Back to European Committee home


European Committee

2nd Report, 1999

Report on the European Fisheries Council of December 1999


SP Paper 43

Session 1 (1999)

The committee reports to the Parliament as follows–


  1. At the 8th Meeting of the European Committee on the 23 November 1999, the committee agreed that Tavish Scott MSP be appointed to act as a reporter in relation to the forthcoming European Fisheries Council meeting of the 16-17 December 1999.

  2. The terms of reference for the member’s report were to contact a limited range of industry representatives to gather their views on the agenda of the Council meeting and to produce this report setting out the recommendations of the European Committee.

  3. In addition to being published as a committee report, communicated to parliament, this report has been forwarded to the Scottish Executive’s Deputy Minister for Rural Affairs before his scheduled attendance at the Council meeting.



  5. The European Union’s December Fisheries Council has become a somewhat ritualistic annual event. The details of the agenda are contained below. The EU Council invariably follows a tried and tested model.

  6. This involves the Commission recommending decreases in catching effort for the coming year, the industry asking for a settlement that doesn’t damage their livelihoods, and then Ministers at the Council meeting, negotiating to reach some point in the middle. This must balance conservation with legitimate short-term concerns of the industry and the communities affected.

  7. There are three main points to note–

  8. In the committee’s view, this is not the way to run any business – an annual negotiation cannot produce a sustainable fishing industry and all sectors have no ability to plan, and therefore invest for the future. This should be replaced by continuous assessment in the context of a medium term strategy.

    The committee considers that the stakeholders are not involved in the assessment of stocks. A zonal management concept would fill the gap between the strategic direction of the European Fisheries Council and the regulation by nation states. The fishing industries of all nations with a fishing entitlement in a particular zone would come together with scientists and fisheries managers to devise and implement fishing and conservation plans for the zone.

    The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is meant to conserve fish stocks. The committee questions the effectiveness of the methods introduced under CFP to fulfil this objective. The industry argues for technical conservation measures designed to meet the objective of CFP.



  9. The majority of UK fisheries and aquaculture is centred on Scotland. Some 62% of the value of UK sea fish landings in 1998 were made into Scottish ports. In 1997, 92% of UK aquaculture products (by first sale value) were produced in Scotland. Employment in the Scottish sea-fishing sector has declined over a number of years. In 1960, it was estimated that direct employment stood at 11,250. By 1997, the figure stood at 8,200. In 1995, the Scottish sea fish processing sector employed 8,360 people. This gave Scotland a 40% share of all sea fish processing employment in the UK.

  10. The Scottish fishing fleet employs some 6,700 fishermen in around 2,800 vessels based in Scotland’s coastal communities and offshore islands. The real significance of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors lies in the fact that they support employment in rural communities where there are relatively few other job opportunities.



  12. Through the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) the EU has competence in fisheries policy. The Scottish Parliament is obliged to implement CFP regulations within the Scottish fisheries zone. Through the CFP there are a number of management measures in operation, the most important of which in the context of the forthcoming meeting is Total Allowable Catches (TACs);

  13. TACs are intended to divide the total fish resources between different Member States and to control the amount of fish caught each year. Most TACs are set on an annual basis as a result of stock assessment and scientific advice. TACs are then distributed among Member States in the form of quotas (entitlement to catch on the basis of relative stability, which is based on traditional fishing records). The Scottish Executive then allocates quotas to local Producer Organisations who manage them locally.



  15. The process begins with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an inter-governmental body with 19 members, including the UK and other European countries. ICES is responsible for collating data on fish stocks collected by scientists in its member states. The Commission’s Advisory Committee on Fishery Management (ACFM), then gives advice on the status of around 100 fish and shellfish stocks and on the consequences in the long and short term of various limits on catches. The accuracy of these predictions depends upon the reliability of the original information supplied and ICES has expressed concern about the quality of catch and effort data from most of the important fisheries in the ICES area. Key stock predictions are then used by the Commission to prepare proposals for TACs for the coming year. The final proposals are then put to the Council of Fisheries Ministers in December where agreement is reached, generally after some hard negotiations.

  16. Agenda – 16-17 December 1999

  17. The Commission advises that the agenda is likely to include:

  18. Total allowable catches (quotas)

    Control measures in the North East Atlantic zone

    Communication on regional fisheries organisations.

  19. Total Allowable Catches (TAC) - Scottish fishing interests in the North Sea for the 5 main demersal species (Including cod, haddock & whiting), and the pelagic species of herring and mackerel are currently being negotiated with Norway. The Scottish Executive, as part of the Commission team, is involved in these talks which set the TACs for the jointly owned fish stocks in the North Sea. The Scottish Fisherman Federation is concerned that the European Commission is not pushing Scottish interests in terms of haddock hard enough.

  20. These negotiations mean that, depending on an outcome being concluded in time, EU Fisheries Ministers on 16 December will be considering an agreement negotiated between both fishing countries. The most controversial aspects concern quota for cod and haddock which, it is proposed, will be cut by 44% and 24% respectively for 2000. ICES is recommending a total allowable catch (TAC) for North Sea cod of 74,000 tonnes, down from 132,000 tonnes this year. North Sea haddock proposals are down from 88,000 tonnes to 65,000 tonnes. There would not appear to be much apparent industry disagreement with the proposals on cod, as fishing catches have illustrated that this species is under considerable pressure, and even the 65,000 tonne quota is unlikely to be caught.


  1. The haddock fishery is predominately caught by the Scottish demersal trawl fleet. In contrast with whiting and cod the haddock stock is in good condition and has enjoyed an outstanding breeding year in 1999. However, since haddock is part of a mixed fishery that includes cod and whiting the scientific advice suggests its TAC should be reduced to limit pressure on the associated species.

  2. Such a policy would seem prudent but is certain to result in increased discarding, (of dead smaller fish), as fishermen strive to enhance their reduced earning potential by landing only the largest fish. Therefore the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s objective is to restore the quota by adopting, unilaterally, additional technical conservation measures.

  3. Conservation measures could include compulsory fitting on whitefish trawls of square mesh panels that would allow small haddock to escape. It is essential that this record brood of small haddock is not destroyed and discarded through being trapped in whitefish trawls. This is why the industry is arguing for fitting of 80mm square mesh panels to protect the smaller haddock which, if conserved, could form the basis of a stable fishery for many years to come.

  4. This is an example of fisherman promoting a sustainable fishery strategy, aimed at giving the industry a long-term future.



  6. The European Committee agree that–

  7. The European Committee should encourage the Scottish Executive to recognise the importance of the Scottish fishing industry, and therefore the Scottish Executive should lead in EU fisheries negotiations on Scottish interests

  8. The Scottish Executive should ensure that the European Commission, in the Norwegian talks, is pushing the Scottish position, particularly in terms of haddock, with suitable vigour.

  9. The Scottish Executive, working with Scottish fishermen should, unilaterally if necessary, introduce technical conservation measures to conserve stocks and give a lead to Europe.

  10. The Scottish Executive should argue for improvements to the TAC system to introduce rolling multi-annual TACs to encourage medium to long term management of fisheries.

  11. The Scottish Executive should push for regional/zonal fisheries management as a key part of the 2002 CFP reform.




The Scottish Fisherman’s Federation are producing a brief for all MSP’s in time for the Sea Fisheries debate in the Chamber on Wednesday 8 December. This includes many wider issues important to the industry but also particular species information relating to the December Fisheries Council. Members are advised to avail themselves of this brief.

Due to the short timescale for the production of this report, only a limited number of industry bodies had time to send their views to publication deadline. These did not include the processing sector.



Back to European Committee home