Duty to ensure adequate monitoring and enforcement

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 pm on 17th December 2018.

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“(1) The fisheries policy authorities must ensure that all fishing vessels fishing within British fishery limits and all UK vessels fishing both within and outside of British fishery limits must have installed on board a fully functioning device which allows that vessel to be automatically located and identified through the vessel monitoring system by transmitting position data at least every 20 minutes and sharing such position data with the relevant fisheries policy authorities.

(2) The fisheries policy authorities must ensure that all fishing vessels over ten metres length overall fishing within British fishery limits and all UK fishing vessels over ten metres length overall fishing within and outside of British fishery limits must have electronic monitoring equipment in order to—

(a) provide detailed and accurate documentation of all fishing activities, monitoring of compliance with fisheries and marine management measures and the ability to record levels of discarding, as well as details of catch of species, whether subject to catch quota or otherwise, and

(b) enable the estimation of the size and quantity of the marine biological resources taken or transported and to enable the identification, to the extent possible, of—

(i) the species of marine biological resources taken or transported;

(ii) the types and features of fishing gear used, and

(iii) any technical bycatch mitigation measures used.

(3) The fishery policy authorities must ensure that a comprehensive enforcement framework is developed in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008, as amended from time to time.

(4) The fisheries policy authorities must by regulations make provision for any technical requirements necessary to implement this section.”—

The purpose of this amendment is to strengthen the existing mechanisms for monitoring and control to help prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. This includes requiring transmission of position data at least every 20 minutes and requiring electronic monitoring equipment on the majority of vessels capable of carrying such technology.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This is a very much a probing new clause. There is little in the Bill—arguably nothing—that deals with monitoring and enforcement. This proposal, authored by Greener UK, is to have real-time reporting with technological devices and CCTV cameras. Those are live issues within the industry, and between industry scientists and conservationists. It is unfortunate that there is nothing at all in the Bill on the matter, so I have tabled the new clause to give the Minister an opportunity to explain what the Government will do about monitoring and enforcement, close to the implementation of the Bill.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

We heard evidence on this subject from the director of the Marine Management Organisation, Phil Haslam, who said in relation to enforcement activities around fishing:

“The budget reduction since inception has been in the order of 60%”.––[Official Report, Fisheries Public Bill Committee, ; c. 50, Q101.]

That is simply unsustainable if we are to have properly enforced, well-protected and well-managed fisheries after Brexit. A number of concerns were voiced in the evidence sessions and since. We know that the number of hours of surveillance has dropped significantly since 2010, from 16,000 to just 2,000 now.

If we are to avoid a repetition of the scallop wars, but in UK rather than French waters, we need to ensure that we have sufficient levels of enforcement. It is good news that the Government have decided not necessarily to scrap all the Batch 1 River class offshore patrol vessels. That is a positive step forward, but there has still been no commitment on the number of hours those OPVs may be deployed for enforcement activity; there has just been a headline about their continued service, but with no certainty as to what that will mean.

We need to get much better on enforcement. There are serious concerns in the fishing industry about the focus on enforcement activities by UK ships enforcing in UK waters, which are targeting UK boats rather than foreign boats, which seem to have a lower standard when it comes to a number of different areas. The Government need to get better at enforcement, because the Opposition do not currently have confidence in their ability to enforce in our waters properly, especially when quota will be drawn down against our EU friends after Brexit, as we move from relative stability to zonal attachment. There are serious concerns about whether there is sufficient capacity within the enforcement branches of the Royal Navy’s fisheries squadron.

I will also press the Minister on what that means for inshore vessel monitoring systems. Earlier we asked whether EU boats should have the same requirements to obey the high safety standards and marine environmental protections. Can he confirm that all foreign boats will be required to have IVMS if they are in UK waters after Brexit, as that will help us in our enforcement activities?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I shall try to strike a more conciliatory tone in my response to this new clause, following the comments from the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. I believe that the new clause is unnecessary, although it does highlight an important issue: enforcement. The new clause duplicates existing legislation, including the so-called control regulation—Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009—which will be rolled forward into retained EU law. Therefore, the requirements for vessel monitoring systems and data transmission and the provision of information such as logbooks will continue to apply to any vessel fishing in our waters.

In addition, as I made clear earlier, DEFRA has recently consulted on extending VMS requirements to UK vessels under 12 metres in length. Work on this is at an advanced stage and we anticipate bringing forward the regulations next year. The UK also has obligations under the United Nations convention on the law of the sea and the regulations on illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries, and that requires effective monitoring and enforcement in any event. Also, clause 31 enables the Secretary the State to make regulations to introduce further provisions pertaining to enforcement and control.

The shadow Minister questioned the capacity for enforcement. As we discussed earlier, the three existing fisheries patrol vessels will remain in service—the decision to decommission them has been delayed. In addition, four new offshore patrol vessels will come into service next year. Finally, we have been doing some work with the Border Force cutters, and four vessels operated by the Border Force are capable of doing fisheries work. We have been training Border Force personnel to do fisheries protection work. Finally, on top of all of that, we are in discussions with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on aerial surveillance, so there will be a substantial uplift in enforcement capacity.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport mentioned funding. That will depend on how much of that capacity we need according to the type of scenario. At this stage, the important thing is to ensure that all of the capacity is there. If we need to access it, we can do so very quickly.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Briefly, EU boats are currently required to have IVMS, but there is a data-sharing agreement between all EU member states. Will the Minister confirm that data sharing agreements are in place for IVMS on EU boats and the UK authorities after we leave the EU?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 10:00 pm, 17th December 2018

There will need to be an agreement on that, but obviously we have those data-sharing agreements with other neighbours, such as Norway, Iceland and the Faroes. In the absence of such an agreement, there will be no access whatsoever to European vessels. They will not be able to come into our waters unless they comply with our data requirements.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

The joy is matched by your own presence in the Chair, Mr Gray, I assure you.

The challenge was put down that we should have Home Office Ministers on our fishing boats. It seems that the best we are going to get is some Border Force officers on a fishing boat, and not necessarily in the circumstances that we might have voted on for the purpose that we were discussing.

I said at the start that the new clause was intended to be probing. I think that the Bill would benefit from the inclusion of provisions on enforcement and monitoring. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that. Otherwise, we might wish to return to the matter on Report. I am pretty certain that my noble friends will have an approach to this. In the meantime, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

To keep the Committee up to date, there is some confusion about new clause 25, which appears on the selection list in error. There will be no further debate on new clause 25, which has already been voted on in a group earlier today.

New Clause 14