My Lords, I do not propose to debate this at any length. When I tabled my opposition to Clause 6, I had not appreciated that my Amendment 49A, which we debated earlier, would have had the chance to have been debated today.
I am especially grateful that my noble friend the Minister has said that we can have a further discussion on the question of fisheries management plans. That would give me the opportunity to explore many of the issues. Therefore, I do not wish to pursue this, other than to say that I stand by the comments I made earlier that, in terms of stock levels and controlling the biomass, it is not sufficient to look at it purely in terms of sustainability. We need to look at the biomass in terms of maximum sustainable yield. We will have an opportunity to discuss that next time.
My Lords, I am glad to have the opportunity to set out the intentions of the Government in this new provision in the Bill to produce fisheries management plans. We have already discussed various aspects and provisions of the plans, and I take this opportunity to highlight the fact that the requirement to produce these plans was not included in the previous fisheries Bill. Inclusion of this requirement demonstrates the Government’s commitment towards securing sustainable stocks and meeting the manifesto commitment on the matter. Fisheries management plans will help the United Kingdom’s aims to recover and maintain fish stocks to healthy levels, ensure we fish sustainably and offer the flexibility in our management approaches to deal with our complex fisheries.
Clause 6 requires the UK fisheries administrations to produce fisheries management plans as described in the joint fisheries statement and sets out the detail of what these plans must contain. The plans will directly contribute to the fisheries objectives in Clause 1. They will set out the detailed fisheries conservation measures necessary to manage specific fisheries and fish stocks. Each plan will set out the geographic area that it covers, the stock or stocks covered, and how its effectiveness will be monitored and reported.
Where we do not have enough scientific evidence to assess a stock’s MSY, the administration or administrations must include the steps they will take to obtain the scientific evidence required to establish sustainable harvest limits or explain why they do not intend to do so. This might, for instance, be if scientific advice indicates that a suitable proxy measure for assessing a stock’s sustainability can be used instead. For example, such an approach is used for North Sea lemon sole, which is a data-limited stock. A precautionary buffer is applied based on advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.
As I have said, I am very happy to have what I would call as technical a meeting as your Lordships wish it to be on the fisheries management plans. These plans will be the backbone of the technical aspects of fisheries management policy in the future. However, for this evening, I hope that my noble friend feels happy not to press her opposition to the clause.