Document 1267

Scottish Parliament: Research Briefings: SB 03-10 Sea Fishing - Recent Developments

Author(s): Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

Copyright holder(s): Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body: © Scottish Parliamentary copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Queen's Printer for Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.


03/10 SPICe Briefing
06 February 2003



This Briefing has been prepared in advance of the Rural Development Committee’s inquiry into sea fisheries, and in advance of the debate on fisheries scheduled for the 12th February 2003.

This Briefing looks at the outcomes of the December 2002 Agriculture/Fisheries Council, where agreement was reached on the first part of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reforms. It also examines developments with the Cod Recovery Plan, on which final agreement was deferred until the March Agriculture/Fisheries Council meeting, and at the deal on fishing quotas for 2003. It concludes with a look at the potential economic impact of cuts in fishing effort and quotas on Scotland’s fishing communities, and the action taken by the Scottish Executive to deal with these problems.

This Briefing should be read in conjunction with Spice Briefing 02-71 which outlines the European Commission’s proposals for reforming the CFP, and Spice Briefing 02- 136 which outlines developments leading up to the December Agriculture/Fisheries Council. Research Paper 01-20 gives a general introduction to sea fishing in Scotland.

QUOTAS ... 6


• The December 2002 Fisheries Council reached agreement on a new framework for the CFP
• Part of this framework is that multi-annual management plans will be developed for threatened fish stocks
• The Council did not agree on a cod recovery plan. This plan, first proposed by the Commission in 2001, is a template for future multi-annual plans
• In it, the Commission propose a new system for setting quotas for catching cod, and also suggest reductions in fishing effort for different parts of the fishing fleet which catch cod
• The Council meeting also set fishing quotas for 2003
• In October scientists had advised the Commission that there should be no fishing for cod, haddock or whiting in the North Sea in 2003
• The Commission proposed large cuts in quotas as an alternative, and also stipulated that these cuts should be accompanied by a scheme to control fishing effort
• The Council agreed to cut cod quotas in the North Sea by 45%, haddock by 49% and whiting by 62%. They also agreed to limit days at sea for boats which caught cod for 6 types of fishing, and in 3 fishing areas.
• These limit Scottish fishermen catching cod, haddock and whiting to 15 days fishing per month. Those targeting Nephrops are limited to 25 days per month
• These limits will remain in place until 1 July 2003, pending the adoption of permanent arrangements by the Council in the cod recovery plan at its March meeting
• These cuts in quota and fishing effort have serious implications for the Scottish whitefish fleet, the supply and processing industries, and will have knock on effects on fisheries dependent communities
• To address these problems, the Scottish Executive has brought forward a £50 million aid package. Up to £40 million is to be made available for decommissioning (scrapping) fishing boats which catch whitefish. Up to £10 million is available for temporary assistance for the fisheries sector.


At the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of 16-20 December 2002, agreement was reached on a new “Framework Regulation” 2371/2002/EC, which is the central plank of the reformed CFP. The Commission (2002a) tabled a proposal for this Regulation on 28 May 2002. The European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee (2002) reported on the proposal on 13 November 2002. The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Development Committee also took evidence on the proposed reforms at its meetings of the 10th and 17th September 2002 (SPOR 2002), and reported by way of a letter to key interested parties (Scottish Parliament Rural Development Committee 2002).

The main elements of the reformed CFP are:

• Stocks falling below safe biological limits will be managed by multi-annual management plans. The Council is already discussing measures for Cod and Northern Hake, which are a template for the likely format of plans for other stocks.

• Aid for renewing fishing vessels is being phased out, and will no longer be available after the end of 2004.

• Member States can give aid to fishermen for up to 6 months where they are forced to stop fishing because of “unforeseeable circumstances”. If this results from either a Commission emergency measure, or a multi-annual management plan, aid can be given over a longer period.

• Current provisions restricting access to the 6-12 mile zone around the coasts of Member States to fishing vessels that traditionally fished there have been renewed up to 2012. Access to the 0-6 mile zone remains restricted to fishermen from the Member State.

• Other access restrictions such as the “Shetland Box” (which limits the number of vessels fishing for whitefish around Shetland) will be reviewed by the Commission in 2003. The Council will decide on any amendments to existing arrangements by the end of 2004.

• Fishing quotas will continue to be shared out according to historic entitlements. This principle is called “relative stability”.

• Spain, Portugal and Finland have the right to fish for non-quota species in the North Sea from 1st January 2003

• Measures have been introduced to create a level playing field on CFP enforcement. The Council will legislate on a uniform system of penalties for infringing the rules of the CFP. Member States have increased powers to inspect the vessels of other Member States fishing in their waters, and also to inspect vessels from their fleet fishing in the waters of other Member States.

• Regional Advisory Councils (RACs), made up of fishermen, scientists and other stakeholders will be established. They will be able to make recommendations to the Commission about the implementation of the CFP in their area.

The UK Government (2001) set out its priorities for the reform of the CFP in a submission to the Commission made in September 2001. The main points of the UK position were:

• The need to reduce the size of the EU fleet
• Ending public subsidy for construction and modernisation of fishing vessels
• Retaining the principle of relative stability and Hague Preferences as the mechanism for allocating fishing quotas between Member States
• Retaining the existing access restrictions of the 6 and 12 mile fishing limits and the Shetland Box
• Adopting a multi-annual approach to setting fishing quotas, and improving the quality of advice on the health of fish stocks from fisheries scientists
• Better involving stakeholders in decision making
• Strengthening enforcement of the CFP to ensure a level playing field for all Community fishermen
• Integrating environmental concerns into the CFP

The Minister for Environment and Rural Development, Ross Finnie MSP, made a statement about the outcome of negotiations on the CFP reform and the other decisions taken at the December Fisheries Council on the 8th January 2003 (SPOR 2003). In it, the Minister explained that the Scottish Executive’s (and the UK Government’s) objectives in the negotiations had been secured:

Our negotiations effectively secured all the Scottish Executive's objectives: inshore limits; the Shetland box; relative stability; the Hague preference; regional management; and the phasing out of distorting subsidies for new build. That is an important achievement, which will help to secure the long-term sustainability of Scotland's fishing industry.

The December Council did not reach a final decision on the Commission’s proposal for a multiannual cod and hake recovery plan. In a declaration following the meeting, the ministers said (Council of the EU 2002):

"The Council declares that a fishing effort limitation system shall be part of the recovery plan for cod and hake. The Commission proposal, as amended, remains on the table and will continue to be the basis of work in the Council. The Council invites the Commission to present by 15 February 2003 at the latest any further elements for a decision, which the Council will take before 31 March 2003 with a view to its entry into force on 1 July 2003."

The Commission (2002b) published an amended proposal for a cod and hake recovery plan on the final day of the Council.

Previous stages in the development of the plan are described in Spice Briefing 02-136. The main elements of the Commission’s amended proposal are described below. Subject to the Commission tabling new amendments to its proposals, this proposal is likely to form the basis of discussions at the Council’s March meeting, at which a final decision is scheduled for this item.

Under Article 1 of the proposals, the Council will set a target for the size of each stock covered by the recovery plan. For cod in the North Sea, the Commission proposed this should be 150,000 tonnes of mature fish. Once stocks reach the target level for two years in a row, they are removed from the recovery plan.

The proposals introduce a new method of setting quotas for cod and hake (Articles 3-5). This controls the level of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) such that the stock should move towards the target adult population, at a rate of 30% per year in the case of North Sea cod. If the stock falls below certain trigger levels (60,000 tonnes in the case of cod in the North Sea, Skaggerak and Eastern Channel) new lower TACs have to be applied.

The effect of this would be to reduce the political discretion of the Council in setting fishing quotas.

The proposal introduces a new system for limiting fishing effort for boats which catch cod and hake as part of their catch. Member States have to classify their whitefish fleets into one of 6 segments, based on which group of fish makes up the largest proportion of their landings. The groups are:

1. cod, haddock, whiting
2. plaice, sole
3. Nephrops (1) (to be in this group, boats must catch a minimum of 30% Nephrops)
4. hake
5. megrim, anglerfish (2)
6. sandeel, Norway pout

Member States then have to calculate the number of kilowatt days (3) fished by each of these fleet segments for a three year reference period 1999-2001. The Commission propose a reduction in fishing effort for each segment for different fishing areas for 2003. Any subsequent reductions from 2004 onwards would be decided on by the Advisory Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture (4). The effort reductions for 2003 proposed by the Commission for each segment for the North Sea are shown in the table:

Table 1 - Fishing effort reductions for groups of fishing vessels in the North Sea, Skaggerak, and the Eastern Channel in 2003 implied by Article 10 of the Amended proposal for a Council Regulation establishing measures for the recovery of cod and hake stocks

[NOTE: Table here in original]

The choice of reference period for establishing kilowatt days (1999-2001) means that decommissioning carried out by the Scottish whitefish fleet in 2001 will be taken into account. However, that decommissioning programme only removed 20% of capacity in the fleet. If the Commission’s proposals on limiting fishing effort are adopted in their present form, substantial further decommissioning is implied.

In October 2002 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES 2002) scientists advised the Commission that no Cod should be caught in the North Sea. The scientists also advised that there should be no catches of haddock or whiting in the North Sea, because cod are caught along with these fish. For the same reasons, the scientists advised cuts in catches of Nephrops and plaice.

The Commission (2002c) did not adopt the scientists’ advice for a complete closure of the whitefish fishery in the Northern North Sea (i.e. for cod, haddock and whiting), but instead proposed large cuts in the quotas for these species.

The tradition in fishing quota negotiations has been for the Commission to broadly follow the scientific advice, and for the Council to revise quotas upwards. The Council this December was no exception (Council of the European Union 2002). Ministers agreed to substantially reduced TACs for cod, haddock, and whiting, but at a higher level than the Commission proposed. The table below compares the Commission’s proposals with what was agreed by the Council for some of the key stocks in the North Sea:

Table 2 – Commission proposals and Council decision on TACs for 2003 in the North Sea (ICES Areas IIa and IV)

[NOTE: Table here in original]

The graph below shows the UK share of TACs for cod, haddock and whiting in the North Sea over a longer period.
Figure 1 UK TACs for Cod Haddock and Whiting in the North Sea 1993-2003

[NOTE: Figure here in original]

Similar cuts in whitefish quotas have been implemented for the fisheries off the West Coast of Scotland.

Stocks of Pelagic species (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) are generally in better shape than whitefish stocks and quotas for these fish have generally been kept at similar levels to 2002.

The Commission was keen to ensure that the cuts in whitefish quotas were accompanied by controls on fishing effort. In their proposal setting TACs for 2003 the Commission (2002c) indicated that if reductions in catches were not accompanied by some form of effort limitation, it would be prepared to use emergency powers to close the whitefish fisheries in the North Sea. In the event the December Fisheries Council did not reach final agreement on the Commission’s proposals for a cod and hake recovery plan and as an interim measure, effort limitations were introduced through the Annex XVII of the TAC Regulation (Council Regulation 2341/2002).

The approach has been to limit the days at sea for 6 different categories of boats which catch cod, in 3 different fishing areas. The days at sea limits will apply until at least 1 July 2003, when they would be replaced by effort controls in the cod recovery plan, if that can be agreed in time by the Council.

The main impact of these days at sea restrictions for the Scottish fleet are to limit boats targeting cod, haddock and whiting to 15 days per month, and to limit the boats targeting Nephrops to 25 days per month.



The Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI 2002) recently completed a Seafish/ Fisheries Departments funded Input: Output multiplier study of the UK Scottish Fish Catching and Fish Processing sectors. One of the things the study looked at was the employment effects of a £1 million increase/decrease of landings of different types (pelagic, demersal, shellfish). The study calculated 2 types of employment multipliers for this: type I multipliers, which include jobs directly or indirectly supported, and type II multipliers which include induced effects. The study found that for each £1 million of landings of demersal species by the Scottish fleet, the type I multiplier was just under 39 jobs (5) (14.2 jobs offshore and 24.5 jobs onshore, both FTE).

Multiplying this by the figure for demersal landings by UK based vessels into Scotland for demersal species in 2001 of £132.6 million (Scottish Executive 2002), gives an estimate of 5,131 jobs dependent on landings by the Scottish whitefish fleet. (6)

Following on from this Seafish did some further analysis, based on the FAI’s input: output modelling, looking at potential impacts of various scenarios for cuts in whitefish landings. The results are summarised in the table below:

Table 3 - Impact on the Scottish Economy of a Reduction in the Current Level of Scottish Whitefish Landings
[NOTE: Table here in original]

Main Assumptions:
1. Based on the current value of total demersal landings by Scottish based vessels: £127.2 million of landings into the UK and £23.8 million of landings abroad.
2. Assumes that UK landings are processed in the UK, and foreign landings are processed elsewhere.
3. Assumes that the Scottish processing sector currently sources 43% of supplies from domestic catchers and the remainder from elsewhere. Assumes if a fall in domestic landings occurs, processors do not replace local landings with imports.
4. Prices remain unchanged.
5. This model looks at the changes in fish catching, fish processing and the industries that supply these two sectors (e.g. net makers, transport). Losses in onward consumption of employees in these industries are also included (e.g. hotels, supermarkets). The potential downstream effects (e.g. catering and retail) are not analysed.


The Scottish Executive (2003) announced an aid package for fishing communities worth up to £50 million on 28 January 2003. The package consists of up to £40 million for further decommissioning of boats in the whitefish fleet; and up to £10 million for temporary assistance for the fisheries sector. The decommissioning scheme is expected to run along the same lines as the 2001 scheme: it will be based on competitive tendering from fishermen wanting to decommission their boats; and will be targeted at boats in the over 10m fleet with a track record of catching whitefish. The temporary assistance is designed to help the fishing sector through the period of restrictions on days at sea. The Executive is currently developing the fine details of the scheme in consultation with the industry.

The Executive said that the decommissioning scheme would remove around 15-20% of the fleet currently targeting whitefish. The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) estimate this would equal around 40 boats. In a BBC article (2003), the Federation’s Secretary, Ian Duncan, said that the amount of money earmarked for decommissioning implied a much larger programme:

Mr Duncan said that at a rough guess the decommissioning plan equals around 160 vessels in the fleet.

"We are not talking about lean and mean, we are talking emaciated and crippled, I am afraid. The fleet will fall to almost half its original size and the impact on communities will be significant, there is no doubt about that. It's a package which will manage the decline of the Scottish fleet - the money is needed, but what we also need now is a management plan to ensure the Scottish fleet has the long-term future that it deserves."


BBC 2003 Fishing industry in £50m payout, 28 January 2003

Council of the European Union 2002 Press notice 2476th Council meeting, Agriculture and Fisheries, 1536/02 (Presse 399), 20 December 2002

European Commission, May 2002a COM (2002) 185 Proposal for a Council Regulation on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of resources under the Common Fisheries Policy, Brussels, European Commission

European Commission, December 2002b COM (2002) 773 Amended proposal for a Council regulation establishing measures for the recovery of cod and hake stocks, Brussels, European Commission

European Commission, December 2002c COM (2002) 727 Proposal for a Council Regulation fixing for 2003 the fishing opportunities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Community waters and, for Community vessels, in waters where limitations in catch are required, Brussels, European Commission

European Parliament Committee on Fisheries, November 2002 Report on the proposal for a Council regulation on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the common fisheries policy, Brussels, European Parliament

Fraser of Allander Institute 2002 Input-Output multiplier study of the UK and Scottish Fish Catching and Fish Processing sectors, Glasgow, University of Strathclyde

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, October 2002 Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management Report, Copenhagen, ICES

Scottish Executive September 2002 Scottish Fisheries Statistics, HMSO, Edinburgh

Scottish Executive 2003 Press release: Aid Package for fishing communities, SE304/2003, 28 January 2003

Scottish Parliament Rural Development Committee, September 2002 Common Fisheries Policy - the Committee's recommendations on Scotland's priorities for reform, Edinburgh, Scottish Parliament

SPOR 2002 10 September 2002, col 3373-3342 and 17 September 2002, col 3430-3449

SPOR 2003 8 January 2003, col 16673-16701

UK Government, September 2001 UK Paper on the Commission’s Green Paper on the 2002 Review of the Common Fisheries Policy, London, UK Fisheries Departments

1 I.e. Nephrops norvegicus also known as Norway lobsters or Langoustines
2 Also known as Monkfish
3 days at sea, multiplied by kilowatt power of the engine
4 a committee of Member State representatives. If the Committee cannot agree on a Commission proposal, the decision is referred upwards to the Council of Ministers
5 see Table 4.8a on p.29
6 This estimate has to be treated with some caution in that: it is based on an input output model, rather than e.g. on survey data; it is based on 1998 data; Some of the jobs will be in the processing sector. It is assumed in saying these jobs are dependent on landings by the Scottish whitefish fleet that processors would not be able to source alternative supplies from imports.

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Scottish Parliament: Research Briefings: SB 03-10 Sea Fishing - Recent Developments


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