EU proposals for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

6  Multiannual plans

79.  The Commission intends that this round of CFP reform should move away from using single stock, annual plans to manage fishing opportunities towards using multiannual plans that can cover multiple species where appropriate.[172] There is widespread support for long-term management at the fisheries level.[173] In the future, multiannual plans will be the main instrument for restoring stocks to sustainable levels, so it is vital that they are established promptly.[174] Indeed, since the Commission proposes a deadline of 2015 by which to restore stocks to MSY levels, we aver that the multiannual plans that set out how this will be achieved and monitored would need to be agreed by 2014 at the latest. Furthermore, under the current proposals, multiannual plans are the only mechanism by which decision-making will be devolved to Member States. For species not covered by multiannual plans, the Council will continue to set the conservation and technical measures annually.[175] It is therefore essential that these multiannual plans are agreed promptly.

80.  The draft Regulation states that multiannual plans should be established "as a priority" but does not give a precise timetable or specify exactly which stocks should be covered.[176] The Commissioner explained it was her "ambition" to have multiannual management plans established for the majority of stocks by the end of her mandate in 2014.[177] Greenpeace said it was a "major shortcoming" that no deadlines have been set for the adoption of multiannual plans.[178] The New Economics Foundation and ClientEarth called for a firm timetable for the agreement of multiannual plans and for clarity on which stocks will be covered by multiannual plans.[179]

81.  We are concerned that since 2002 only 22 multiannual management plans have been agreed, representing only one-quarter of the EU's commercial stocks.[180] It is disappointing that the agreement of these plans has been delayed by inter-institutional debates over the legal base. A much faster rate of progress will be needed in future to deliver the CFP's objectives. Defra should request that the European institutions commit to developing multiannual plans for commercial stocks within a reasonable timeframe. We propose a deadline of 2017 so that the EU can meet its commitment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive that, by 2020, all commercial stocks will be restored to within safe biological limits. Defra should press for the agreement of multiannual plans for the UK's commercial stocks as a priority.

82.  The current multiannual management plans have been criticised for being inflexible.[181] This creates a problem when environmental or biological factors mean that stocks do not respond as predicted by the scientific models underlying the multiannual plans. Richard Lochhead MSP told us that:

At the moment for instance, North Sea herring is part of a long term management plan. The science has suddenly changed and said there should be 139% increase in the quota, but the management plan says you cannot go beyond a 15% increase in quota. Are we stuck with that for several years, even though the science is now saying something different? We have to make sure the management plans are flexible.[182]

Moreover if a plan is failing to meet its objectives, such as the Cod Recovery Plan, under the current procedure the necessary amendments must go through the co-decision process, which could delay the agreement of a new plan for two years or more.[183]

83.  The draft Regulation does not stipulate the duration of multiannual plans or a mechanism for their review. The Commission's non-paper states "the plan would also have a flexibility article in order for new scientific advice to be taken into account quickly" but the legal base for this response mechanism is not clear.[184] We are concerned that the current proposals do not allow for an 'emergency response' to amend a multiannual plan if it proves unsuitable. Defra should suggest that a mechanism is established to amend multiannual plans within a reasonable time frame if this is necessary due to changing scientific advice or environmental conditions. Ideally the review mechanism should allow for a new plan to be adopted within a year. This would suggest the appropriate mechanism would be a decision by the Commission under delegated acts.

172   COM(2011) 425, Recital 17, Article 9 Back

173   Including WWF (Ev 122), Marine Conservation Society (Ev w 1), Waitrose (Ev w12), Greenpeace (Ev w20) Back

174   Ev w20 Back

175   Q 143 Back

176   COM(2011) 425, Article 9 (1) Back

177   Q 142 Back

178   Ev w20 Back

179   Ev w4, Ev 96, see also ClientEarth, CFP reform proposal: governance and regionalisation, October 2011 Back

180   SEC(2011) 891, p 5 Back

181   NFFO (Q 62, 81), WWF (Q 293), Scottish Government (Q 203) Back

182   Q 203 Back

183   Q 293, Q 307 Back

184   European Commission non-paper, CFP Reform-regionalisation, December 2011 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 24 February 2012