the Second World War, as soon as they had cleared the mines and the submarines were no longer lurking. Very little fishing activity had been taking place. We do not want to be in a situation where we close fisheries completely, which could devastate fishing communities. The political judgment is that the pace of building sustainable stocks needs to be cognisant of the industry itself, which we need to preserve as well. That is why these deals are done. The science is important, but we also need to ensure that we have a sustainable industry in coastal resorts.

The Chairman: Indeed. I think we have a target date to meet that.

Robert Goodwill: Yes, 2020.

The Chairman: We will move on to that later.

Q91 Baroness Sheehan: Minister, my question is in two parts. The first part is about interspecies flexibility, which allows the catch of one species to be counted against another and is something the Committee specifically expressed concerns about in its report. I understand from the Government’s response that they are drafting a policy approach to address the issue. My first part of the question: what steps are you taking to ensure that interspecies flexibility does not undermine total allowable catches set in accordance with scientific advice?

The second part of the question refers to written evidence submitted by WWF, which highlighted concerns about west of Scotland cod, for which ICES recommended a zero total allowable catch but, because of the difficulties that a zero TAC causes under the landing obligation—we have talked about fishermen’s livelihoods already—a TAC was set anyway at December Council. To what extent do you believe a desire to avoid choke risks has resulted, or could result, in fishing taking place in excess of scientifically recommended levels?

Robert Goodwill: Thank you very much indeed. Turning first to interspecies flexibility, we have opted not to use the flexibility in 2019. However, there is a risk that, by not maximising all available quota flexibility, it may encourage unreported discards, as I have already mentioned, so we will keep interspecies flexibility on the table for the future. Any future use will need to be in line with the provision for the use of interspecies flexibility under the Common Fisheries Policy, which stipulates that stocks should be in a safe biological limit at the point of that application. In terms of the second point -

Baroness Sheehan: Still on the first point, what policy steps will you be recommending?

Robert Goodwill: We have not used interspecies flexibility this year, but we still have it in our armoury to enable us to come to decisions that recognise the need to conserve stocks but also the balance that needs to be struck to ensure that we have a viable industry to catch the fish when stocks have built up.

The second part of your question was the point I made to Lord Teverson: there always has to be a balance struck between the need to act in terms of conservation, which many of those who have given evidence to your Committee say is the primary consideration, and the need to ensure that our fishing communities can be sustained. Those two are not mutually exclusive, but from time to time it requires compromises to be struck, and ambitions for reaching maximum sustainable yield to be achieved slightly later than we, or certainly people such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, would prefer.

That is the difficult decision politicians have to make, listening to the sector and the scientists to enable us to ensure that we have a situation where, as the stocks are building- which they are, the trend is in the right direction—we still have a viable industry to be able to capitalise on that resource.

Baroness Sheehan: As I understand it, it is a risk, but it is one we are prepared to take.

Robert Goodwill: It is a calculated risk, and it is a political decision because we get sometimes conflicting advice from the industry and from the science, and those compromises are struck at the Fisheries Council. Sometimes, it can be disappointing that we are not making more progress in terms of building those stocks, but if that was done at the expense of losing jobs, vessels and, in some cases, whole communities, we need to bear that in mind. That is where the wisdom of Solomon is often needed to strike the right balance. Things are moving in the right direction; we are continuing to see improvements in the stocks. The trend is in the right direction and we need to continue that.

The Chairman: As I recall, there is an obligation under the Common Fisheries Policy to meet MSY on fishing stocks by 2020. Both of us have been involved on the European side in the bad old days of the Common Fisheries Policy, and they were bad old days, when all the compromises were made every December and the politics used to trump the science. There has been a move to change that around and stocks generally, and the CFP, are better because of it. I get the impression from what you are saying that post Brexit we are likely to move back to the bad old days.

Robert Goodwill: No. If that is the impression you got, it is the wrong impression. The UK Government remains fully committed to sustainable fisheries management and the concept of maximum sustainable yield. However, we also accept that progress in receiving MSY has not been as anticipated when the 2020 target was agreed during the Common Fisheries Policy reform in 2014.

The Fisheries Bill will provide a framework to enable us to continue to push towards further stocks being fished at maximum sustainable yield and delivering our ambition for sustainable fishing in the future. Indeed, the first clause of the Bill is to enact several sustainability objectives, one of which is to restore fish stocks to levels capable of producing MSY. The Fisheries Bill further places a binding duty on the UK and devolved administrations to work in partnership and produce a Joint Fisheries Statement. That Statement must include policies for the achievement of the sustainability objectives, one of which covers MSY specifically. We are currently looking at strengthening the Fisheries Bill when it returns to the House, and to your good selves at this end, including on MSY.

The Chairman: Thank you for that clarification.

Baroness Sheehan: It seems to me, Minister, that you feel there is some latitude within the scientific advice and we that can, therefore, encroach a little on the limits they have set and take the risk. Would that be correct?

Robert Goodwill: I am not questioning the veracity of the science. The point I am making is that during the discussions at Fisheries Council in December, in the horse trading that goes on, sometimes compromises have to be struck, and other considerations—for example, the continued survival of some sectors and some fishing ports—need to be taken into account. That may in some cases mean that the achievement of MSY for some species is not as quick as many would like, but that is the very nature of the tough decisions that politicians in the Member States need to make to ensure that we have not only a sustainable ecology in our seas but a sustainable industry that will be prepared and ready to take advantage of that maximum sustainable yield that will ensure the viability of those particular ports.

Lord Krebs: I am confused by your use of the word “sustainability” because, for me, if we are looking at the long-term sustainability of the fishing industry, the fish stocks have to be healthy. What you are saying is that, in the short-term interest, we will sacrifice the health of the fish stocks to keep the fishermen in business. Surely that means that in future they will go out of business because the fish will not be there. I do not understand how you use sustainability in two apparently completely contradictory ways.

Robert Goodwill: The key word in maximum sustainable yield is the middle one—achieving a stock that is sufficiently robust that it can be fished at that sustainable level. Our ambitions are to achieve maximum sustainable yield in all the species where we wish to see it, and in all the different sea areas where that is, but the problem we have in mixed fisheries is by-catch. That is why we need the measures that we have seen in terms of de-minimis, quota swaps and exceptions where we have high levels of survivability to enable us to ensure that the industry is viable.

You could take the purist position that, acting solely on the scientific advice, you might have to close a large number of fisheries. That would have a devastating effect on the communities supported by that and so sometimes we might have to curb our ambitions slightly to ensure that we have not only a sustainable ecological situation out at sea, with maximum sustainable yield being achieved, but sustainable communities supported by those fishing industries. That is the reality. If we get an equal amount of criticism from the green groups and the fishing industry, we probably have the balance about right.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: Since our report and your response, we have had certain information from NGOs. I just want to draw to your attention the fact that, as Mr Gooding will know, at the December Fisheries Council five by-catch TACs were agreed, which related to stock that was in such a poor state that the scientific advice was that a zero catch should be set. The condition of these by-catch TACs was that we had to submit by-catch reduction plans by 30 April. Did we do that?

Nigel Gooding: Yes. Not by 30 April. The regional groups have now submitted their recommendations on the by-catch plans for North Western Waters and the five stocks in question. That was submitted last week, I think, or at the beginning of this week. They will now go to the European Commission and will be examined by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, which will give their view of the recommendations. This was a group chaired by France, as chair of the North Western Waters group. We pushed very hard for ambitious by-catch reduction plans, having consulted our industry. We shall see what the results are of the examination by STECF.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: Presumably, the plans have not yet been implemented.

Nigel Gooding: No. Member States may implement some elements of it, but this plan has been recommended to the Commission. The Commission will seek technical and scientific advice. If it is approved, it will be adopted as part of the Delegated Act and will apply for next year. That is the way the legislative process works.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: As part of our plans, bearing in mind that these are very sensitive stocks, were we going to insist on remote electronic monitoring on the boats that had privileged quota for those particular stocks?

Nigel Gooding: That is not part of the plans.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: That is a pity. The other thing that some of the NGOs mentioned, which follows on from the questions put by Lord Young, Baroness Sheehan and others, is that some stocks are subject to exemptions, as we have discussed, from the landing obligation yet TACs have been set at 100% of the ICES-advised level of total catch without any deductions for the discards. Presumably, that is the same thing as sanctioning overfishing of those stocks. That is correct, is it not?

Nigel Gooding: If you are allowed to discard some quota under a de-minimis exemption, the TAC is reduced accordingly. What we have with full implementation of the landing obligation, we have what would have been an assessment of discarding added to the TAC. Previously, the science advice would have been a TAC minus the amount of discarding, which would have been the TAC that we then share out among the Member States. With full implementation of the landing obligation, the TAC now includes what would have been discarded, so now all fish have to be landed. That is the figure we operate to.

On your question, we will continue to do science monitoring. All the Member States, CEFAS in our case, will continue to do close monitoring of the state of the stocks; they will continue close monitoring and observer work on vessels. They will be able to see whether, if there is a level of discarding is still taking place, it has an impact on the stock. There may not be a direct correlation between the two, but certainly the science advice—the ICES advice—will take account of the level of uptake from each of the stocks and the biomass for each of the stocks. It is not just taking it away and not monitoring. We are continuing to monitor; Member States will continue to monitor; and there will continue to be advice on the state of the stocks.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: But bearing in mind that there has been no real effect from the discard ban to date—in particular, for instance, undersized fish have not been brought in—it seems to me that by getting that extra quota, up to the level of 100% of the TAC, plus the exemptions, we are definitely overfishing. I cannot see how it cannot be. Would you agree?

Nigel Gooding: I would not draw that conclusion necessarily. I talked about some of the exemptions. Under high survivability, some fish can still live. If they are caught, certain fish can be returned to the sea, and they continue to live. Skate, rays and plaice are examples. And under de-minimis, the TAC is reduced to allow for the fact that there is some continual discarding. That comes to the point we were talking about earlier.

Lord Cameron of Dillington: But the TAC has not been reduced, because it has been brought back to 100%.

Nigel Gooding: The quota allocation to Member States has been reduced accordingly.

Robert Goodwill: I think the key is how we use this uplift quota, as it was called—it is now reserve quota—in an intelligent way, and how we can allocate it to people who we believe are behaving in ways that are to be encouraged. For example, we have 13 vessels, including one nephrops vessel, participating in the fully documented fisheries scheme. That is an example of how we can incentivise that type of positive behaviour. Similarly, with vessels that use more selective gear, maybe we should use uplift quota in a way that incentivises that. The Committee might have other suggestions about that additional quota, which we knew was being caught and discarded. With the landing obligation, it is now expected to be landed, but obviously it is not all landed. Perhaps it could be used as a lever to encourage more positive behaviour.

I suspect that some of those measures will be open to us only when we have left the European Union and are in a position to be a bit more decisive, as an independent state, not only with our own fishermen but with non-UK boats coming into our waters. We may be able to impose restrictions, such as electronic monitoring and the other areas that we need to move forward.

We should look at how we prioritise remote electronic monitoring, and whether it should be for bigger vessels, for those in certain sea areas, or for vessels pursuing certain species. If we introduce it, we need to do it in an ordered way. Currently, we have been held back by our EU neighbours, but it will be key to getting more information about what is happening on vessels.

The Chairman: We will come back to electronic monitoring, I am sure. We are going to move on to compliance and enforcement.

Q92 Baroness Wilcox: I have a perfectly good question here, but I have two other little ones to tick on at the end, which are my own. Here is the other one, which we officially want the answer to. Are you confident that UK fishers are complying with the landing obligation?

The Chairman: We have sort of covered that. Is there anything you want to add, Minister?

Robert Goodwill: I think 28 tonnes[2] have been landed this year, and it was a small figure last year. The evidence of those quite small quantities does not give me confidence that we are correctly applying the landing obligation. There are reasons why that may not happen; we have talked about all the de-minimis and quota swaps, and everything else. I cannot say, hand on heart, that it is being fully complied with, but we need to work with the industry to ensure that we get high levels of compliance, and I do not think that going around with a big stick hitting people is necessarily the way forward. It is about better communication, and looking at incentives, as mentioned in the answer to Viscount Hanworth, which ensure that people see a benefit in complying with the landing obligation.

Baroness Wilcox: That sounds good.

The Chairman: Did you want to ask some supplementaries?

Baroness Wilcox: Yes. We are coming out of the European Community, delightfully, because we are going to get our men in our boats fishing for fish here, and we can do it legally and properly. When we bring over people from Spain, and the rest of them - when we know that they have no fish in their own waters, all the fish are in ours - and we have a huge amount of water that they will be coming into. They have their own police, under the European Community system; they come over to fish and they have their own people, supposedly, looking after them and making sure they do not cheat. We know for sure that the Spanish just leave their police behind and do not bring them at all, and our people had to watch them taking as much fish as they wanted. I really want to see that stop.

Are we actually building enough boats to police the areas that we are going to police?

Robert Goodwill: As an independent coastal state, we will have control of our waters to the 200-mile limit, or the median line. The allocation of fishing opportunities will be subject to negotiations, in the same way as Norway, as an independent coastal state, has negotiations. That may well include some access to our waters for other vessels, but on our terms.

We have a number of fisheries protection vessels. Nigel may have the figures. Of course, if necessary, we would have recourse to other assets, possibly those controlled by the Royal Navy. I hope it will not come to another cod war in the North Sea. I hope that the negotiations we have with our EU partners, Norway, the Faroes and other stakeholders will ensure that we evolve our fishing policy in a way that does not result in that sort of conflict, as we have seen in the South-West Approaches, with boats coming in. That is not something I wish to see.

I hope we can move to a situation where we do get a fair share of our fish. There is a disproportionate amount of fishing opportunity in our waters allocated to EU boats, for historical reasons, such as the fact that we were fishing off Iceland when we joined the CFP. The species we consume in the UK, by and large, are not ones that we catch in our waters. We would also want to take into account the fact that the fish we will be able to catch need to be marketed; by and large, the majority of the fish we catch in the UK is exported, mainly to the European Union. I hope that we can move in a positive and reasonable way with our European partners. As an independent coastal state participating in the December negotiations, I hope we will have a resolution that is satisfactory to the industry and enables us to move forward, and that we get a better share of our fishing opportunity each and every subsequent year.

Baroness Wilcox: Can you tell me how many boats are being built now?

Nigel Gooding: I am afraid that I do not have the—

Baroness Wilcox: Nobody knows anything about it. Is that right?

Nigel Gooding: I would not say that nobody knows anything, but it would be a matter for the control authorities and another part of Defra. We can write to the Committee, if that would be helpful.

The Chairman: That is Lord Selkirk’s question, which we are going to come on to.

Robert Goodwill: That work has been done. As part of our no-deal Brexit preparations, we looked at what assets would be available to protect our waters. In the difficult situation following a no-deal Brexit, we would, in effect, have immediate control of our waters, and it would be up to us to police how they might be fished, pending some post no-deal Brexit accommodation, which I suspect we would have to come to.

The Chairman: Okay, I would like to keep the Committee more on the landing obligation at the moment, particularly its enforcement. Lord Selkirk has a couple of questions.

Q93 Lord Selkirk of Douglas: I shall try to put my question as concisely as possible. I have been involved in fishing for mackerel in the Forth. Whether that amounts to an interest I do not know, but it certainly was extremely interesting.

Do you believe that the United Kingdom has effective measures sufficiently in place to enforce the landing obligation? To explain the background to the question, we received evidence on 22 May from the Marine Management Organisation, who said that there was a 25% increase in inspections, and it was making greater use of aerial surveillance. Is enough being done in that connection to ensure that the measures are effective?

Robert Goodwill: Thank you for that question. I made the rash decision to give one of my local Scarborough fishermen my mobile number, and I know that inspections are taking place because every time he is boarded he complains. In that particular instance, he feels he is being picked on, so that may be some evidence, at least.

Since the start of the year, control and enforcement efforts have been enhanced to improve compliance with the landing obligation. For example, the MMO, which you mentioned, is looking at historical uptake rates, market fish grading data and discard data to identify where change has not taken place, and using that to generate a clearer picture of compliance levels. This will take time to develop but will inform risk assessments and future enforcement. Indeed, on that point, I think your earlier report talked about a potential crisis at some landing ports, where there was no capacity to deal with discards that were being landed and considered whether there was capacity for bait or industrial processing. That has not been a problem, but I would like to have seen it be a problem, because it would have been evidence of the landing obligation actually working.

The MMO is also introducing catch recording for the under ten metre sector, which will provide an opportunity better to understand the levels of fish that are caught below minimum size or discarded by the non-sector. More detailed inspections of catches at sea are also being undertaken, including my guy from Scarborough, to ensure accurate recording and counting against quota. Details have been provided to the Committee by the MMO. Going forward, the MMO will move from the initial focus on education of fishers to a more enforcement-centred approach, although challenges associated with obtaining evidence for more serious action currently remain. To remedy that, the use of remote electronic monitoring is being considered, but other methods to understand levels of compliance are being employed.

The Chairman: We are going to come on to REM in a moment, but it is interesting that the MMO commented that there was a problem with evidence. Is it your feeling that there is any way to really enforce this other than through REM? I do not want to get into REM, because we will come on to it in a minute, but is not the evidence that you actually cannot do it unless you do that? No other thing would stand up in court that allows you to enforce it at the moment. There is no other tool to do it. We have evidence that Marine Scotland has laid out two £10,000 fines in its waters, but are we not really saying that this thing is unenforceable at the moment, unless we do something pretty different?

Robert Goodwill: It is certainly difficult and a challenge. As long as we remain a member of the European Union, it will prove very difficult to get agreement. All sorts of regional issues are raised. Certainly, further conversations are required at EU level to ensure that any legal and political issues that may affect the implementation of the Control Regulation proposals are discussed and resolved.

I believe that remote electronic monitoring could have an important part to play, but we must not impose it on our UK boats and create an un-level playing field with other EU vessels that do not have to have the same technology installed. Once we are an independent coastal state, of course, we will have the ability to have much more control.

The Chairman: We will come on to that.

Robert Goodwill: We have VMS on vessels, so all boats over 12 metres report their locations. That is important, particularly, for example, for scallopers coming in where they should not, smashing up brown crab and lobster areas and towing away fleets of pots, which occasionally happens off the Yorkshire coast, much to the annoyance of the static gear fishermen who are affected. It is very destructive.

The Chairman: Yes, I think we entirely understand that in the broader context of fisheries control; it is just the landing obligation that we are discussing. Let us move on from that, with Viscount Hanworth.

Viscount Hanworth: I think you have asked my question. Do you wish me to pose it again?

The Chairman: I apologise.

Q94 Viscount Hanworth: In our report, we stated our opinion that to enforce the landing obligation effectively remote electronic monitoring was essential. I recall the Government’s opinion being that they did not wish to introduce REM unless other Member States of the European Union did the same. What progress has there been in securing EU-wide agreement on implementing REM? Beyond that, if such an agreement is not forthcoming, at what point will we take a unilateral decision to impose it on our fleet and, presumably, to require it of other people fishing in our waters? When would that happen?

Robert Goodwill: The answer is that there is slow progress, which is very frustrating. Often at EU level, we have to move at the speed of the slowest, which is very frustrating. You ask at what point we will be able to make that unilateral decision; it would be at some point after we have left the European Union, when we would be able to impose REM on some vessels, should we wish to. As a condition of fishing in our waters, we would be able to ensure that the same requirements are placed on EU vessels in our waters, and they would have to report to us rather than the EU Commission.

Of course, there are other measures that we can use to ensure better compliance. For example, in some fisheries there are no issues with the target stock, but there may be a difficult by-catch problem that could be resolved by selective gear, as I mentioned. The emphasis would therefore be to enforce the gear requirements, as we know from scientific assessment how effective that is. Using more selective gear is an important way we could move forward. As an independent coastal state, we would be in a position to have more control over the type of gear that could be used. It is encouraging that the EU itself is in the process of banning pulse fishing, which many found an unacceptable way of catching fish. The EU can make progress but often it is painfully slow.

Viscount Hanworth: In practical terms, how difficult would it be to impose REM on European Union states after Brexit? Do you see political difficulties and a big row emerging, or would it be fairly straightforward?

Robert Goodwill: It would depend on how the negotiations went forward. With the fishing opportunity in our waters, as they would be once we left the European Union, we have a lot of cards in our hand. Vessels from other EU states catch about 800,000 tonnes in our waters and we catch less than 100,000 tonnes in their waters. It would be subject to negotiation. We would need to look at which vessels it should be on first and in which sea areas, and which species are being caught, to ensure that it is done in a measured way. We would also need to look at whether any taxpayer help might be afforded to vessels installing the equipment.

As an independent coastal state, we would be in a strong position to negotiate to ensure that we can have more control over what goes on in our waters, but it would be absolutely unacceptable for us to impose REM on UK vessels when, at the same time, EU vessels fishing in our waters as part of an agreement would not have the same condition imposed on them. That has to be a red line.

Viscount Hanworth: To make a final observation, I have been thinking that pre-empting the entirety of our EEZ will create a great deal of animosity. In those circumstances, it might not be very easy to get other European fishing nations to comply with our requirement for REM. That was the thought behind my question.

Robert Goodwill: There are some who have the slightly fundamentalist view that, from day one after we have left the European Union, or after the end of the implementation period, should we have one—

Viscount Hanworth: Many fishers do.

Robert Goodwill: They think we will suddenly control all our waters. I am not sure that we have the capacity to catch all the fish anyway. We also need to consider our markets, because the majority of fish caught in our waters is marketed in the EU. There are important considerations that need to be part of the negotiation.

I wish to see evolution to a situation where we are more able to exploit the fishing stocks that are sustainable in our own waters and move to a better position. The idea that, from day one, we will have the Royal Navy out there preventing any foreign boat coming into our waters is not how things will actually work. We need to move in a much more realistic and consensual way, but the direction of travel will need to be towards getting more of our fish into our own industry. That is in no doubt at all. That is why a majority of fishermen voted to leave the European Union. They saw the unfairness of the way that relative stability allocated quota when we joined. They all said: “Ted Heath sold us out”. Actually our guys were fishing in Icelandic waters; that is why we did not have the history of fishing, which meant that we got a rough deal at the end. The cod war meant that we lost that facility, and we have always been in a difficult situation.

Negotiation is the way forward. The idea that we will unilaterally take control of every single fish in our water and get the Royal Navy to enforce that may appeal to one or two colleagues in my own party, but it is not how things are going to work.

Viscount Hanworth: That is good to hear. Thank you.

The Chairman: I am very aware of the time, and your time, Minister, because we need to go through sustainability. Can I ask everybody to be fairly short in their questions? Minister and Mr Gooding, if you can be short in your answers as well, that would be good.

Nigel Gooding: I shall be very brief. On the question about what progress is being made within Europe, discussions are happening at a technical level, at control expert level, on the technical standards that might apply to remote electronic monitoring equipment. There have been study tours and workshops, so momentum is gathering to try to overcome some of the technical and legal issues that some Member States may have about its widespread use. They are trying to address those at the moment.

The Duke of Montrose: Obviously, we have a problem in that we have a national obligation under the EU to comply with all these regulations, but is there an element where we could offer a bit of trust to the industry? I think it is parallel to the agricultural industry, in that to offer reassurance to retailers you need some kind of monitoring. We put it back to the agricultural industry to monitor itself, and we have these farm assurance and Red Tractor things going on. The fishing industry could set up its own quality monitoring system and insist that you could only get in if you had REM. It is self-financing in the farming industry. It is then a question of whether retailers will pay extra for fish that has the certificate.

Robert Goodwill: Retailers are already doing quite a lot in that direction. Responsible retailers ensure that the fish they are marketing are caught sustainably, and that applies to fish caught not only in UK and European waters but internationally. That has to be the way forward.

The Duke of Montrose: The idea would be that industry-wide recognition was offered to all those who complied, which they could monitor themselves. Fishermen who had the certificate would see who was not complying.

The Chairman: There is a feeling in the Committee that maybe, at the end of the day, it is not going to be the MMO or Marine Scotland that enforces this, but the end of the supply chain—the retailers. I think that is what the Duke of Montrose is saying. I do not know whether you have a comment on that, Minister.

Robert Goodwill: The Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls of this world have raised the agenda of sustainable fish stocks. You would need to look at the issues in the logistical system, if you are creating what is almost a higher level. At Peterhead fish market, hundreds, thousands of boxes of fish are sold. If you did not have an industry standard, there would be difficulty in ensuring that every single fish caught on a vessel with REM was actually still marketed in that way. Retailers have done tremendous work on how slaughterhouses operate and on animal welfare.

The Chairman: Do you feel that they will be key players in sorting out this issue, rather than necessarily the official enforcers?

Robert Goodwill: I do not think retailers would necessarily take the lead in the introduction of REM. We need to take the lead, but then we are creating a situation whereby we have fish stocks that could be identified by some retailers as those they wished to market as more sustainable. Fundamentally, we need to get rid of the discards and make the landing obligation work. They are obliged to land them, and they are not landing them at the moment, I suspect.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: Perhaps you could write to us on where we are with REM. Do we have a proven system that is economically viable to introduce? Secondly, where are we on aerial surveillance and the use of drones? Again, you can write if you do not have the full information now. I would be interested to know where we are on the other measures you referred to.

Robert Goodwill: As part of our no-deal preparation, we were looking at aerial assets of various kinds. It is perfectly workable to identify where a vessel is, but to actually bring a prosecution you need to be able to see exactly what is happening on board, and REM gives you that particular opportunity.

We need to work with the industry and decide which vessels should be first. Some of the very largest pelagic vessels do not actually catch a lot of by-catch, so we need to be intelligent in how we introduce the system. Maybe the Committee could come up with some suggestions as to how it could be done in a phased way that enables us to ensure that the industry can cope with the obligations placed on it. There are three aspects: the location of the boat, the gear it is towing and the evidence of what is happening on the boat. We need to ensure that we have a robust system that cannot be fiddled with, as in the days when tachographs in lorries were not electronic and you could just put in a different disc and pretend you were somebody else. We need to make sure that the system is robust. The fishermen who are doing the right thing and landing the fish will have nothing to fear from REM.

Nigel Gooding: There is a fully documented fisheries scheme operating in the North Sea. There is an annual application process, and last year about a dozen vessels participated. It is with cameras, so, essentially, it is remote electronic monitoring, and we know it works. The question is how you take such a scheme and make it work across Europe. It is about the standards and legal issues in all the different Member States. We know that the technology is there; it is just a question of how you build it up, if it is your policy decision to do so.

Robert Goodwill: Germany has some very strange—that is not quite the right word—quite restrictive data protection rules, which have been a problem in negotiation, for example.

The Chairman: Thank you. I was going to ask if you could name names, and that is one, if only for constitutional reasons.

Robert Goodwill: They are not being deliberately obstructive; it is just the fact that that is what their law says about data protection, and it has been an issue.

The Chairman: Indeed. I understand that.

Q95 Lord Krebs: The Fisheries Bill describes how we propose to continue to develop the enforcement of the landing obligation after Brexit. As far as I am aware, it does not refer to the mandatory introduction of REM, but it does refer to a discard prevention charge, which I have always been a bit puzzled about. If you say that you are going to fine people for bringing stuff ashore, in my view that would incentivise them to dump it over the side rather than bring it to shore.

Setting that on one side, what estimates have you made about the quantities of fish that are likely to be landed over quota as a result of implementing a discard charge? How great an increase in quota share would you need successfully to negotiate post Brexit to ensure that the policy did not result in overfishing?

Robert Goodwill: I noted that your previous report tried to suggest that people would just pay the fine and land the fish. I think we can all agree on the principle of the charge; it is where you set the charge, at a level that still encourages compliance but that is another incentive for people to use more sustainable methods, for example in their choice of gear.

Lord Krebs: Why does the charge encourage people not to dump the fish over the side, as they are doing at the moment, or have done in the past?

Robert Goodwill: I was just referring to the report from this Committee, which said basically that fishermen will land the fish and pay the charge as a sort of tax. There are two potential ways it could move forward.

If we have better monitoring on vessels, of course, they will not be able to discard the fish, but they might just see it as an occupational hazard; if they land fish they do not have quota for, they will pay the charge and shrug their shoulders. That will not necessarily incentivise positive behaviour.

Application of the discard prevention charge will be considered stock by stock, which will mean that the number of additional landings permitted, and the associated cost, will vary depending on the stock, its current status and the discarding situation, and the level of additional quota available for the scheme. The quota for the scheme will be drawn from the English share of the UK’s negotiated quota and a rebalancing of the UK’s current shares compared with the EU’s shares under relative stability. I cannot say precisely what level of rebalancing of quota shares will be necessary, as it will be highly variable from one stock to another.

The parameters of the scheme will be developed in consultation with the relevant parts of the industry, the MMO and scientists, to ensure that it does not result in damaging levels of overfishing, which is the point you made at the start, Lord Krebs. The Fisheries Bill sets the framework we can use to ensure that, as this is introduced, according to the various parameters to which I have referred, it can be done in a successful way.

The Chairman: Thank you, Minister. That brings us to the end of that part.

[1] Note by witness: the Minister subsequently clarified that the figure is 85 tonnes (of undersized fish landed from the beginning of the year until around the end of April)

[2] Note by witness: the Minister subsequently clarified that the figure is 85 tonnes of undersized fish

Written evidence submitted: