My Lords, in moving Amendment 4 in my name I shall speak also to Amendment 25, which is grouped with it. I also seek permission to speak to Amendments 47 and 56, which will come up later in Committee but are related to this point, so I hope I can speak to all four in this speech.
The purpose of Amendment 4 is to add a new fisheries objective to the Bill stating that there is a “marine planning objective” in relation to fisheries management. The reason is that there is a real need to integrate fisheries into our wider marine planning processes. The phrase “fisheries exceptionalism” has been used. In essence, what is being got at there is that the way we plan for our use of the marine environment for fisheries is very separate from our wider spatial planning that we use for other activities that occur in the marine environment. Sometimes we forget that, although fishing is a hugely important part of our marine environment, it is certainly not the only economically productive activity that occurs within our seas. It is important that we integrate fisheries into marine planning and that marine planning integrates fisheries into its processes.
Therefore, there is a very clear objective missing from the Bill, which is to accomplish that wider integration in public policy. Many users of the marine environment interact with fisheries, not least the growing and highly profitable energy sector. We are shifting towards greater use of our marine environment for the production of sustainable energy. That has an interesting intersection with fisheries: the offshore wind farms that we are putting into the marine environment can act as no-take zones for vessels over a certain size, and as hatcheries and protected areas that allow fish stocks to return to an area that would otherwise be decimated through overexploitation by large vessels with large gear. There is a real benefit to be gained from integrating fisheries with our spatial planning.
It is not just about reducing fishing effort, although another key part of planning—now in UK law—is the protection of areas of high biodiversity interest or sites of scientific interest in the marine environment. We have a marine planning process that designates marine planning areas, some of which are working well while others need to be better thought-through and planned. It would be much more effective if, when setting these new fishing policies, we think of them as an integral part of our marine planning for conservation.
There are other uses of the marine environment that require planning, including dredging the shipping channels. It is an environment that requires careful management and balance—I agree with that—but not to mention the existing marine plans that are required to be made, and not to integrate them with the fishing objectives, feels like a missed opportunity. I tabled this amendment in the hope that we can have a wider debate about spatial planning and how it relates to fisheries management. It is not a negative proposal: it could bring greater benefits as we think about how we manage our seas. I look forward to the Minister’s response, and I hope that we have a good debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I very much welcome marine planning. I should perhaps declare a past interest as a board member of the Marine Management Organisation, which is responsible for marine planning in England. Last week I talked to Gillian Martin, the convenor of the environment committee of the Scottish Parliament, about marine planning. It is happening in Scotland, too.
I am certainly not advocating this as yet another objective—we have too many already—but it is important that the Bill takes account of marine planning and all the work going on in that field. Today our seas are, to put it mildly, used in multiple ways—for trade, renewable energy, undersea carbon capture and storage, and lots of other areas. I am not sure that the Bill even mentions things such as marine conservation zones, which are part of marine plans and, inevitably, part of the management of the fishing regimes. I would like to think that there was a way to refer to marine plans in the Bill, although not quite in this way.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for tabling these amendments. As she said, they relate to the importance of marine planning and the conservation obligations of the fishing sector.
The Marine and Coastal Access Act is an important piece of legislation, passed in the final years of the Labour Government, of which we are very proud. It already requires the UK and devolved Administrations to prepare marine plans. The point made by the noble Baroness was important: new legislation should incorporate the marine plans where they overlap and apply. With this Bill it is sensible to incorporate them into the joint fisheries statements and the fisheries management plans. We should not risk one piece of legislation overriding the obligations of another: the case for integration is well made.
As marine plans have been with us for some time, there is an argument that they should provide the bedrock on which other policies are built and developed. There is little sense in having marine conservation measures in place if certain protections are at risk of being disrupted by fishing activities authorised under the Bill, so the case for integration is strong.
We have raised previously with the Minister the wider challenge of how all Defra Bills integrate; for example, how this Bill will integrate with the Environment Bill. They all need to interlink and create a bigger whole. I am sure that we will be told that a number of the issues that we raise here will be dealt with in the Environment Bill. We need to make sure that everything is in its place and is interlinked. Everything should be developed as a package. The points made by the noble Baroness about the links between this Bill and marine conservation are well made. As with all these things, it is about finding the right wording and the right place in the legislation, but the principle is one that we should adopt.
My Lords, I should have made another declaration: I am co-chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership. Obviously, being surrounded by sea apart from the Tamar—which is an even more important boundary with our brothers in Devon—Cornwall has a marine interest.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for her amendments. Together, they would require policies made to achieve the fisheries objectives to be consistent with the objectives and policies in relevant marine plans.
I want to take this opportunity to make it clear that the UK Government recognise the importance of marine plans, which enable the increasing and, at times, competing demands for use of the marine area to be balanced and managed in an integrated way—a way that protects the marine environment while supporting sustainable development. Using our marine resources effectively and sustainably has the potential to provide significant benefits for the UK economy and for coastal communities. The economic contribution of marine-related industries to the UK’s GDP in 2015 was estimated at £27 billion, with scope for further growth.
In England, the East Inshore and East Offshore Marine Plans were published in April 2014 and the South Inshore and South Offshore Marine Plan was published in July 2018. The remaining marine plans for England are out for consultation by the Marine Management Organisation and will be in place by
Marine plans support economic growth in a way that benefits society while respecting the needs of local communities and protecting the marine environment. That is why I understand the importance of the points that the noble Baroness has raised. We believe that what her amendment requires is already provided for. As was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, Section 58 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 requires public authorities to have regard to
“the appropriate marine policy documents”— which could be a marine policy statement or a marine plan—when taking decisions affecting the marine environment. The amendments would therefore duplicate this requirement. I am advised that the requirement is already sufficient to meet what I know are the noble Baroness’s positive intentions.
With that explanation and the assurance that I have been advised that Section 58 covers this point and that the amendment would merely duplicate what is already a legal requirement, I hope that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for his response and explanation. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to discuss this further after Committee, as I am minded to withdraw the amendment. Even if that piece of legislation predates the Bill and states that the planners must take into account certain factors, the amendment creates an objective relating to marine planning, ensuring that the fisheries plans drawn up under the Bill take into account the marine planning aspects. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, it is to make sure that the Bill is fully up to date with our marine planning requirements, not the other way around. However, on the basis that we can discuss this further, I beg leave to withdraw.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.