Amendment 52

Fisheries Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Lord Teverson:

Moved by Lord Teverson

52: After Clause 45, insert the following new Clause—“Regulatory enforcement and data collection scheme(1) The Secretary of State must—(a) by regulations provide that all vessels over 10 metres in length, and of whatever nationality, fishing within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone must be fitted with remote electronic monitoring systems and cameras for the purposes of—(i) full and accurate documentation of fish activities and bycatch, and(ii) monitoring compliance with fish activities, bycatch and other marine management regulations;(b) by regulations provide that all British vessels fishing outside the UK Exclusive Economic Zone must be fitted with remote electronic monitoring systems and cameras for the purposes of—(i) full and accurate documentation of fish activities and bycatch, and(ii) monitoring compliance with fish activities, bycatch and other marine management regulations;(c) publish a timetable for the phased introduction of the provisions under paragraphs (a) and (b), the final phase of which must be implemented within three years from the day on which this Act is passed; (d) publish plans, within two years from the day on which this Act is passed, following a consultation, to extend remote electronic monitoring systems with cameras to all motorised vessels of whatever nationality fishing within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone.(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (1) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”Member’s explanatory statementThe amendment mandates the use of remote electronic monitoring (REM) on all fishing vessels above 10 metres in length that fish in UK waters and requires plans to be published to extend REM to all vessels.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee

My Lords, this amendment is very much about marine conservation, the marine environment and the science, based on data collection. I will just put it into context. We currently have three Bills in Parliament that strongly affect the environment: the Environment Bill, the Agriculture Bill—which has just entered this House and had its Second Reading—and this Fisheries Bill, now on Report.

The Environment Bill is excellent in a particular area, in that it introduces the concept of net gain in biodiversity. That is quite radical, and I absolutely congratulate the Government on putting that in the Bill in a very practical way. It is a framework Bill but puts that in as a specific measure.

In the Agriculture Bill we have the ELMS—environmental land management scheme—which, although this is not actually mentioned, is the whole basis of the finance and how state aid in the agricultural industry will happen. This too is a very radical move on the environment, and I congratulate the Government on their courage in moving the way that that system works.

We can mirror that move forward in terms of the environment and conservation in this Bill by finding a way of practically enforcing the regulations and by greater collection of scientific data through fisheries, as well as all the scientific investigations that take place. In the fisheries area, I congratulate the Government particularly on the Blue Belt programme and everything we are doing in overseas territories on the marine environment and conservation, but also on their determination to keep the discard ban and the so-called landing obligation, which was in the common fisheries policy largely because of the British Government’s advocacy in the European Union.

But as the energy and environment sub-committee that I have the privilege of chairing found, the evidence is completely undeniable that the landing obligation—the discarding rule—is not observed by fisheries fleets. I am talking not just about the UK but across the European Union. It is imperative for the future of the marine environment that it is. The EU, essentially, wants us to obey the rules of its club.

What are the benefits of remote electronic monitoring, which is what this amendment is about? That is the technology. It is tried and tested but not compulsory in this part of the world. I think in Chile it is and has been found to be successful. It is recognised by all authorities—and, I think, by the Government as well—that this is by far the most effective way of ensuring that we can do two things. One is collecting data, not just on discarding but on fishing collection and bycatch. The other is that it is one of the few ways of ensuring that discarding does not happen. It cannot be done by aerial surveillance or drones. All those other technologies we have are not sufficient to do it and have been largely unsuccessful in enforcing that policy in the past.

So, what are the benefits of remote electronic monitoring? First, there is data and, secondly, we can see what bycatch there has been. It is a technology the costs of which are going down quite steeply, and the cost of capital investment and data transfer are not huge, whereas other costs of monitoring and enforcement are rising, whether we have observers on boats or the existing very expensive processes involving naval vessels, marine management patrol vessels or Marine Scotland. The costs of those services have been rising over time. It is an effective means of enforcement. It would apply to foreign as well as UK vessels. This is particularly important as the UK becomes an independent coastal state, as we are likely as a result of our negotiations to have some foreign vessels fishing in our waters.

One of the most important arguments about good enforcement that works across the seas is that it is fair. It means that those who cheat do not get away with it and, more importantly, those who keep to the rules are not disadvantaged commercially. That is not just a commercial issue but an ethical issue. The difficulty is this. Two years ago now—we were still part of the European Union and this policy was coming in as a European policy—I went to a conference in Copenhagen that was primarily a scientific conference. What came out very clearly from that was that member states and scientists and fishers from those states all said—we heard this in the evidence to our Select Committee—that they want to do this but will not be the first to do so because it will be an unfair disadvantage to their fleet if they move on it first. Now, that situation is different for the United Kingdom because from 1 January we will have complete control over our seas, so we can say what technologies and regulations foreign vessels coming into our EEZ or coastal waters, as well as our own fishing vessels, will have to adhere to and fulfil. We have the ability to make sure that no one is disadvantaged through this technology.

That is also why it clearly makes a lot of sense that this applies to the United Kingdom as a whole. It would be very strange indeed if we had different regulations in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales. I realise there are some devolution issues that the Minister brings up about this Bill. Indeed, if he said to me that he does not like the amendment as it is, but he will include it applying solely to England, I would be sorely tempted to accept that offer to get around the devolution problem. Someone has to move first in this area, be ahead of herd and have the courage to protect the marine environment in a way that cannot otherwise be done.

Lastly, this amendment primarily applies to larger vessels—the approximately 1,200 vessels that are more than 10 metres. For the under-10 metre fleet, we have to work it out more carefully, which is why there needs to be the consultation I have put in the amendment. It may be that those who fish with pots, for instance, would be excluded from this scheme. It would not necessarily make sense for that type of fishery to be included.

This is a real opportunity for Defra and the Government to move ahead on this issue. I have said in the amendment that it needs to be done within three years. That is easily possible; the technology is there. As the Minister knows, there have been a number of successful trials of this technology within the UK. Although there have been voluntary schemes, no vessel will volunteer to undertake it. It needs to be done across the fleet as a whole. On that basis, for the future of our seas, our marine environment and a tried-and-tested technology that is waiting to happen, I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Krebs Lord Krebs Chair, Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee, Chair, Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee 6:00 pm, 24th June 2020

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who set out the issue so clearly. I have little new to add but would like to echo three points that he made. First, on the role of data, we have heard repeatedly in earlier debates that there is a deficit of good data on which to base our fisheries management models and quota allocations. We cannot fish sustainably if we do not know what is being taken out of the sea. Secondly, as the noble Lord said, we want to ensure, as part of managing our fish stocks and the marine environment for the long term, that there is full compliance with the landing obligation. Thirdly, one argument we have heard is that requiring REM would be too burdensome or costly. I am not convinced by that argument. As the noble Lord said, new technologies are coming on stream that are bringing down the cost of REM. For instance, in Committee I referred to a system called Shellcatch, which is being adopted for fisheries management by small vessels in Puerto Rico and Chile. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are exploring these new technologies?

The main objection to REM seems a bit like the objection to speed cameras: it is not fair to have someone spying on me to check that I am complying with the law. Fishers who comply with the law have nothing to fear and should support REM to guarantee a level playing field.

It is also worth considering what consumers want. We know that all the major food retailers support REM because they do not want to sell illegal fish and know that their consumers want to buy and eat genuinely sustainable fish. Their joint statement says:

“Fully documenting fisheries is an essential tool for successful fisheries management and the attainment of healthy fish stocks … Properly documenting and accounting for catches should not be sacrificed because there are implementation challenges in some fleet sectors … we are willing to support initiatives that will be necessary to support this outcome. These include … Comprehensive and cost-effective monitoring and enforcement of measures, for example the use of remote electronic monitoring.”

I support this amendment as perhaps the single most important change that this House could make to the Bill. It will help to protect our fish stocks and our marine environment, protect our food industry from inadvertently breaking the law, and protect our consumers from eating illegal fish.

Photo of Lord Randall of Uxbridge Lord Randall of Uxbridge Conservative

My Lords, I am happy to have put my name to this amendment, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just said, this is probably the most important amendment that we can make to the Bill.

I congratulate the Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, on the various measures coming forward: the Agriculture and Environment Bills— and indeed this Bill—which show a commitment to improving our environment, both terrestrial and marine, although we may want to change a few little things in both of those. However, this amendment, as the two noble Lords preceding me said so well, is incredibly important.

First, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just said, it is important to realise that this is not just being pushed by environmentalists: business also wants it. Therefore, you have a very holy alliance between business and environmentalists. It is important to collect the data. I think the Minister would be disappointed if I did not say something or other about birds. For example, the Government’s own estimates of bycatch in fulmars is between 4,500 to 5,700 annually, and in guillemots 2,300 to 2,700. But this is in fact inadequate data, because those figures are purely an estimate. We need more information if we are to protect these species and see what is actually happening, and the same is of course true with cetaceans.

The other important thing is that we will be able to monitor changes in species as the climate changes. I have just finished reading a very interesting article in the latest issue of the Marine Conservation Society’s journal, on the new species that are now attracted to warmer waters as those who like the colder waters move further north. This data would be extremely important in finding out what is happening in our oceans. It is very difficult to see without a lot of expensive equipment, so this would be a very useful tool for scientists.

I have heard this item about the devolved Administrations. First, I ask my noble friend: has this been discussed with the devolved Administrations and, if so, have they rejected the idea? I also know, from my time trying to develop policy for the previous Prime Minister, that very often the devolved Administrations, particularly the one north of the border, like to get one step ahead of us. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, had an idea about it being for England only. I would prefer to see it for the whole of the United Kingdom, but if that cannot be done, and if the other Administrations are slow in taking this up, it would be admirable if we did this just for England.

I am afraid that, unless I hear something very encouraging from my noble friend, I shall once again find myself at odds with my Government—which always grieves me in many ways—and will support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the previous three noble Lords. They, and I, demonstrate that support for this amendment comes from all over the House.

It is an incredibly annoying amendment for the Government; I understand that, but it is sensible and the right thing to do. The Government, however, seem absolutely unable to accept any amendments that they have not thought of first. I realise that the Minister is very emollient and tries hard to be helpful. The fact is, however, that the Government must understand that they are not very good at writing legislation at the moment. This is one of the amendments that has to be accepted.

This is another time when I shall be incredibly annoying, because I am going to quote the Government’s own manifesto, which they delivered to us only six months ago, to them. On page five, they say that Brexit will allow us to

“raise standards in areas like workers’ rights, animal welfare, agriculture and the environment.”

This amendment will raise those standards drastically. Page 54 says:

“We have a long tradition of protecting animals in this country, often many years before others follow. Under a Conservative Government, that will continue”.

I really hope it does, and I hope the Government will accept this amendment. By rejecting it, the Government will ensure that we continue to fall behind other countries. Australia, for example, found that reporting improved massively after CCTV was installed on a fishing fleet, and that interactions with sea birds and mammals were reported seven times more often when the cameras were there keeping an eye on things.

This amendment will help to save the lives of many marine creatures, such as dolphins and porpoises. It will spur a cultural change in the fishing industry and help to protect our oceans. I look forward to the amendment being pushed to a vote, so that your Lordships’ House can show the strength of feeling on this and reflect the huge public support for improving animal welfare.

Photo of The Duke of Montrose The Duke of Montrose Conservative 6:15 pm, 24th June 2020

My Lords, I am most grateful to all those whose expertise has made this hybrid form of participation possible, but I have been warned that my connection is very tenuous. If I am not coming across clearly, I would be quite happy for them to disconnect me.

Fishing is a much more important part of the Scots economy than it is of the UK’s as a whole, so I am one of those who have taken an interest in the issues that the industry has faced over a number of years. Ever since the start of the common fisheries policy, quotas and limits to the level of catch available to the participants has been a topic of dispute.

The conflict is mainly between the fishermen and the scientists. That is what the amendment strives to deal with. One would hope that, by now, their various estimates would be coming together, but, as with the nature of fish and fishing, this does not seem to be a great hope as yet.

The amendment would make remote electronic monitoring mandatory throughout UK waters. REM has certainly been around for a number of years and its ability to record data is very much recognised, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, emphasised. It even went so far as to be the subject of some voluntary trials, but its popularity was not helped when, shortly thereafter, some of the boats on which it was tried were taken to court for infringing common fisheries policy rules.

I note some of the evidence that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, brought in, but I remember talking to fishermen’s representatives at that time, who said that they would back the installation of REM if we could be sure that the ruling would apply to boats of all countries. This, of course, is very nearly where we should be if a favourable deal is agreed, but I am afraid that the fishermen’s organisations seem to follow what I have heard of as the earliest philosophy of St Francis of Assisi, who, as a young man about town, admitted to a prayer, “Lord, make me pure, but not yet.” The briefings they give us list a number of improvements and impediments that they would like to be completed, not least of which is that the regulation of fishing is very much a devolved matter and that the Government, under devolution, do not have the agreement necessary to make this a sweeping power. So I am afraid I do not think I can support the amendment, although I understand exactly what it is designed to achieve.

At the same time, through the various amendments we are considering, we are touching on an important aspect of this legislation. One of the criticisms of trying to introduce any new provisions such as this in Europe was that it tended to be necessary to wait for the most reluctant participant to come to the agreement. It was like the old saying that the speed of the convoy was that of the slowest ship. Due to devolution, we now have separate regional Governments and the devolved Administrations have the power to go their own way. One thing that concerns me is that the amendment is bound to create problems in policing the various boundaries that exist between our Administrations. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, would like to see the measures in place in England only, but there would be complications. Any mandatory REM by one devolved nation would trigger this. Can my noble friend the Minister say what channels the UK Government have to get the devolved nations to reach agreement on issues such as this?

Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated

My Lords, I support the aims of this new clause in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. For me, it is about marine conservation science around data collection. I have a number of questions, some for the Minister and some for the noble Lord.

I have been carrying out some research into the implications of this clause and I fully understand why we want data collection. As the noble Lord, Lord Randall, said, it can assist in climate change, informing us about the migratory movements of fish species and the volume of particular species in certain waters, and whether new species have come into certain waters as a result of the impact of climate change. All that information is very beneficial in determining fishing policy. If the new clause were approved, it would make a vital contribution to an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management through the generation of information on known targets and protected species captured by fishing gears. Such information would provide details about the level of discards and invaluable information about the nature and status of commercial stocks, and obviously it would bring about compliance with the landing obligation.

I am aware that there is some concern in the fishing industry about the impact of this clause if it were accepted. Can the Minister, who has been very gracious with his time the last few days, say what discussions have taken place with the devolved Administrations, since fisheries are a devolved matter, about remote monitoring? I know that these devices would be placed in the working areas of the boats and not in the private areas, because that was a concern for the fishing industry as well.

I would also be most grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, could say who will police the remote monitoring and who will pay for it. I am mindful that fisheries management works in partnership with the industry; the various devolved Administrations and the Government have to work with the fish producer organisations, the skippers, the fishers and the processors, as a consequence of all of that.

Those are my questions, and if the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, presses his amendment to a Division, I will support it.

Photo of Lord Cameron of Dillington Lord Cameron of Dillington Crossbench

My Lords, remote electronic monitoring will be hugely important to the future management of our fisheries, for a variety of reasons.

First, we do not have the resources to police all our waters. We will soon have the largest independent national fisheries area on the continent. If no one can fish our waters without REM, both home boats and foreign boats, at least we will know, in real time, what is going on and whether boats are fulfilling their obligations under their licences.

Secondly, it is said that 40% of all catch taken in Europe is currently caught in what will become British waters, so if we can strictly manage and police that catch all around the UK, we will have a chance of leading the field and becoming an example to others in managing a sustainable fisheries regime.

Thirdly, we all know that discards are still happening, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned. While sympathising with the problems of choke species, we have to be firm about this, while of course helping and encouraging the industry to find its own non-discard solutions—one of which is the intelligent use of REM, which I will come to.

The main reason for REM, which I would like to focus on, is data, as the title of this amendment highlights. Data is vital to the proper management of our fisheries and is in relatively short supply. That is why there are often disputes between scientists and fishers about the accuracy of the data on which MSY figures are based, and whether this data is sufficiently up to date, et cetera. Now we have the chance of every single fishing boat becoming a scientific research vessel, sending back data on an hourly basis.

The Government have announced that they would like to change the basis of the quota system from relative stability to one of zonal attachment. For that you need a lot more data analysis, because the main idea behind zonal attachment is that you look at the entire life cycle of the fish, where they live at any particular point in time and where and when they are of the right size and in the right quantities to be caught. You need an awful lot of data to make the right assessment, and, of course, that data will vary for each individual species.

We must remember that the seas are always changing, and so are the habits and population development of the fish within them. So it is only right that the industry should play a major part in the data gathering needed for modern fisheries management. Furthermore, as I mentioned in Committee, one of the tools for avoiding the overcatch of choke species is giving the fishing boats real-time knowledge of what is being caught and where, so that they can more easily avoid the choke problem areas. Again, for fisheries authorities, real-time data is vital to help them control the problem of overfishing. Norway and Iceland already impose real-time closures of areas of water where sensitive species are suddenly being overfished, but the key to this policy is detailed and open data, provided by REM.

Eventually, all boats, including the under-10s, will have to have REM on board. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, touched on, I cannot believe that supermarkets will—or should—continue to allow sales of fish from their counters which have come from boats of whatever size that are not totally open about what they have caught and where. So the supermarkets, too, should be insisting on REM.

The national administration in the USA has recently taken the decision on REM that there is no need for further piloting; they just need to get on and do it. New Zealand has also taken the decision to roll it out across the whole of its fleet. I believe that we should do likewise.

Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour

My Lords, we talked a lot about REM in Committee, and it remains the case that, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson’s Select Committee report stated, without REM there will be no real way of establishing whether discards are still happening and whether catch limits are being observed. Universal REM would mean better data for fisheries management, as the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, has just outlined—and of course, for enforcement.

At the moment about 60% of the UK’s shellfish stocks have unknown status, and not much is known about several vulnerable bycatch species. Enforcement is patchy, with the current at-sea inspections regarded as just bad luck by some operators, since less than 1% of trips are independently monitored. REM would vastly increase the level of enforcement in a cost-effective way.

In their response to the Committee’s report, the Government recognised the effectiveness of REM in monitoring fishing activity and bringing full compliance with the landing obligation. We know that many other countries have adopted or are adopting REM—New Zealand, British Columbia, part of the US—and in this post-Covid period of digital leaps forward, it seems sensible for us to adopt a modern methodology for the collection of data and for monitoring and enforcement. So let us just do it—and if it is for England only, let us still start there.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

My Lords, the matter of REM is of the utmost importance. Of course, it already exists in the industry. For example, vessels over 12 metres carry transponders which provide data on vessel location, being satellites at sea. This is a strong aid to effective monitoring, control and enforcement in relation to the work that the boat does. Likewise, electronic logbooks for vessels over 10 metres in length and a mobile phone catch app for vessels under 10 metres, have strengthened the flow of information necessary for the effective management of our fisheries.

CCTV cameras have already been used successfully on a voluntary basis in the United Kingdom and Denmark in projects to provide assurance that cod catches, for example, are kept within permitted limits. Other initiatives using CCTV in a similar way have helped scientists understand specific catch patterns, and provide useful advice to fisheries managers. REM undoubtedly has an important role to play in the future management of UK fisheries.

However, these examples of the successful application of modern technology in fisheries do not mean that at this stage we should take the next step and make REM mandatory. This is problematical. Would we want a policeman in all our offices to make sure that we are constantly obeying the law? Furthermore, the majority of fisheries control authorities, such as the Marine Management Organisation in England, recognise that the route to high levels of compliance lies in dialogue, shared objectives and resolving the management challenges that underly most examples of non-compliance; in other words, it is important that the law which is to be observed by fishing boats is clear and easy to understand.

My understanding of the present system is that there is a good deal of complexity in it and that in some areas it appears to be contradictory. Before one considers making an obligation of this kind mandatory, it is important to ensure that we who are responsible for making the law play our part by making sure that the law in question is absolutely plain. It is important to get all this information, and a good deal of voluntary REM has already been taken up.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, made an interesting point in support of what I am going to say. Businesses, supermarkets and the like do not wish to sell fish that has been caught illegally. On the fish counter in any supermarket, there is almost always a statement of some kind saying that the fish being supplied comes from sustainable stocks. They have an interest in this and therefore the leverage to ask the people who supply them to provide the information. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable that fishermen should first have the option to use REM. Only if that system did not work—and when the law is already clear—would it be likely to impugn our fishermen as dishonest, which of course underlies the need for compulsion. It is just because we cannot trust people to do what is wanted of them that we have to do this.

At this stage, it seems to be a kind of imposition on fishermen to suggest that they are dishonest and require constant, detailed monitoring. George Orwell foresaw that applying even more widely than in fisheries, but surely fishermen are entitled to the same level of trust and freedom that we expect generally. I believe that it will be possible for the use of REM to become generally acceptable and used throughout the industry without the need to brand the whole of it as requiring a constant police force. Fishermen are able to provide the information. The cheaper the system is, the better, and I agree that it is becoming cheaper. It will then become easier for fishermen to put in the necessary equipment and to use it voluntarily.

In my submission, it is not right at this stage to impugn fisheries people as if they were dishonest and not properly to be trusted. After all, they endure a great deal to get fish for us. I hope that we would be willing to trust them to put this information forward and make it as available as possible with the systems that are now available, and not impose on them the suspicion that requires a mandatory system to be imposed.

Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative

My Lords, the words of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay are profound, factual and persuasive; I will not repeat them.

I want to pick up two issues. First, none of us should forget that Brexit, taking place on 1 January next year, is a time of massive change for every industry in the UK. In my judgment, it is not a time to produce new or developing technologies. In the short term, as I see it, the key issue is discards. Interestingly, when I did some research, I found that the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation feels the same way. It feels that it can deal with discards now, in the sense that—I quote the brief that it very kindly sent me—

“this will be the first opportunity for decades to design a fisheries management system that can reduce the problem of discards very significantly through moving away from the common fisheries policy’s relative stability model, which plays a large part in creating the problem, in a move to a modern, evidence-based model based on zonal attachment. The priority should be modernising and fixing this system, rather than putting in place prescriptive legislative measures to monitor the symptoms of a failing model under the common fisheries policy that we now have the opportunity to leave behind.”

In my commercial life, I have found that it is far better to work with the people you are working with—to work alongside them and persuade them on the way. If you ultimately have to do something that they really do not agree with, fine—but not at this point in time in our society when this massive change is coming. Let us allow the fishermen—Scottish fishermen in particular; after all, they produce well over 60% of the landings and work on a devolved basis—to sort out discards, which are honestly a key problem.

Secondly, in the meantime, let the experiments that are being undertaken, according to my noble and learned friend, deliver alongside that. We must take away this element of forcing on people certain issues that they do not particularly want at this time, that they probably do not understand in depth and that will cause aggro, which is the last thing we need.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, has asked to be readmitted to this debate.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

I am most grateful. I seemed to have fallen off the speakers’ list so I thank the House for reinstating me.

I have a quick question for the Minister. Given the time, I do not want to rehearse things that I agree or disagree with. I am sure that the Minister stated at Second Reading, or in the informal briefing prior to Second Reading, that the Government are minded to introduce remote electronic monitoring. At what stage of preparation is the Government’s introduction of REM? Do the Government have a point of principle against introducing REM at this stage or is it simply a matter of timing and preparation, as other speakers have alluded to?

Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My Lords, we had an extensive debate in Committee on the use of remote electronic monitoring of all fishing vessels. Noble Lords on all sides of the House have expressed concern at the state of fish stocks and the amount of bycatch and discards. It is not that we do not trust our fishing industry to stick to the quota and species rules; it is more that a degree of realism is needed when dealing with this issue. The discard ban is not being observed, and not just in the UK. Full compliance, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, told us, is essential. In the past, fish stocks have been decimated, cod in particular, which has led to a switch to other species. Due to stringent measures, including REM, cod stocks are beginning to recover. The only fail-safe way of protecting fish stocks is to have fish monitored at the point of catching, and REM is the most effective way of doing this.

Marine conservation has to be led by scientific data. My noble friend Lord Teverson has explained the purpose of REM as an enforcement tool. Where this is currently used, it is effective. I regret that I am unable to agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that now is not the time to make REM mandatory. Now it is precisely the time. If we leave this to the discretion of fishermen, fish stocks data will be insufficient.

This amendment has cross-party support; it covers the current UK over-10-metre fishing fleet fishing within the UK exclusive economic zone; it covers the UK fishing fleet outside the UK EEZ; and it covers all motorised vessels fishing in the UK EEZ, whatever their nationality. In the vernacular, what’s not to like? As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, told us, supermarkets do not wish to sell and the public do not want to buy illegally caught fish. The noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, called this amendment the most important change we can make to the Bill.

Many noble Lords have mentioned data collection. It is essential that we know where fish are moving as result of changing sea temperatures and flows. How can we do this if data is not collected? REM would allow data to come back regularly, as the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, told us. This is not new technology; it is tried and tested.

The conditions in the amendment are stringent, but they need to be to protect our fish stocks. Without protecting our fish stocks, future fisheries will find fish stocks depleted and that there is nothing for them to catch. The arguments have been made and I look forward to the Minister’s response, but I fear I will probably be voting virtually.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My Lords, I am pleased to have added my name to this amendment, so ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. In the interests of time, I shall make just a few quick points about the wider advantages, beyond the obvious ones, of access to real-time scientific data. First, REM will enable us to be more responsive to the movement of different fish stocks around our warming waters. That could also provide new economic opportunities, where fishing opportunities are more aligned with the real-time scientific data and therefore enable more fishing to take place. That evidence would potentially also allow more species to achieve Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification, which would boost sales in the retail sector, a point ably made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. Secondly, we do not accept the point made previously by the Minister that this policy would be a distraction from vessel monitoring systems and aerial surveillance. These have their place but do not provide the detail that cameras on board the vessels would, particularly of the species being caught.

Thirdly, on fairness, many boats are already using REM voluntarily, so all we are trying to do is to raise the standard to that of the best and create a level playing field. Fourthly, we also believe that it would be an added safety feature on boats and would provide security for the crew should any danger arise. As other noble Lords have said, I get the impression that Ministers are currently thinking about introducing compulsory REM. A number of Ministers have made positive comments about it in the past, so the Government just need to bite the bullet and push on with the policy, and the Bill is the right place to do it. I therefore hope all noble Lords will support this amendment.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:45 pm, 24th June 2020

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord’s amendment and I can be unequivocal in saying that the Government fully support the principle behind it.

Let me be clear in emphasising the importance that the Government place on this country, as an independent coastal state, having the best possible monitoring and enforcement. To achieve that, it is important that we remain flexible and do not prescribe one specific action in the Bill. Leaving the common fisheries policy and taking the Bill forward with its many enabling powers means that we can now design and implement the right policies to fit our diverse fisheries. We must indeed grasp this opportunity, working in close co-operation with all those who have an interest in a healthy marine environment, including the fishing industry. I agree with my noble friend Lord Naseby that this will best be done by working in consort with the fishing industry,

I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to the Environment Bill, the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill. They all make very clear the Government’s intent to enhance the marine and terrestrial environments and all that goes with them.

As I made clear at earlier stages of the Bill, lawyers have advised that the Bill already provides the Government with the necessary powers, in paragraphs (h) and (q) of Clause 36(4), to mandate the use of remote electronic monitoring on both domestic and foreign vessels—I emphasise that point—fishing in English waters or across UK waters, if that is agreed with the devolved Administrations, as provided for in Clause 40.

The Clause 36 provisions also allow the Government to introduce new and emerging monitoring and enforcement technologies. We all agree that we want to move to a situation where the UK has the best possible monitoring and enforcement regime. However, REM may well find itself being replaced by something more contemporary and more effective in the near future—a point that my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern alluded to. In terms of good law-making, putting something on the face of the Bill that we are already able to do and know that we will want to change in the future is, in our view, not desirable. Instead, providing for its use in secondary legislation allows us to remain flexible and to react more quickly to the latest scientific and technological advances.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, referred to other future technologies, and these are being explored by the MMO, including through a joint project with Defra looking into the use of drones more widely. The MMO has previously used a drone to review aquaculture compliance and has used drone data to inform another investigation. Were we, in future, to legislate for these advances in technology, we would be able to do so through secondary legislation.

In addition, I remind noble Lords that monitoring and enforcement are devolved policies. The amendment covers the whole of the United Kingdom, which is contrary to our devolved settlements. It is also contrary to the spirit of the Bill with regard to how we develop fisheries policy, where we seek to build consensus with our devolved Administrations. A number of noble Lords, including my noble friends the Duke of Montrose and Lord Randall and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, asked about this, and I will be very straightforward in my reply. The Scottish and Welsh Governments do not support the amendment. REM is being used in their waters in different and appropriate ways. For example, the Scottish Government are rolling it out across their scallop fleet, but their view is that the broad-brush approach in this amendment is not welcome.

In response to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, we have small inshore boats that can catch as little as a couple of pots of shellfish or a box of white fish on a single fishing trip, larger boats that use multiple gear types throughout the year and target many different species, and large pelagic vessels that can catch hundreds of tonnes of pelagic species in a single fishing trip. Each of these would benefit from different approaches to enforcement, as the risks are different for each of them. Even with the differentiation between over and under-10-metre vessels, as set out in the amendment, a one-size-fits-all approach to managing these diverse over-10-metre fisheries does not, in our view, work. The amendment does not reflect this variation. Instead, it calls for a blanket rollout of REM on all over-10-metre vessels, irrespective of the fisheries in which those vessels operate or their impact on the marine environment. To put it into context, in 2018 there were more than 514 over-10-metre vessels in England alone.

Another point I should raise is that REM is not just an enforcement tool. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, referred to this. It can be used to collect scientific data on things such as catch composition or to assess which gear type is most selective. This could in turn help us better understand the health of our fish stock and wider marine environment. As an amateur ornithologist, I was interested in my noble friend Lord Randall’s points about fulmars and guillemots. It is right that we maximise the benefits of any electronic monitoring by ensuring that wherever possible it can address multiple objectives. However, that brings new questions which must be addressed. For example, we expect that the images collected for enforcement purposes may not be wholly appropriate for scientific data collection. We must ask ourselves what changes we can make to the camera set-up that will allow us to do both.

I also want to use this opportunity to draw out some other issues we must address before committing to a rollout of REM. The first is cost, including up-front costs such as hardware and installation and even greater ongoing costs such as maintenance and storing and reviewing the data collected. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the initial cost of an REM system is around £9,000. That does not cover any ongoing costs, which also need to be factored in. We believe it is right that we conduct a full cost-benefit analysis of all our options to make sure that we are using the most effective tools for the job. REM costs are not insignificant. Indeed, profitability across the 10-metre sector can vary, and some segments operate with very low profits.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, the Government do and will consider all technology. I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising what is going on in other countries because we want to make sure that we get the right technology for all our fisheries and our marine environment. Clearly, we must work closely with all our neighbours, including those in the EU and other coastal states, to ensure we have compatible monitoring and enforcement systems. This amendment recognises that we would need time to work through issues such as how we would store data and share it between countries before requiring REM to be used on foreign vessels fishing in UK waters. Sensitive personal data could be collected via these systems, so we must have a robust data protection approach in place before a widespread scheme could be rolled out.

I say to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who mentioned England, that the Government have already taken a number of steps to test and, where appropriate, use camera equipment in our fisheries, so I gently chide the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulescoomb, about her suggestion that perhaps we are not doing anything. We are already undertaking these matters. We are running the English fully documented fisheries scheme whereby we put cameras on vessels operating in the North Sea cod fishery. This scheme has shown that REM can be an effective tool to monitor and enforce the landing obligation. Defra is also launching a project this year to use electronic monitoring in the complex mixed Celtic Sea fishery, focusing on generating scientific evidence on catch composition. This will build on previous studies in the south-west focused on haddock. We expect data collection to start in the autumn, with initial results emerging next year.

On the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, about data on shellfish, there are a number of projects already under way relating to non-quota shellfish and improving the quality and quantity of data collected for these fisheries. One of the projects to improve data collection in England is a king scallop stock assessment programme that is jointly funded by Defra and industry at a cost of around £450,000 per year, and there are further projects.

The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, also asked about the implementation of real-time closures. Indeed, the United Kingdom already closes certain fisheries at certain times of the year to protect juvenile or spawning fish.

The Government are developing an integrated package of reforms to be phased in over the coming years, once we have left the transition period and the Bill receives Royal Assent. This will include new tailored approaches to monitoring and enforcement. I think we are all on the same page as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. We all understand, since we are good custodians, that monitoring and enforcement will be vital for both domestic and foreign vessels fishing in our waters. I say candidly that there are strong reasons why setting out in the Bill explicit requirements to use REM—I have explained to noble Lords that we have been using it and undertaking trials—when it might be superseded by new technologies, could inhibit the UK delivering the right policy. I am dutybound to draw that to your Lordships’ attention.

I know exactly what we all desire. I am sure that the noble Lord will say that it is not happening fast enough, but we need to work with industry and with the devolved Administrations. We need to work with our partners in other waters as well. We all like action this day, but sometimes these things should be done in consultation and by working together to get them right, although I absolutely respect the desire for action this day. I hope, with that rather lengthy explanation, that the noble Lord will at least feel able to consider withdrawing his amendment.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee

My Lords, I really find it interesting that the Minister is arguing for a level playing field with the European Union over fisheries regulations. That is fantastic. I shall tell Michel Barnier that the Minister is on board with all the European Union’s demands.

This is a really important issue. I will be as brief as I can, but I want to thank all noble Lords for their contributions. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, is absolutely right about retailers, but let us get ahead of the retailers, for goodness sake. Let us get our industry match fit before the retailers come and say that this has to be implemented, and other people do it first. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Randall, in particular. Bycatch of birds is a whole area that is important in itself.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, asked who would enforce this. Marine Scotland, the Northern Ireland authorities, the MMO in England and the Welsh authorities would enforce it. On who pays for the technology, although it now costs way less than £9,000—I think it is estimated at £3,500 per year for these systems, which is an absolute fraction of the turnover of vessels over 10 metres—we can have government schemes. The European Union had schemes to pay for such implementations and the Government have promised to replace the European funding to the fisheries funds, so that could be used if we want to do it.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, implied that we somehow should not catch people doing illegal things. That is a really strange concept. I spent 20 years in the haulage industry. I remember the industry arguing about tachographs in the early 1970s—“We can’t have those”, “Spy in the cab” and all of that. Thank goodness, the Government kept their nerve and did it. Was it a problem afterwards? No. Tachographs gave excellent management information and made sure that the law and road safety regulations were complied with. No one has looked back since. I do not recall the noble and learned Lord asking for the repeal of tachographs in the haulage industry.

I agree absolutely with the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. There is no stronger argument: the common fisheries policy did fail on this. We have this opportunity to put the common fisheries policy absolutely right.

As for all the rest of the changes that the noble Lord mentioned, all the regulations will stay exactly the same, because we have now embedded them in UK law. The regulations governing fisheries will not change on 1 January 2021, so far as I can see. We would then start to change them as time goes on.

The point is that, as the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, said, we need to get on with it. This is a tried and tested technology, both globally and in the United Kingdom, and the fisheries industry is used to it. I notice that the Minister has not taken me up on my offer of getting round the devolution problem by making this an England-only application, which I would have been prepared to talk about. No, this is something that we need to get on with. The marine environment is important, we are an independent coastal state, we have foreign vessels coming into a very large EEZ, and we need to ensure that they are monitored and that we increase our data for the science. We just need to get on with this, and on that basis, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 289, Noes 230.

Division number 3 Fisheries Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) — Amendment 52

Aye: 289 Members of the House of Lords

No: 230 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Division conducted remotely on Amendment 52

Amendment 52 agreed.

Amendments 53 and 54 not moved.

Schedule 10: Common Fisheries Policy Regulation: minor and consequential amendments