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Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

16/01/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Gareth Bennett AM
Helen Mary Jones AM
Jenny Rathbone AM yn dirprwyo ar ran Jayne Bryant
substitute for Jayne Bryant
John Griffiths AM
Joyce Watson AM
Llyr Gruffydd AM
Mike Hedges AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Debbie Crockard Greener UK
Greener UK
Dr Bryce Stewart Arweinydd Rhaglen BSc / MEnv Gwyddorau Amgylcheddol--Prifysgol Caerefrog
Programme Leader BSc / MEnv Environmental Science--University of York
Emily Williams Cyswllt Amgylchedd Cymru
Wales Environment Link
Griffin Carpenter Uwch Ymchwilydd--New Economic Foundation
Senior Researcher--New Economic Foundation
Jeremy Percy Cyfarwyddwr--Cymdeithas Newydd Pysgotwyr o dan Ddeg
Director--New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association
Jim Evans Cadeirydd--Cymdeithas Pysgotwyr Cymru
Chairman--Welsh Fisherman’s Association
Jon Parker CamNesa
CamNesa
Professor Richard Barnes Deon Cyswllt ar gyfer Ymchwil – Prifysgol Hull
Associate Dean for Research--University of Hull
Sarah Denman Cyfreithiwr gyda UK Environment--ClientEarth
UK Environment Lawyer--ClientEarth

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Lorna Scurlock Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:16.

The meeting began at 09:16.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Can I welcome Members to the meeting? Following Steffan Lewis's untimely death last Friday, I'm sure the committee would like to send its deepest condolences to Steffan Lewis's family during this difficult time. 

We've got one apology from Andrew R.T. Davies. We've got a substitution today of Jenny Rathbone for Jayne Bryant, but using my ability to see into the future, I expect Jenny Rathbone to be made a member of this committee following this afternoon's vote. So, you're very welcome, Jenny, and can we thank Jayne Bryant for the work she's done on this committee? Have Members got any interests? No. 

2. Trafod y Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol ar gyfer Bil Pysgodfeydd y DU: sesiwn dystiolaeth gydag academyddion
2. Consideration of the Legislative Consent Memorandum for the UK Fisheries Bill: evidence session with academics

Moving on then to the consideration of evidence, can I welcome Professor Richard Barnes, Griffin Carpenter and Dr Bryce Stewart to the committee, and thank you very much for coming along to give evidence to us? And, if you're okay, I will start. To what extent do the provisions set out in the UK Fisheries Bill provide a suitable legislative framework to deliver coherent and sustainable UK fisheries management? Who wants to go first?

Shall I go first?

Okay. Looking at it from a legal perspective, I've spent a couple of months looking at various provisions. I think, initially, I was a little bit sceptical about it because it's quite thin in terms of some of the kind of key details that you might expect, but as a piece of enabling legislation, I think that the critical thing with it is whether it provides sufficient powers, but also imposes sufficient duties to effectively manage fisheries. And fisheries are a very dynamic field, so it needs fairly flexible provisions built into it. I think I'm gradually coming to the view that it's actually a fairly solid piece of legislation. It has all the kind of basic elements to it, but the devil is in the detail with actually how it's going to be implemented, and, in particular, with the critical aspects like allocation, the content of the joint fisheries statement and so on. 

I largely agree with that. I think there are some admirable, high-level ambitions in the Bill, for sure, things that we are not necessarily doing at the moment. But if you take, for example, a commitment towards implementing the ecosystem approach, I think that's a very broad term; it's not even well understood by fishery scientists, and it's actually rarely being implemented in any fisheries around the world. So, without a clearer definition of some of these terms, it leaves it open to, I guess, not going necessarily in the right direction. 

I suspect one of the challenges we'll have today is that there's a lot of expectations of fisheries in this post-Brexit period, and a lot of questions people want answers to, and this Bill doesn't provide that, it's an enabling piece of legislation, it's the framework. So, most of the questions people had about the shape of future fisheries will not be answered by this Bill, but I think most of us have come to this agreement that it sets the framework in place. The timeline's going to be tight, potentially, going forward—of course, we have no idea now—but the framework is there, and the objectives seem right, as we'll get to shortly. 

Well, as fish don't recognise boundaries, and we've got this legislation, does it actually strike the right balance between ensuring policy consistency and co-ordination across the UK and also respecting the devolution settlement?

09:20

Shall I go first again? It is quite a well-structured piece of legislation. I think what it tries to do is to achieve a balance between central UK Government and the devolved administrations. So, there are a number of provisions that are critical to that. So, for example, the overarching policy framework is done through the joint framework—joint fisheries statement—and that requires the approval and the cooperation of all the devolved administrations. And so that kind of high-level setting of policy has to be done collaboratively, and I think there's equal weighting there. Again, equally, many of the other critical provisions—for example, in terms of changes to the allocation rules and the provisions on licensing—have checks built in to ensure that the consent of the devolved administrations is obtained before laws are adopted, or changed.

The thing that I struggle most with, I think, in terms of this though, is that, whilst the legal framework is there, which kind of directs things, ultimately, many of these decisions are going to be done outside of the legal process—they're going to be negotiated. And the question is then: are the provisions sufficiently well drafted, are there sufficient commitments in place, to ensure that that political process is conducted fairly and transparently? There is practice for this within the UK, because most of those provisions, in terms of things like allocation and agreements about common standards, is being done through the fisheries concordats. But, again, these haven't been free of difficulty—they're not entirely transparent, they're not legally binding. And so, potentially, some of the same practices there are going to be replicated after the Fisheries Bill.

I absolutely agree with what he said. Maybe just to add a different angle to it—in fisheries management, it's now pretty well recognised that you need to work at a smaller scale, perhaps, than the European Union always has. And that may be why we've had some of the—certainly in the early days, why the common fisheries policy didn't work so well. So, it's quite good, in a way, that the Bill's been structured—it not only respects the devolved settlement, but also it provides that level of local control. But of course, when you do that, it's good because you can be flexible according to local conditions of the fleet and the stocks, but you still have to draw a boundary somewhere. And as you rightly said, fish don't know where those boundaries are. So, it's good that there's flexibility within the devolved nations, but if the management systems are too different from each other, then you'll have issues, particularly where there are stocks not only shared between, say, the UK and Europe, but actually even between the devolved nations. And that's going to be a challenge.

Just to build on that, fish don't respect boundaries, so of course the fishing opportunities need to be set at an EU level, but also, typically, fishing fleets don't respect boundaries either. And it's in most nations' interest to have that kind of equal access. And so I think dealing with licensing in this Fisheries Bill—quite a lot of time is spent in the Fisheries Bill on that, and I think that's the right decision. And then also the joint fisheries statement has a kind of a third area, with total fishing opportunities, licensing, joint fisheries statement, so everyone's working towards the same objectives. Most other things are left to the devolved nations. I think that's probably the right balance.

Good morning. I'd like to ask to what extent is it reasonable and appropriate for the UK Bill to confer extensive delegated powers on the Welsh Ministers? And would these powers be more appropriately conferred by a Wales fisheries Bill, which would be subject to full scrutiny by the Assembly?

I think this is a difficult one. It's much more of a political question than one we're used to answering. And it's not clear whether a fisheries Bill itself is the right case, but, clearly, there needs to be a lot of secondary legislation here. So, the Fisheries Bill is quite specific about fisheries management in England for a number of things—how fishing opportunities are allocated, methods of cost recovery, generating financing from the fleet. There are a lot of things in the Fisheries Bill that are specific to the English fleet and there are just question marks around the rest of the UK. So, that needs to be answered somewhere. I think a Welsh fisheries Bill could be in order. I think Scotland is preparing something similar, so that might be the right place to do it, but, as I say, it's more of a political question.

09:25

It is a political question, but given some of the statements that were made already about concordats and agreements, I think it's worth pursuing. Where does the buck stop, in other words? Who can oversee it? If it isn't us, scrutinising the Government, then who is it going to be? I suppose it's in that vein that we ask this question. I don't know if anybody else wants to say anything.

Again, I'd agree that it's quite a challenging question. I know there's a little bit of historic precedent here about the way in which authority is devolved within Wales and whether or not it's a reserved matter or an allocation of power. So, there are political tensions there. My understanding is that, over time, there's been a gradual acceptance that, actually, the powers should reside in Wales, and there's increasing recognition of that. I think, given the time frames in which the Bill was brought about and given that there was an absence of the wider and more expansive regulatory powers within Wales, there's probably a practical need for this piece of legislation to detail those more extensively, simply in order to get a piece of legislation ready to go on the statue books. That's a pragmatic answer as opposed to an ideal solution, I think. And again, maybe a little bit more speculatively, though, in terms of actually developing the capacity within Welsh Government to adopt legislation to deal with the nuances of fisheries management and the new situations that may arise, it may be that there's a good time frame within which there is that capacity to develop, preparing, for example, Welsh fisheries legislation.

You're not going to say anything—no, okay. So, I don't think they're going to answer any further questions, Chair—

Yes, thank you. Good morning. You've had some things to say about the objectives in the Bill in the first section, and I'm just wondering—clearly, you've suggested, Mr Barnes, that that should be expanded or extended to include other areas. Could you talk to us little bit about why you feel that's necessary?

Sorry, was that for me?

Right. In terms of the objectives, I think my quibbles with, for example, some of the fisheries objectives are on two levels, and one was the content of them. There is some good stuff in there, for example the introduction of the precautionary principle, which is very good, and the ecosystem approach, which Bryce has mentioned. But these are framed as objectives, so whilst they're there, they're points of reference and they're not specific duties as such. There's a kind of process by which they become implemented through the joint fisheries statement, but that's a negotiated process. So, my feeling is that there is a weaker benchmark for the imposition of these objectives.

Equally, the mechanism for ensuring that those objectives are achieved, to me doesn't appear to be that strong. So, a point of contrast might be something like the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, where the Ministers are required to periodically report on progress towards various objectives through indicators. That's not there within this Bill. So, you get the objectives, but then, when the detail follows, we're not quite sure where they're going. So, that might be my quibble with the objectives themselves.

They could be watered down. They could be contentious. So, yes, they may not be achieved.

And there was a mention earlier of the ecosystem approach not being well understood. There's clearly an issue there about definitions then, isn't there?

Yes. So, looking at some other people's definitions, they say, 'That's fishing without harming the environment'. That's a very broad thing to say. Every time you take a fish out of the sea, you harm the environment, so where does that line actually stop? For me, the ecosystem approach is about considering all the effects, not only, say, of trawling on the sea bed, but how that feeds back to other species other than the one you're targeting, looking after certain habitats or maybe a mosaic of habitats, considering how it affects the rest of the food web. But also it moves just beyond the fishing industry. Are you removing the prey of common dolphins, which actually are really valuable to the tourism industry? It's that big picture that, unless that's clearly defined, can be defined as something else much more simple and therefore not fully implemented, and that's the danger here. 

09:30

Okay. But you wouldn't—. Are you suggesting, then, that we shouldn't include that in the Bill—

No, not at all. 

—or are you just suggesting that we need the clarity about it?

Yes, absolutely.

So, how would you provide that clarity, then? Because, as you say, there are as many definitions as the people you ask.

Well, it's a clearer definition, rather than just saying something grand, 'We'll try to make everything better.' They have to be more specific. 

That brings us on to the well-being of future generations Act, I think. You mentioned it, Professor Barnes, in your previous answer, in terms of maybe using some of the structures or some of the things that are in that Bill, but do you feel that any of this is sufficiently aligned to other Welsh legislation as well as the environment Act, not only the well-being of future generations Act?

I haven't looked specifically at the environment Act, but I think as a general point, the way in which the objectives are framed, it's difficult to say they're not aligned. When you talk about sustainability, ecosystems and things like that—at the level of grand principle, they are generally compatible. So, I wouldn't have any concerns about that, but, again, it's the detail that is—

But, does the existence of the well-being of future generations Act give you any comfort in terms of delivering on some of these objectives in Wales, because there are pre-existing duties on Welsh Ministers maybe to act within that particular piece of legislation?

Yes, I think that's certainly the case. That provides an interesting contrast because, for example, if those duties perhaps don't exist within the other fishing authorities, then the interplay at the level of negotiation may be slightly different. 

Yes, it would be interesting to see how that plays out, you're right. Yes, okay. The other question I wanted to ask about was whether there's sufficient emphasis on the need to end overfishing and not exceed a maximum sustainable yield, because I think there's a difference of opinion depending on who you ask. So, I was wondering what you think.

Sure. I think I put it in my written submission, but I was surprised. I was surprised that it wasn't in there, because it was probably the biggest reform, along with the landing obligation, of the recent CFP in 2013—having that commitment in there to reach MSY by 2020. So, the line the Government seems to be taking in their defence on this point is that, 'Well, you know, 2020—that's coming up in one year, maybe less; we'll see where we're at with the withdrawal agreement.' But the thing is, it was never, 'Reach MSY by 2020 and then that's game over and you can go and do whatever you want to'. You know, it's stick and hold. So, you don't need to put in the date '2020', you just say, 'Fishing opportunities should be set in accordance with MSY.' There's no need for the date any more. So, I suspect the resistance is because the industry is starting to push back more on MSY. There's discussion about mixed fisheries and whether it's possible for all species at the same time. So, we can discuss those points. I still support MSY; I think we'd have benefit for gain in all stocks there. But I was surprised it's not in there and I think that's an amendment that needs to take place. 

And is that a view that's shared by other members of the panel?

Yes, pretty much. I think Griffin's right, some of the things I've read in other articles are really quite resistant to—they're pleased that this commitment is not in there, or certainly that there's not a time frame. It's often called an arbitrary target. Well, you have to have some kind of target or you don't make progress. Yes, it's challenging because, in a mixed fishery, if you want to have everything at least at the level that can produce in this way, that means some stocks are going to be more abundant than that. You have to go with the lowest common denominator, and that's not necessarily going to please everyone. But then again, if you don't, if you just focus on perhaps the most abundant species, then some species will be completely overfished in that situation. So, I think it should be in there. It should be stronger. 

Just a couple of small points—one is that, regardless, the UK is bound to comply with MSY objectives under the law of the sea convention, UNCLOS. So, that exists in the background. The only thing I'd maybe sort of quibble about in terms of detail is that sustainability is defined in the Bill as long-term sustainability. So, that raises questions over, perhaps, short-term sacrifices for longer term gains, which may be undesirable. So, there's an idea that you may end up pushing the costs of action down into the future where you're no longer accountable for them. So, that would be one.

09:35

Thank you. Good morning. You mentioned the joint fisheries statements already and I'd like to explore that a bit more with you, please. So, could you tell us a bit more about your views on the provisions in relation to the joint fisheries statements and clauses 2 to? In particular, is the purpose and intended effect of the joint fisheries statements sufficiently clear? Be truthful—you don't have to be nice.

Not entirely. Obviously, what's there is largely procedural, so they have to be agreed jointly. There are provisions that require them to be publicised, but it doesn't quite require publication in a particular format. It leaves a degree of digression as to who you might want to publicise it to or target it at. The time frame for this is not that specific, as far as I can tell. Other than that, the content of them is fairly open, I think, and because the objectives aren't really framed as duties, it becomes difficult then to subject that to a degree of control. Really, the only control we've got, within the composition of the joint fisheries statements, is whether or not, during the consultation process, there can be sufficient political pressure or lobbying to induce change in them, and whether, through the scrutiny process of them being laid before the various legislatures, there is a political will to do this. And then, ultimately, if they're adopted and people don't like them, they can be challenged through judicial review. Each of these mechanisms is going to struggle because it's either politicised, or because there is a lack of a specific reference point for that. So, I think there are concerns with even that process, and then there's a question of the substance, which I can't really comment on, because we haven't seen it yet.

Yes. For me, one of the issues—I guess it's the same point, really—is that the terminology is quite woolly a lot of the time. So, if we take the one about the marine strategy framework directive: contributing to the achievement by 2020 of a good environmental status. Now, assuming we get an agreement at some point and the transition period happens, this will be implemented from 2020, so it's leaving themselves one year. But then they're only contributing to it, so what does that actually mean? You know, I gave an egg to make a cake or—. [Laughter.] What actually are we saying here? I didn't do anything else, but I contributed to making that cake. I think that this is really the overall problem. Now, maybe this will be resolved in due course, but I think it's important for us to raise these points now so that the secondary legislation takes note of some of these issues.

Absolutely. And you've partly, in a sense, answered this, but just to explore a bit more: to what extent are there sufficient checks and balances included in the Bill to ensure that progress is made towards achieving the objectives? I think you've kind of said that, as things stand, there aren't—it's not clear enough.

One point I think I should say, which is quite good, though, is that there are requirements to provide reasons where there is a change to the fisheries statement or whether it's not accepted. And equally, if the objectives aren't being met, again, there will be a requirement to provide reasons why you've deviated from that. So, those are probably the most important checks in there. But, again, it would be down to the quality of reasons and the extent to which that is full and complete and there's disclosure of that.  

I think what Richard's referring to is in clause 6. There's some term like, 'where relevant consideration is given'. I'm not a legal mind, but to me that's just red lights flashing—'Okay, so tell us more, what's relevant consideration?'

09:40

Thank you. The thorny issue of access to British fisheries by foreign fishing boats, which obviously fills the pages of the popular newspapers—how do you think this Bill handles that subject, given that we know that this is going to be the subject of horse-trading in the future? And what are the risks for the Welsh fishing industry in all this?

Yes, we were actually talking about that last night. It's slightly difficult to interpret. I think the decisions will probably be made at a high level, and the question is: if the UK Government grants licences, does that then allow those, let's say, EU boats to fish in all the waters of the devolved nations? I'm not entirely sure. At least through the Bill, say, Wales should be able to have its own set of regulations. So, for example, an extreme example would be electric pulse fishing, and, I guess, through what's possible in this Bill, Wales could say, 'No, we're not allowing that in our waters.' So, even though the boat had a licence to fish in UK waters, it couldn't practise that method there. I'll let the other guys contribute, but for me it's a bit unclear. It mostly will be made, I think, at that high level, and probably there will be horse-trading, as you said.

Yes, just to say a little bit more about that, the licensing provision seems to operate in two tiers: so, there's the authority of the Secretary of State to deal with the high-level licensing issues, so that has the list of exceptions and it potentially can also include the power to change the way in which the licensing authority operates within the devolved administrations. So, that power exists there, but whenever it's exercised it has to be done with the consent of the devolved administrations, but that can change the architecture for licensing. But then the decisions about actually who you license then rest with the devolved administrations, so they would have a degree of control over those activities.

I think that the issue we were talking about last night is where, for example, the UK enters into an international agreement, for example through the fisheries negotiations at the European level, and engages in quota swaps, and, for example, allows European vessels to access or to fish for some quota within UK waters—on what basis would that take place? Would it require Norwegian or European vessels to then obtain a licence, or could they fish without a licence? The provisions seem reasonably clear in saying that they have to obtain a licence, but there is space for that to actually change within the Secretary of State's powers on an ad hoc basis. So, some of these issues, potentially, are okay, but we have to see how they're going to be implemented in practice.

There's clarity about: do you have a licence or don't you have a licence? It ought to be possible, I would have thought, for the Welsh administration to say, 'We're only going to allow vessels in that have licences.' What would be the barrier to us doing that, simply because the Secretary of State would say, 'Well, we've done a deal with Norway and that's the end of the matter'?

There would be no barrier in the sense that the Welsh Government has the power to issue licences and to adopt laws that control how it does that, so there would be no problem with that. It's whether or not that power would change at a later date, I think, and then the Welsh Government would have to check on that process, because it would have to consent to any change in the regulation within the Fisheries Bill, pertaining to the allocation of licensing power, if that makes sense.

Okay. Looking at sections 9 and 10 of Bill, it's set out reasonably clearly that everybody needs to have a licence, but what are the implications, though, for the Welsh fishing industry, and our both food security and development and maintenance of local economies, given that, Griffin, I think you've pointed out the very low level of current Welsh fishers. Therefore, were the UK Government to just go with historic quotas, we certainly won't be any better off, and we could be substantially worse off? How do we guard against that? What is it that we've got to argue for?

09:45

So, I would say that most of that takes place outside of licensing, and we'll probably talk about the concordat and we'll talk about allocation of fishing opportunities. Those are the areas I would seek to change in this interest of generating local development of fisheries, let's say. So, in terms of licensing itself, basically, the Fisheries Bill is as I would expect. It maintains the status quo on equal access between UK administrations to each others' waters once they do licensing, and that licensing is done by the individual fisheries administration. So, the Welsh fleet is licensed by the Welsh Government. So, I think it's status quo and as expected on that front. 

It's a fact, isn't it—a known fact—and Bryce is trying to bring it to the fore, that if we don't look after the environment in which fish live, it doesn't matter what quotas we have because we won't have any fish anyway, so nobody would be fishing anything? So, you sort of mentioned the rules that we could put in place, for example what type of fishing is permitted. Do you think, as things stand, that that is strong enough? And particularly trawling, and things like that, destroying the sea bed, for example, isn't going to produce much in the way of ecosystem recovery? So, in terms of—. It's twofold, isn't it? You can give licences, but if you haven't got the environment, you're just wasting you're time, quite frankly. So, do you think, as it exists, that there is sufficient flexibility in this Bill for Wales to insist on certain types of parameters surrounding the type of fishing that's allowed? 

Can I come in there quickly? The Bill does have provision for this. So, although the decision to grant a licence rests with the devolved administrations, when you grant a licence, you're entitled then to fish anywhere else as long as you've got an allocation of catch. But when you're granting a licence, and where that potentially impacts upon, or results, potentially, in fishing in areas subject to the other devolved administrations, they can require and ask that conditions be put in the licence to ensure that there are safeguards and checks about the conduct of that fishing activity. And there is a duty upon the licensing, or the fisheries authority, to ensure that those conditions are respected. So, that check does exist there, I think, within the legislation—it's down in the detail of the Schedules there, but it's a duty to comply with the request of another sea fish licensing authority to ensure that the conditions of the licence don't allow activities to be conducted that harm them.

Just focusing on the explanatory note, paragraph 90, which says that—. You've already explained that if you get granted a licence and you're based in Dover, you can still fish in Welsh waters. Clearly, there are huge risks that the Welsh fish are simply going to be dug out of the water by others, and the fact that they're English-licensed businesses as opposed to French or Norwegian isn't really changing the dynamics for the Welsh economy. So, is that something that we'd need to get the wording changed on if we're going to have any chance of growing the importance of fish in our Welsh economy?

I think that the issue there is, really, what we were going to talk about a bit later on in terms of the current quota allocation to Wales, so—. Unless that's solved, nothing else will change, really. But there may be a point to make in general about that risk, which, I guess, all the devolved nations potentially face. So, taking a scenario where the UK is able to negotiate extra quota shares from the EU, which—who knows if that will happen. My personal view is it might happen, but if it does, it won't be across the board, it will be for certain stocks. So, say, for example, there was an extra amount of quota available for herring in the north North sea, that would basically keep the Scottish fleet pretty busy up there and so it wouldn't have so much of an implication for Wales, but if it was maybe Dover sole where some extra quota was negotiated, then maybe it would. But, again, it wouldn't without that situation with the current levels of quota being changed.

09:50

Thanks. Yes, Bryce, you were talking about that quota allocation whereby Wales currently only receives 1 per cent of the UK's quota share. That's due to a previous agreement, isn't it? The concordat, I think it's called. So, what are your views on what should happen regarding that so that Wales does get some benefit to the fisheries after Brexit, because, at the moment, without that quota share changing, possibly it won't get much benefit?

Yes, it won't get much benefit and, of course, if trading relationships change or are at least not as favourable as they are at the moment, then, actually, the Welsh fishing industry will be worse off after Brexit. So, that is fundamental if you want to increase the value and importance of Welsh fisheries. One per cent seems like a tiny amount to me, but how do you actually judge what is fair, and what level should Wales get? I'm not really sure, but 1 per cent is a fairly minute amount. So, I'm sure there could be a fairly strong case made for an increase, but it's not possible at the moment. So, that's a negotiation that the Welsh Government has to have through the concordat, and maybe the other devolved nations have issues as well; I'm not so sure. The Welsh fishing industry is quite unique in it being so focused on shellfish and also mostly small boats fishing inshore. But, yes, exactly what level I'm not sure. It'll be probably as much as you can get, I guess, but it would seem reasonable to ask for more than there is at the moment.

How would they measure it, because it seems fairly random, then, this 1 per cent thing—I mean, how is it measured?

Yes. You could go back to historic levels, but, then again, that's a little bit coloured because, actually, if you look across the board, most fishing fleets, not just in the UK but around the world, have declined over the last few decades. And so that's going to give you a bit of a different picture. I guess you can look at it proportionally: back 20, 30 or more years, was the Welsh fishing industry stronger than it is now proportional to the other countries? I don't know that off the top of my head. So, it's a difficult—. It's something you'd have to look into. It's a difficult question.

Yes, so, as Bryce said, it's currently based on historical shares. So, when the concordat was set up, and catch levels, the devolved administrations were kind of irrelevant in terms of consideration of how much should be going. It was based on vessel catch records, and so the Welsh fleet at the time was measured for their catch records. Now, of course, there are two problems with this approach. One is that you're kind of rewarding overfishing in that sense, we say. Submit your records; so, those who were hitting the environment the hardest were rewarded with the greatest quota shares, and those continue until today, and there's a legal question around this: do they continue indefinitely? We might get to that. And, secondly, the under-10m vessels were not required at the time to keep catch records, and this is a problem across the whole of the UK—that the under-10m fleet feels like they got a raw deal out of that, and that's just kind of amplified in Wales because the fleet is mostly under-10s.

Bryce mentioned, 'What is the definition of fairness?' I'd say it's not historical allocations. That's where we are at the moment. But we can see that the UK's approach to the EU is zonal attachment: what's fair is measuring the percentage of fish stocks that are in UK waters, and the UK share should reflect that. So, if that's the definition of fairness taken by the UK Government, what if the Welsh Government used that in their arguments about reforming the concordat? This was a paper I wrote for the Wales Centre for Public Policy, which basically says that, if you take zonal attachment as a devolved administration principle, Wales gets 10 times as much as it currently does. It's not so simple because the quotas that would be gained are for stocks like herring and nephrops, where there just is no Welsh fishery at all—

At the moment, yes. And you'd probably need some big trawlers to do this, so you would really be changing the Welsh fleet. Possibly what you could do is this kind of in-between, where those are the fishing opportunities you claim, but you would negotiate for something else. So, for example, the current small-scale Welsh fleet would be looking more at flatfish and demersal species: megrim, monkfish, cod, haddock—a little bit of this stuff. So, there might be an in-between solution where you argue for this zonal attachment share but there's almost an automatic swapping between the different administrations to align with the fleet characteristics.

09:55

That's very interesting. Thanks for that. How far does the UK Fisheries Bill go into any of this stuff? Perhaps it doesn't.

It doesn't.

Can I come in here? I agree. The historical access principles are really problematic because they lock in the fisheries catch according to what you've done in the past. Critically, what it doesn't do is allow for change, and, clearly, what's most important, I think, within Wales, is having that scope for allocation on different principles to allow change to happen. So, I think we need to have a much more creative approach towards allocation principles. As Griffin's mentioned, the Bill is absolutely silent on that, other than in the buy-in for the English sector the principles of the common fisheries policy. But we need to look at things like conservation gain, creating capacity for new entrants into the fishery, looking at, for example, a wider range of socioeconomic factors as being criteria for allocation. Because once you've got those flexible criteria, which can change over time, then that allows you to break the cycle of allocations that we've got at the moment.

Thanks. That's also very interesting. You've been mentioning English fishing opportunities, which are provided for in the Bill. Should the Bill also include corresponding provision for Wales, additional to anything you've said already?

So, do you mean the sort of tender process that was suggested in the Bill for English fisheries—to be able to tender for extra quota? That's mentioned with respect to English fisheries. Yes. That's a very controversial topic. It could potentially be useful, however, it shouldn't just be done on who has the most money because then you end up with a monopoly. So, this is where you bring in the sort of criteria that Richard was talking about in terms of environmental impact, benefits to local communities, history of compliance, et cetera, et cetera, rather than—. There are different ways of doing that. You could reserve the whole lot for provision under that sort of system, or a certain amount, and have a few different tiers. Maybe you could talk better on that, Griffin.

Yes, so the Fisheries Bill, as you mentioned, has some requirements for how fishing opportunities are dealt with in England. Bryce was just talking about tendering for quota. It doesn't necessarily have to be financial tendering, right? You could make your case that your producer organisation ticks all the boxes that we have in the objectives. But, also, things like sale of fishing opportunities as in leasing, if you're not going to use all your quota, and the characteristics of the allocation system, as in stuff from article 17 of the CFP, which is that fisheries administrations must use transparent and objective criteria, and it leaves what criteria those are open.

I don't think it's right for the Fisheries Bill to say how Wales should deal with that; that would be a separate piece of legislation. So, I think, as it exists, it's fine. But, of course, we need to start thinking about how Wales should deal with this internally, and so I'll just say that our ask would be similar to what we'd want in the UK Fisheries Bill for England, which are these socioeconomic criteria. Our objectives for fisheries are quite ambitious, and so that needs to reflect in how you deal with the opportunities to fish. You can't just leave it open to the market and you can't just leave it open to historical catches, because that just sets you on one course and you will not, by nature of the fisheries, end up in a sustainable place if you don't legislate for that somehow.

The other thing I would say is that this does go back to the conversation about licensing because most of the quota in Wales right now is held by Spanish-owned vessels, and it's landed in either Ireland or Spain. So, this is something that you need to start thinking about—aligning the way we do licensing and fishing opportunities—because if you want these fishing opportunities to be landed in Wales, creating local employment, then you need to do both at once.

10:00

Thanks. What does this Bill actually do to support the development of the local low-impact fishing sector—the under-10s and the associated coastal communities? Does it do anything in that regard?

Nothing specific, but, again, it's an enabling piece of legislation, and there are a couple of areas that it opens up that, currently, there's not a lot of focus on, let's say. So, I mentioned the allocation of quota and it largely just takes the existing CFP legislation. So, our line would be that if the status quo wasn't enough before, by simply transposing article 17 of the CFP, you're going to have no change on that front. So, we would be more ambitious there. Again, the Fisheries Bill is just specifying that for the English fleet. 

But the other thing in the Fisheries Bill is looking at redefining 'small scale' and 'low impact', which is interesting, because, as you probably picked up, the definition of small scale right now is under 10m. Again, everyone says it's arbitrary—maybe the line needs to be drawn somewhere. But, at any rate, it seems like the Fisheries Bill is opening this up by using terms like 'low impact', which, people assume aligns with this under 10m, but maybe not. So, clearly, in secondary legislation, there's going to be a lot of work defining what low-impact fisheries are, and given the nature of Welsh fisheries, that's a really big question, because most of the fleet fits in that 'under 10m' definition, and I suspect a lot of people would argue it fits in any 'low impact' definition that comes after. So, probably not one for the Fisheries Bill, but it's enabled; you have the opportunity to define that in the future. 

But there is an issue about having that consistency in secondary legislation around some of those definitions across the UK, then, because you could have one devolved administration interpreting something differently to another one.

Yes. I'm personally not sure it's a problem if Scotland defines 'low impact' differently than Wales does. Again, maybe that's actually desirable because of the different marine environments—what's low impact in one is different in another.

Yes. Moving on to some of the funding issues, Schedule 4 will enable Welsh Ministers to provide financial assistance to the industry for specified purposes. Do you believe that those purposes are sufficiently clearly defined? And, in terms of what they enable, is it too narrow or too general, would you say?

As a starting point, I was looking at the provisions in Schedule 4 there, and, obviously, it's meant to be providing the basis for the replacement of the European maritime and fisheries funds, and it seems to be drawn in very wide terms, so there's very little associated with fishing that couldn't potentially fall within the remit of the Welsh Government in terms of providing financial support there. The provisions are pretty much identical to the provisions that are there for the English sector, and presumably there'll be something similar that the Scottish Government would develop. So, I don't think the legal framework is problematic; I think probably one is more of budget and availability and where that money comes from, because, clearly, the provision then rests with the devolved administrations, and so the devolved administrations have to think about how much support they can afford to provide and where that comes from.

I think in Wales it may be more acute because, with the sector being fairly small, whilst the Welsh Government can engage in a degree of cost recovery—levies and charges, potentially, in the future—that might not raise that much money and it might not create the basis for quite significant investments to improve the scale of fisheries in Wales. So, if it's going to invest, then that has to be done out of what you might call the general fund and then you get into the situation of quid pro quos against other sectors of the economy and how much the Welsh Government wants to boost that. So, those are my views on that.

I absolutely agree. We've pretty much said this already, but even if Wales does manage to get a greater share of quota, for that benefit to come back to Wales, it will need some initial investment by the Welsh Government. So, it's not going to happen by itself. There's the potential, like Griffin has mentioned, for leasing the quota until the capacity of the fleet is sufficient or of the right nature to take benefit from that quota, but it will need some help. So, that's just to really put that on the table.

10:05

One thing I noticed that wasn't in there is—it's interesting seeing which parts of EU legislation were transposed and which ones weren't. One thing that wasn't transposed here is around the kind of criteria to receive state aid. So, in the EU block exemptions you only get state aid if you demonstrate compliance with the CFP. Clearly, that doesn't apply here with the CFP, but some level of fisheries legislation does. So, I was a bit surprised not to see a line saying, 'State aid if there's compliance with the Fisheries Bill', and possibly in Wales you'd want to have more legislation on top of that.

There's scope for that to be developed because I think the Welsh Government has fairly complete discretion about what kind of checks and requirements it places on the grant of financial aid, and it could, for example, recover that if there's non-compliance.

Yes, the scheme. Yes.

Could I just ask—? We've had an announcement in terms of funding during the implementation period, but beyond that, nothing, and as you've said, really, this does create uncertainty and potential risks. What are those risks, would you say, in terms of the objectives of the Bill of the lack of any detail as to what funding will follow on beyond that implementation period?

This is just a personal viewpoint—I guess that's why I'm here. If the Bill is to meet its objectives, which I think we all agree are quite positive, and actually, if it were to meet them, it would be quite a significant change from how things are done at the moment. So, therefore, that requires more investment, particularly in science and management, so, if there's uncertainty about whether there will be funding to put into that, then I guess it's another hurdle along the way with delivering the Bill's objectives, whether they be in Wales or anywhere else in the UK.

I would say it's largely outside of the Fisheries Bill, but again, offering a personal opinion, similar to Bryce, there's a question around funding of the fishing fleet itself, so, the EMFF funding, and fleets worry whether that will be matched in the future. But in my mind, at least as significant is funding of the administration itself, control and enforcement duties, et cetera. If these were services provided by the EU before, well then, those have passed to Westminster and now to the devolved administrations, so clearly there's increased funding for that. Where's it going to come from? This probably brings in issues of cost recovery. This wasn't spoken about at all in the industry 10 years ago. You would have been laughed out of the room, but honestly, as crazy as it is to say, things are looking better in many fisheries. Profits are increasing. The way we manage most other resource industries, be that forestry or mining, aggregate extraction, if you use a public natural resource, you pay for it. So, it's not a popular thing to say, but it's not as crazy to say now as it used to be.

It's actually also been mentioned by a number—in Scotland it's been promoted by some of the fishing industry representatives, because I think that they feel like they would be more involved in the management if they are contributing both financially and also towards the science. So, I think it's the future, but we have to get there.

Thank you. Just finally from me, is there anything missing from the Bill that we desperately need, and are there any provisions relating solely to England that you think should have corresponding provisions for Wales?

I'm not sure about the last part on that. I don't think there's anything that has been specified for England that should be specified to Wales in the Fisheries Bill. That's a little bit outside my area of expertise. But things I didn't see in the Fisheries Bill that maybe I was expecting to were a formal consultation process to scrutinise secondary legislation; and another one is a commitment to fully documented catches. This is something that the retailers have been asking for. They want to make sure they don't have any illegal fishing in their supply chain, and right now that's actually hard to demonstrate in UK fisheries because we don't know what happens at sea. We have control and enforcement. You can board a vessel and see what gear they're using, what catch they have on board. But we don't have, at possibly the most extreme, closed-circuit television cameras on board. With things like the landing obligation, that might become necessary. But that's something that's not in the Fisheries Bill that is probably best dealt with at that level, across the whole UK—fully documented fisheries.

10:10

I think there are a couple of areas where there may be conflict or difficulties. So, for example, where any new changes or licensing rules or the content of the joint fisheries statements are laid before the devolved administrations, for, for example, their consent or approval, what happens if that's not granted? That is a little bit unclear at the moment.

The other area, I think, as well is that there aren't particularly clear or strong baselines requiring compatibility of fisheries regulation. I think most fisheries managers would say that, if you're engaged in fishing for the same stock or interdependent stocks, then you need fairly consistent management standards, and so, because there is a devolution of regulatory authority through the licensing or other conditions, there may be different practices emerging, and that can create tensions, and so how are those going to be resolved? It's all packaged away through the joint fisheries statement, but if that can't be secured or agreed, then how do we resolve these specific localised differences?

Yes, this is just one point, really, that sort of feeds into what both Griffin and Richard have said. If you think about the issue of discards, the proposal in the Bill is for a gradual elimination of discards, and in England it's to charge people if they bring those fish that might otherwise have been discarded back to port, so if you, for example, had a completely different system in Wales, and people are fishing across that boundary, say, between England and Wales, depending on what the scheme in Wales is, the boat may be landing in either one country or the other, because like Griffin said, we don't know exactly what's going on at sea, so full documentation of catches and where they're caught would actually solve some of these issues. It just highlights the overall issue with the Bill, that there are all sorts of possible loopholes and problems. It's not to say they will all be taken advantage of, but it's something to be wary of.

Can I ask a final question? We're talking about the Fisheries Bill, but we also need to look at marine protected zones—the areas where there is control about what you do. Were you satisfied, when you were looking though this Bill, that there was due diligence paid to protected zones, whatever classification they may or may not have, to protect the future of the fishing industry and the ecosystems that they depend on?

I'll just make a quick comment on that one since that's something I work on a little bit. Like the rest of the Bill, there's a lot of flexibility. There are some not very specific definitions, and I would say, within the UK more broadly, that this has been an issue even up to date, because we now have a lot of marine protected areas around the UK. A lot of them don't have management plans. There are very, very few fully protected areas. Most scientists would tell you you need some of those, at the very least as a scientific baseline for what the ecosystem should look like if it wasn't fished, and there are basically three tiny ones in the whole of the UK, and so it's hard to put that into a piece of legislation like this. But I would encourage the Welsh Government to have high ambitions in that area, because, like you said before about licences, you can control licences and what methods are allowed, but it's not just about that; it's about how much areas are fished and where is fished, and to truly make that ecosystem approach work, that's what you need to be controlling.

We've run out of questions and run out of time, which is always good when they run together. Can I thank you all for coming along? We've found the evidence that you've given to be very helpful and I'm sure it will aid our final report. Thank you very much for coming and giving us your expertise.

10:15
3. Trafod y Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol ar gyfer Bil Pysgodfeydd y DU: sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda chynrychiolwyr o’r diwydiant pysgota
3. Consideration of the Legislative Consent Memorandum for the UK Fisheries Bill: evidence session with representatives of the fishing industry

Bore da. Good morning. Can I welcome Jim Evans, chairman of the Welsh Fishermen's Association, Jon Parker of CamNesa and Jeremy Percy, director of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association to the meeting? I welcome you and thank you for coming along to answer questions, which will help us with our deliberations.

If I can start with the first question, to what extent do the provisions set out in the UK Fisheries Bill provide a suitable legislative framework to deliver coherent and sustainable UK fisheries management? Who wants to start? 

Sorry, a coherent framework for managed fisheries in the UK was the question. 

In our view, the Fisheries Bill provides the necessary legal framework for the UK to operate as an independent coastal state under international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, after the UK has left the EU and, obviously, the common fisheries policy. That's an important principle to start with, because the Bill creates the common approaches to fisheries management between the UK and the devolved administrations that controls the access by revoking current automatic rights for EU vessels fishing in UK waters and provides powers for the UK to set fishing opportunities that ensure that the UK can determine its own fishing quotas and days at sea, consistent with the principles of sustainability and the broader fisheries objectives. 

So, I agree it does answer the question, and, given the purpose of the Bill, being that it was designed to be enacted for 29 March, there was obviously not a lot of time to do that, so that would have had to come first, I guess. So, yes it does, basically, what you said on the tin, and it does provide a framework, I believe.  

And that's the view of everybody. Okay. To what extent does the UK Fisheries Bill strike the right balance between ensuring policy consistency and co-ordination across the UK and respecting the devolution settlement?

Firstly, good morning. Thanks for the invitation to speak. I mean, it's difficult to answer all these questions, because the Bill is far more of an enabling Bill than a doing Bill, if you like, at this stage. So, ostensibly the answer to your question is 'yes'. It does provide a host of possible powers, but it doesn't deal in the many specifics, and as ever with these things, the devil will be in the detail. The initial question was in terms of sustainable fisheries management, and I think we'll get on to it later but, certainly, there's a weakness in the Bill in terms of their definition of sustainable only in the long term, which I think is a concern, especially from a Welsh perspective. 

And I think, generally speaking, from a Welsh perspective, the Bill will only provide the potential benefits that are within it if we have a far more dynamic system of fishery management in Wales than is currently the case. 

10:20

Good morning. To what extent do you think it's reasonable and appropriate for the UK Bill to confer extensive delegated powers on Welsh Ministers, and would those powers be more appropriately conferred by a Wales fisheries Bill that would be subject to the full scrutiny of the Assembly?

So, there are a couple of things there, I guess. Is it reasonable? I think, to be honest, there's not much choice, given the timescales. So, the delegated powers recognise our—. Am I understanding the question right? The delegated powers on Welsh Ministers or delegated powers in relation to reserved powers?

I suppose what the question is is, they've delegated powers to the Ministers, so, the Ministers themselves will make the decision. But that doesn't mean they necessarily have to come back for scrutiny before making, or even after making, those decisions. It's a bit of a political question, I suppose, and you can say that and recognise that; that's fair enough, but from our end, as non-Government, it's about allowing us to scrutinise the Government appropriately. 

I suppose, picking up on the point Jerry made earlier, it clearly isn't going to provide for that in its current form. And, given the timescales, it's hard to see how that could change. But what is, I think, reassuring to a degree, but whether that's sufficient, is that consent and consultation will be required from Welsh Ministers and the Welsh legislature. So, again, not being political, I would hope there'd be a level of trust, and that that would be sufficient reassurance, given the nature of the issue that has to be dealt with. 

If I can just add to Jim. I think, if, as you say, it conferred extensive delegated powers on Welsh Ministers, or in fact, a further question, that it should be conferred more appropriately with a Welsh fisheries Bill, it would only work if there was, firstly, genuine—and I stress the word 'genuine' consultation with stakeholders. We've had the inshore fisheries group system in Wales, which was disbanded in 2016, I think, from memory, and there's no effective consultation mechanism within the Government. And I think if the Welsh Government is going to have more delegated powers, or in fact, a Welsh fisheries Bill, then an integral part of that must be a direct responsibility on those responsible for fisheries management in Wales to be genuinely accountable, because that is not the case at the moment, and we lag so far behind in so many aspects of fisheries management, European maritime fishery funding, it's frankly embarrassing. 

Could I add a little bit to that as well, in terms of the need for a Welsh fisheries Bill, which would pick up on some of the more general points that Jerry has made? I think what needs to happen is, from this Bill, we will understand what tools we've got in the toolbox, essentially, that our Ministers will be able to utilise to deliver sustainable fisheries management in the future. But until we've understood exactly what is in there, and how that then filters down, what we haven't got is a clear, coherent policy for what our future fisheries policy will look like. And I think that might be—. When you look and compare the two, that will then determine what might need to happen within a Welsh Bill, if a Welsh Bill is absolutely necessary. 

Okay. That's great, because the next one is: given the scope of the UK Bill, and those extensive delegated powers that we've now discussed provided for by the Welsh Ministers, what additional provision would you expect to be included in the Wales Bill, given the scope that it has?

I think one very reassuring development—I'm not sure if it's actually in the Bill yet, but it's certainly been accepted as an amendment, was, again, to approve the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales. That's a really important development, I think, particularly with the scope of the Bill, and that brings us in line with all the other devolved nations in the UK—I think that's particularly important. There are some amendments that I believe the Minister is pursuing through legislative consent memorandums—if that's the term—that are looking to make some amendments to sections 156 and 189 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, which will provide powers for Welsh Ministers to adapt and vary. That will be a very important development for us. Those two aspects within this current Bill will certainly aid and help to deliver and implement forward-looking fisheries policies, to support sustainable fisheries.

10:25

Just on the LCM, I understand that there's been no formal consultation with stakeholders on the LCM, and no impact assessment of how it will affect the industry in Wales. Is that true, and do you feel that you have had an input into the Welsh side of those deliberations? It comes back to what you were suggesting about the lack of consultation earlier, really.

Obviously, you'll know that, since June 2016, in fairness to Lesley Griffiths, she did very quickly set up a working group that evolved into all sorts of different sub-groups that are all related to Brexit, and different aspects of it. I think those have been useful. But, in terms of the fisheries-specific stuff, then the detail—there have been one or two sub-groups there, but haven't necessarily had that many meetings to focus on that kind of level of detail. So, in terms of your question, the legislative consent motion—we'd have had discussions, not specific ones in relation to what was going to be written, and when, and why, but that might have come through, or will have come through, discussions through other fora.

So when we get a Welsh Bill, eventually, would you like to see some of those issues addressed in that Bill, in terms of duties to consult and to speak to—

I think so. I think duties to consult, particularly in relation to annual fisheries allocations. But another key thing to be aware of is, whilst we're talking about the Fisheries Bill and all the things that it can do, and given the current political situation, all of that is only deliverable if we leave the EU, because we'll no longer be part of the CFP. The question is: how do we deliver all of that, all of these things we want to make things sustainable, to manage things in a sustainable way for the future, in accordance with our own Environment (Wales) Act 2016? How are we going to do that if the legislation we've currently got doesn't enable us?

Yes, okay. Well, looking at the UK Bill, then, it does set out a number of objectives at the beginning. Do you think that they're sufficiently comprehensive? Is there enough clarity around definitions—are there too many?

No, there are no surprises in there at all. I know there has been some comment around sustainable fishing objectives—of that objective. But what it does say implicitly within the Bill is it refers to good environmental status under the marine strategy framework directive, and that will include descriptor 3, which again is the very definition of sustainability. It says that:

'Populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock.'

That's by 2020. So, it's actually captured that within, I think it's clause 2(2)(1), and it's also repeated in subsection 5. Also within the Bill, it refers to the UNCLOS article 621, which refers to maximum sustainable yield, which largely repeats that phrase that I've read out. So, I think the commitment to sustainability is there. Again, the detail will develop—this is providing the primary legislation, or the enabling legislation—in the actual statutory instruments, I understand.

Because the point has been made that we have objectives, but, really, there aren't any duties to deliver, as such, some of these objectives. Do you recognise that there's an imbalance there, a weakness, because we could have a wish list as long as we want, but unless you make that an explicit duty to be delivered, then it might not happen?

10:30

I think, in terms of—if I can just go back to your previous question that Jim answered—the consultative process and moving towards a fisheries Bill for Wales, then we haven't gone through the same process as we have for agriculture, for example, where—and I have raised it in other meetings—we haven't had a 'Brexit and our seas' consultation—

If it is, fantastic. But—

Yes, and alongside questions that you've posed previously to the Cabinet Secretary, then there maybe needs to be sufficient modelling around some of the elements of the Bill and the objectives so that we can progress with a fisheries Bill for Wales that's meaningful and meets some of Welsh Government's existing legislation, whether it's the environment Act or the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

I was going to ask whether they're sufficiently aligned at the moment with the UK Bill and the objectives there.

I think that's a fundamental issue, isn't it, because we're talking about UK frameworks here? What happens then is when quota allocation is determined and given to Welsh Ministers then to control on behalf of Wales, how they implement that will be underpinned by the Acts that apply in Wales. It has to, because they have to take those duties on board. So, we have, if nothing else, that security, if you like.

On your phrase, 'it's a wish list', I'd say that it's words on the page at the moment and in that way—not being cynical—it's meaningless, because it's trying to be all things to all people, when really the proof of the pudding is going to be in the eating. 

I think in terms of the fisheries objectives, perhaps one that is missing, especially when you relate it to the draft Agriculture Bill in England that's going through, is that they have a fair farming objective there and that seems to be notably absent from the Fisheries Bill. Whereas there are similarities and, of course, differences between the two, I think the questions that the objectives should ask in terms of fair fishing are: will it help fishermen to survive? Will it help fishermen to be better treated by the food industry generally in terms of markets? Fishermen have always been price takers rather than price makers and that needs to change, and that can change when fishermen and others in Wales are empowered to add value and to develop their own markets so that they're not under the control of buyers who are in the business to make money at the expense of fishermen. It should ask whether it's going to increase, decrease or have little effect on what fish is produced and on prices.

Will it, vitally, drive new entrants in and help with fisheries succession? This is a particularly important element across the UK, and Wales is no different in how we attract, train and retain new entrants into the fishing industry. I think the average age of fishermen in the UK is 57. As someone said to me recently, 'You don't have to worry about the small-scale sector not being helped, because very soon, we're all going to be dead and then no-one's going to have to worry about it because we don't have the new people coming in.' So, will it help to attract new workers and protect jobs? Will it help nature thrive and ecosystems to be protected? 

I think, vitally, in terms of the reference to quota, there's fair access to quota. There is in clause 20, I think, an element of that, which is copying article 17 of the current common fisheries policy. But, from a Welsh perspective, I think that probably the single biggest piece of damage done to the future of the Welsh fishing industry was when the then Welsh Minister signed the concordat, which, at a stroke—and despite advice from myself, from Jim and from others—took away any options for flexibility and access to a larger pool of quota. And, whilst people might say that the vast majority of the Welsh fishing fleet is reliant on shellfish and non-quota species, no-one can second-guess the future. We're already seeing dramatic changes through climate change. We haven't seen cod in the southern North sea effectively for two years, because everything is moving north quite rapidly. There are going to be very significant changes. It therefore seems entirely counter-productive for the Welsh Government to have, firstly, given away the option to access a greater amount of fishing opportunities, but in the context of this conversation, then I think, we have, or the Welsh Government, has a complete duty, because the concordat is reviewed as far as I'm aware—the latest review hasn't been signed off. I think whatever the system that comes out, unless we have access to the fish in our waters—and almost exclusive access when compared with the competition we now have with French trawlers and Belgian beam trawlers—then, frankly, we're making a lot of noise for very little. If you haven't got the raw material, if you don't have access to the fish in your waters, while standing there and watching other European nations fish them, and unless that changes and we get greater access to the quota and effective fisheries management, then, frankly, a lot of this is going to be meaningless. 

10:35

Okay, we'll come on to quotas in a minute, but can I just ask before we move on from the duties: it has been said that the objectives in this Bill are weaker than the current duties under the CFP. Would you agree with that?

I wouldn't necessarily—. What I would add, which I missed earlier, is that another important point here is that all the devolved administrations have to agree to the joint fisheries statement and they have to state within that how their policies are going to achieve the objectives. So, I think whilst this Bill is, as I understand it, deliberately intended to be a little light in terms of the detail, because of the time it's got to go through Parliament, the detail will follow in some of the elements like the fisheries statements and the corrective legislation and such that's going to back that up.

And there's a balance that needs to be struck between allowing for that flexibility later on and also allowing for scrutiny as the legislation progresses. Okay.

I want to come on to the maximum sustainable yield stuff. I'm just wondering: are you content that sufficient emphasis has been given to the need to end overfishing and not exceeding MSY? Because I know there's a difference of opinion, depending on who you ask, really, isn't there?

Well, there's the usual debate, which is ongoing, in terms of maximum sustainable yield. It should be noted that there are all sorts of things: there's maximum economic yield, there's maximum sustainable yield—there's a whole raft of 'maximums' or 'maxima'. Yes, there is an argument about how effective and, in fact, rational MSY is in a mixed fishery. I think it's probably worth, from a fishing perspective—. Dr Sidney Holt was the doyen of fisheries. He invented fisheries management, I think, some years ago and was one of the first people to suggest MSY. But more recently, I can quote him saying, in terms of MSY, that it

'both enthrones and institutionalizes greed. It is a perfect example of pseudo-science with little empirical or sound theoretical basis. As a target for management of fisheries, or even as the anchor for so-called "reference points", it is inadequate and its pursuit increases the likely unprofitability, and even collapse, of fisheries.'

So, you think it's positive that it's not in the Bill— 

No, I think MSY as an aspiration—. I think that the problem we have is that we've had this forced, 'Everything's got to happen by 2020.' Landing obligations are going to come in in 2019, and that is a complete debacle, as we've said here, because it had this artificial, 'That's when it's going to happen, irrespective—', and the maximum sustainable yield is the same thing. It's an aspiration as part of a bigger fisheries management picture, but it shouldn't be used as the rational point, and the only rational point, for fisheries management, for the very reasons given by the creator of MSY, who I've just quoted. 

Thank you. You've mentioned the joint fisheries statements already, and I'd like to explore that a little bit more with you. So, can you tell us what your views on the provisions in relation to the joint fisheries statements are, and in particular is the purpose and the intended effect of a joint fisheries statement clear enough?

Briefly—because we could talk about this at some considerable length—ostensibly, the answer is 'yes'. As has been said a number of times on both sides, a lot of the Bill is aspirational and a lot of it is in terms of the bigger picture without the detail. On the face of it, the joint fisheries statements seem to be a very sensible way forward, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. So, according to the Bill, yes, it will provide responsibilities, duties and targets, and I think that will be probably sufficient, provided that it is followed through on.

You may be aware that in my written statement that I provided to you—and I admitted to it—I copied and pasted Richard Barnes, who you've heard from previously this morning, because he really, in my view, in that one page in his written evidence, nailed the whole issue of the joint fisheries statements particularly well, and I wouldn't pretend to be the expert that he is on it. 

I would just add one point. I think it needs a dispute resolution mechanism within it, because this is a place where all the devolved administrations coming together have to agree it before the Secretary of State produces his statement or signs his statement off. Now, there's no clarity within the provisions in the Bill as to who is the arbiter. So, perhaps there needs to be some sort of mechanism of that type. 

10:40

That's an interesting point. That brings me on to my second question as to whether you think there are enough checks and balances in the Bill to ensure that the progress is made to achieve the fishing objectives through the joint fisheries statement. Is there going to be enough of a—? Is there enough there or do you want to add any more, really? Is there enough there in the Bill to ensure that the proper authorities can be held to account for their process in producing the statements? You've already mentioned, 'Well, what happens if they don't agree?' There's nothing here to sort that out, is there? 

One thing that is missing for me within the fisheries statements is, clearly, fisheries negotiations internationally happen annually—. That is obviously a six-year cycle for the fisheries statements, which set out how you aim to achieve the objectives over that period. There doesn't seem to be any mechanism or any kind of a description of what might take the place of an annual fisheries discussion or dialogue with devolved administrations. Of course, they have to have that co-operation. That currently, as Jeremy mentioned earlier, is through the current concordat. Something will replace that, I guess, moving forward, and perhaps it's the fisheries statement, I'm not sure, but, yes, that's—

So, there's no—. You think there's a need for a review mechanism and that the six-year cycle is very long. 

Yes, and I guess it's all kind of linked—the fisheries statement and the dispute resolution mechanism—but I guess some sort of annual provision to review what the advice is that's coming in. Because the 'devolveds' will have, presumably, some sort of responsibility in that respect. I think that annual element might enable, then, other monitoring to be brought in in terms of how we can measure the progress against achieving objectives. 

Especially as fisheries is such a dynamic issue, certainly anywhere in the world, but in Wales, I think, especially, because we lag behind in terms of fisheries management so much that we need to be far more dynamic and we need to have a far more responsive management team than currently is the case. So, yes, there needs to be something that means that it's going to be, actually, a live document rather than, you know, every six years, 'Take it off the shelf and dust it off.' 

Thank you. Just turning to the issues of access and licensing to British fisheries, clearly, clause 7 is a crowd pleaser, and clause 8 has some issues I'd like to explore. So, what impact do you think that these provisions relating to access of foreign fishing boats to British fishing waters is going to have in practice, as currently drafted? 

Well, from a Welsh perspective, there shouldn't be any problem because we shouldn't have any foreign boats fishing in our waters, and I say that quite seriously. I've been fishing and involved in Welsh fisheries for the best part of 30 years, both as deputy director of the sea fisheries committee in south and west Wales and as a fisherman myself. I ran the first internet-based, real-time fishery fishing option, which was based in Milford Haven. I've watched, over those years and before that, the demise of Welsh finfish fisheries—you've a defined difference there between shellfish and, obviously, quota species of the fish we have on our plate.

We had the dubious pleasure of the French demersal fleet wiping out the whiting and cod stocks in the Irish sea, enabled or assisted by the Northern Irish prawn fleet with their massive discard issues, and following that by the Belgian beam trawl fleet, which by their own admission, in a report some years ago, suggested they had a 14:1 discard rate. So, for every 1 kg of fish they kept, they chucked that 14 kg of other stuff. You don't need to be a fisheries scientist to know that's unsustainable. So, in relation to the Fisheries Bill and the access to foreign vessels, I'd say quite sensibly that we should, especially in the foreseeable future, have no access to these vessels because we need to regenerate Welsh fisheries in our territorial waters and therefore drive the renaissance of the Welsh fishing fleet in a broader sense.

10:45

Okay. I'll come to you in a minute, Mr Evans. It's quite clear that foreign boats could enter British fishery limits, if they have a licence, in the same way as anybody else has a licence. Subsection 2 requires that foreign fishing boats must leave British fishery limits as soon as their purpose under subsection 1 has been fulfilled. The explanatory memorandum isn't any more useful—it doesn't shed any light on that. What do you regard that as saying in practice? That they've got to leave British fishery—

Well, it's all predicated on the fact they've had a licence issued to them in the first place, and if Brexit, as we're reliably informed, means Brexit, then we have a choice, as a UK and Welsh Government, not to provide licences to them. So, I take it that that subsection that you quote means that as soon as they fulfil their quota or their days at sea or their access for whatever purpose, they then have to leave. But, as I say, it's all predicated on having a licence and being able to access our waters in the first place. 

I think there is a bit of confusion in here anyway because this is all predicated on leaving the EU, I guess, on the twenty-ninth, and, as it happens, the London Fisheries Convention—although notice was issued in July 2017—has a two-year notice period. So, that will not end, or the notice period won't end, so that can't be revoked until July, in the summer, which is after March. So, you'll have a cross-over where access will be claimed and there will be issues—so, there will be licensing issues where historic activity—. Perhaps it might not be as straightforward, because the bit that I'm concerned about is that some of that activity would be in our territorial waters, which is basically a hangover of the historic rights that currently apply. But that would only be until the end of the revocation of the London Fisheries Convention. After that, and the CFP falls, then clause 7 clearly revokes that automatic right, and then it will apply to the licences that are provided to those, and the terms on which they fish will be relevant to the laws applicable in the UK.  

There is, if I could just add, a danger—in my reading of the Bill, and I'm certainly no expert—of individual devolved administrations being able to issue licences, which is dangerous because, in the Bill, there seems to be a contradiction: clause 1(2) states that any British fishing vessel can fish anywhere in UK waters, so, ostensibly, we could have large English, Scots, and Northern Ireland boats able to access Welsh waters if they have quota, while the Welsh non-sector have to sit and watch them fish.

And we must also remember that 50 per cent of UK quota—therefore, access to our fish in our waters—is owned by foreign interests. I think there's no dispute that we should affirm public ownership by confirming that the UK fishery is in fact a trust and that we should get upstream of the distribution mechanism and work out who should get what and design a system to do that along the lines of article 17 or clause 20 in the fisheries Bill, and that we should serve notice to transition from one system of allocation to another. The UK fisheries Minister, George Eustice, has suggested, I think, that eight years' notice is suitable and sufficient and legally permitted to be able to reallocate quota, currently in others' hands, back to us.

I think this is all about who is really British and what impact it has on local economies.

That's absolutely the basis of article 17 in clause 20.

Okay. Other people will ask you about that. You've very helpfully suggested an amendment to the clause that relates to boats being used for fishing for pleasure, which don't need a licence. I think your amendment says that the boat used for conveying people fishing for pleasure has to then allow the people fishing for pleasure to take away the catch rather than it being used as a covert way of selling it.

That's right.

That sounds to me a very sensible amendment. I'm sure we can support that. But I still don't understand how, in practice, it will benefit the Welsh fishing industry, given that so much of our current activity is based on non-quota species, and we have such a low penetration of some of the fishing that requires quota.

10:50

Absolutely, and I couldn't agree more. I think I'm looking more to the future, as I mentioned previously, about the effects of climate change and other things. Obviously, if we gain control of our waters and take that back and become an independent coastal state and the Fisheries Bill comes in, and perhaps a Welsh fisheries Bill, then we need to ensure that it's not just the current situation that we plan and manage for, but the future situation. My overarching concern is, yes, at the moment we are reliant almost entirely, in terms of the inshore fleet in Wales, on non-quota species, but these things can change in an instant. Both Jim and I, as fishermen, will remember when we never used to see spider crab at all, and then a few started to turn up, and then more, and it was originally a pest and then we developed markets and it was great, and now it's moved through, although we're still getting it there. So, these changes are happening far faster now, and unless we ensure that in the Fisheries Bill and/or the Welsh fisheries Bill there is the ability to access fishing opportunities in our own waters for our fleet, for diversification and development and added value and all the usual good ticks, then frankly, we will be letting the industry and the Welsh population down.

Because, at the end of the day, what's the difference between a foreign fishing boat taking fish out of our Welsh waters, as opposed to an English boat and an English business taking fish out of our waters? I mean, it very much depends on where they're landing it and what the benefit is to Wales.

That's right, certainly. You don't need me to tell you, obviously, if foreign boats take fish out of our waters there is no effective benefit—in fact, a great loss, both environmentally, economically and socially. If an English boat comes in and does it, yes, there's a benefit to the UK, but I think this is the conundrum I referred to earlier where, on the one hand, we need to be able to protect and develop our own waters, but on the other hand, the Bill says that all UK vessels have access to all UK waters. So, that will come down to who has the quota. So, you could have a situation—which, in fact, you have now, very often—where Welsh fishermen have to stand on the quay, unable to go to sea to catch fish, because they don't have the quotas through the failures of the concordat, and they can only watch vessels from other nations taking those fish, and that surely must be unfair.

So, Mr Parker and Mr Evans, are you of the same view as Mr Percy?

Jerry mentioned the concordat there, and I think you were hinting there at the economic link that really doesn't exist, where vessels can land into Welsh ports and then there's some element of added value of processing that. It doesn't happen, and I think there's an opportunity within—. 

Well, it doesn't happen because they simply take them off in their factory ships elsewhere.

Not necessarily factory ships, but, by and large, landed product from foreign vessels is transported out of Wales without any handling or processing taking place. So, the opportunity is there, from my perspective and my interest in economic development within the fishing industry and aquaculture sector, for the economic link to be strengthened, particularly within the onshore sector.

I think Joyce Watson wants to come in at this stage.

If you're looking at aquaculture and added value, and you mentioned spider crabs, there isn't a—. We were told in Milford Haven, when we went there last year, that there's very little consumption of spider crabs in the UK anyway, that they go to foreign markets. I know we're talking about licensing here and we must keep very focused on the Bill as it is, but moving on from the Bill, how are we going to see the economic benefit of that catch? Because, you know, you talked about not allowing foreign boats to be licensed to catch, but there's another conundrum that goes on, and this is it, isn't it? This is about access to foreign markets by that which you do catch.

As someone who has operated a factory processing spider crab almost exclusively, I'd have to say that, at the time, and it was a short while back, there was a strong market for spider crab in the UK. Whether that's sustainable given the uncertain times that we live in, as it is a highly valued product once processed, and part of the reason for that is it is very difficult to process, it's quite labour intensive. The end users want that product to be hand processed, hand picked, they're not particularly keen on mechanisation, and it needs to be fresh, in the same vein as our protected geographical indication Welsh lamb—never frozen, fresh. It is a difficult product, but there is a market within the UK. It is high end, but it does exist. 

10:55

Can I just briefly add—? You might have missed the news piece yesterday, which is relevant, about the Blue Sea seafood company down in Cornwall, who's a very large processor of shellfish generally—spider crabs as well—and is having now to ship its spider crab to Vietnam for processing because it can't attract the numbers that it needs in local employment to do so. 

Anyway, we're going off-piste a bit, but I just wanted to raise the conundrum. 

Okay. I just want to clarify whether you think that the legislation needs to be amended to allow the Welsh administration to control the number of English boats coming into Welsh waters, effectively—or Scottish boats—because, otherwise, we'll simply replace foreign boats with other nations' boats.

I think what Jerry described earlier and the reason why it was framed that way in the Bill is that that's how licences in the UK—. Despite having a concordat agreement, they are issued on a general basis. So, it basically gives a vessel in any one part of the country access, providing they have an entitlement, to fish anywhere else in the UK. So, what has been described is, basically, as things currently are, and I guess the point Jerry was making was, if we're looking forward: how could things improve?

So, currently, the greater activity, I would have said, would probably have been the European vessels that are more active, certainly, in the south of Wales. The Bill, and, obviously, leaving the EU and the CFP present an opportunity to address those. Then licensing and having the powers to adapt or vary, enable, I think, going forward, Welsh Ministers having that legislative competence and the suite of tools that they need. Then it would probably be a case that we would get to the situation where they would then be defining what the actual—what they call 'total allowable catches'—are, brought in by the principles of the sustainable management of natural resources. 

But they won't have any control if UK quotas are dished out for the whole of the UK because—

Well, they could just—

Sorry, Jim. There's a contradiction, I'm sorry to say, between having a licence—. So, a licence is general, if you're a licensed British fishing vessel, according to the Bill at the moment, you can fish in any part of the UK, but you can only do that if you have access to the quota that allows you to do it. So, whoever you are, English, Welsh, or whatever else, unless your vessel has the quota—. So, at the moment, we have a situation where Scottish vessels have quota in Welsh waters. 

Okay. So, my colleague will go on with that question. 

That's what we're moving on to now. Gareth Bennett. 

Yes, thanks, Chair. We've talked a bit about the issue of the Welsh quota and the concordat, and Jerry was saying that wasn't a very good outcome for Welsh fishing. So, just to clarify this whole issue, what does the Bill say about the Welsh quota and how it should change or could change, and, if it doesn't say anything, what do you see as the way, going forward, to alter the Welsh quota? 

That's a very good question. What I can see in the Bill, and no doubt you've identified, is we're—. In the White Paper, there was talk of not getting too stuck in the issue of fixed quota allocations and keeping that to one side, but any additional quota that would be available to the UK because of establishing—. You know, as an independent coastal state, and our new exclusive economic zone, and then consistent with zonal attachment, we should see an adjustment to the actual TACs that would be available within our economic area. 

That is all fine and dandy, but when it comes down to your fisheries statement and the annual agreements, how—. So, sorry, the FQA side would be separate. Any additional quotas as a result of moving away from relative stability and moving into zonal attachment, the proposal in the White Paper was to have some sort of quota reserve. Now, that quota reserve would have a number of purposes; Jeremy's touched on some of it, which was making sure that there was provision to provide that sort of opportunity for the smaller scale vessels, and redress some of the balance there. There was an opportunity to deal with some of the more complicated issues around choke fisheries within the landing obligation, and there then would be additional quota.

But what isn't in the Bill is it doesn't say how do each of the devolved administrations make their case, because it'll be the UK Government—. There will be a quota reserve. The UK Government will preside over that. We will have to, somehow, presumably make a case to the UK Government about what we think our amount is. Currently, because of the issues that Jerry described and the lack of track record that we've got in Wales, for other reasons, historic and otherwise, we don't necessarily have that. So, how do we then build a case to then improve and make that argument as to what our allocations should be? 

I think the report that you referred to in your terms of reference—I forget the name of it; the work that was commissioned by the Public Policy Institute for Wales—I think it was identified in there, because we attended the launch of that study, and I think there was something in the region of 14,600 tonnes of fish, mixed species, that could potentially be repatriated to Wales. Now, if you think that currently—and I'm being very generous here—within the pool allocation that we have in Wales, there are probably mixed species of somewhere near 200 tonnes that have to be divided equally, in terms of the actual legislation, between 420 vessels or so. Sorry, 380 would be the under 10m vessels, so that's a small amount, not enough to encourage any investment. This is why you see coastal communities struggling, but if we only had half of that figure that was produced within that report, then there would be significant opportunities for the future.

And what, then, I think is the balancing act is that that then will attract the investment, assuming everything else goes well and the markets and all those issues are resolved as well. Like I say, that's the opportunity; there are some shorter term problems that we've got to resolve as well. But that does make a huge difference that would revitalise ports and fishing communities in Wales. 

11:00

Currently, the allowance this month for the under 10m fleet in Wales to catch cod is 5 kg. And, with all due respect, I can eat 5 kg of cod, never mind catch it. [Laughter.] I think quite relevant to this, though, is that Aneurin Bevan in 1945 said that Britain is an island built on coal and surrounded by fish, and he went on to say that only an organisational genius could arrange a shortage of both at the same time. [Laughter.] But I think, politically, that's what we've suffered from in Wales, but not biologically. 

I think we would struggle to win the argument in terms of—. As Jim says, the current thinking of the Government—the UK Government—is status quo in terms of current allocation, a windfall when Brexit occurs. But that is all predicated on a range of things. I think what is going to be absolutely important is to pressure the UK Government to use the allocation methods that are in clause 20. So, at the moment, you're merely given quota on a track record, and those track records were—I'll put it politely—somewhat imaginative when they were developed, and that's by the admission of those who benefited from it. I think it's worth saying that despite the fact that the under 10m fleet in the UK is 80 per cent of the fleet by number, it only attracts 2 per cent of the national quota which, frankly, is farcical.

And we really do need to think that, whether it's zonal attachment, which seems to have died something of a death in the Bill itself, and the concordat is going to be very much up in the air and open to debate, and we will, from the Welsh perspective, have some very strong arguments against that—. I think the two vital points here are, firstly that the first responsibility the Welsh Government has is to ensure the long-term sustainability of fish stocks in Welsh waters, because everything is based on that, and secondly that we argue very strongly that the allocation method for quota, for access to fishing opportunities, is based on social, economic and environmental criteria, rather than the current track record.

11:05

If we move to funding and financial support, Schedule 4 will enable Welsh Ministers to provide financial assistance for specified purposes. Do you think those specified purposes are too broad or too narrow, and is there sufficient clarity?

Jon, you're our money man.

I don't think they're broad enough. I think they are quite narrow. I accept the fact that this is a fisheries-oriented Bill that's been put forward. If you compare it against the current European programme for the European maritime and fisheries fund, this constitutes just a small part of that programme. I think that, if you look at some of the wider aspects of the Bill—and we've talked about licensing, we've talked about opportunities and an economic link—from a financial perspective, then, it really does need to capture the whole chain and the whole opportunity. Whether that can be brought into a Wales Bill is something else to be discussed. I'm unaware of the segregation of different aspects of the fisheries supply chain into the shared prosperity fund, for example. So, whether there's scope within that, I'm not particularly certain, but, as it stands at the moment, I feel that it's slightly narrow.

As has already been highlighted, I do have concerns over young people entering the industry. Unlike the agricultural sector, which has had a good young entrants scheme that has good programmes running for business succession, it's pretty desperately needed in the sector throughout.

Okay. Could I ask you to expand a little bit, because, for the implementation period, we've had a funding announcement, but beyond that there is very little detail; we simply don't know what the funding position will be. So, that lack of detail, that lack of certainty—what sort of risks would you say that might create for the objectives of the Bill for the industry?

A couple of things, actually. I mean, yes, you're right—: the guarantees from the Treasury only apply to EMFF funds that are approved before December 2020—that they will be fully funded. What I suppose is an issue beyond that is that the Treasury hasn't specified—there's no specification within the Bill. We are talking about a fund. There's no indication of what amount that fund is. That's one unhelpful fact, but what will be the case is that EU member states will continue to get the resource to enable and help them to comply with the objectives and achieve those in the same way as they do now, presumably.

And I think that, in terms of the objectives within the Bill along the lines of the landings obligation and maximum sustainable yield, they will require some form of commitment and support, and that might give an indication as to why the description currently is very narrow and more to do with just the actual support in technical developments and things like this, maybe. But the future prosperity fund—that is more of a community-based thing, so I'm not sure whether the White Paper was a little bit confusing in that the future prosperity fund seemed to be the fund that was going to deal with everything. It now seems to have sort of moved apart slightly. Whether it comes back together again or not and answers Jon's question at the same time as the fisheries one, I'm not sure.

11:10

We're definitely going to struggle, I think, because post CFP, post EMFF, we are going to be in the same queue as health, education and everybody else and go cap in hand to the Treasury. And if history is anything to go by, then Wales is often seen as the poor relation and there's no vision there. So, there are two elements: firstly, as Jim says, in terms of the imbalance between Europe, which will get a lot of funding to meet the objectives, and we probably won't get very much at all. But I think, probably, more importantly—and Jon knows far more about this than I—the management—. I know about the European fisheries fund and the financial instrument for fisheries guidance of before, but not so much about EMFF, but it's very clear that the management of EMFF in Wales has been a debacle, to be absolutely blunt.

I did sit on the Pembrokeshire fishery local action group. In a former life, I ran European small-scale fishery representation and I dealt with FLAGs right the way across Europe, which spent huge amounts of money and provided so many benefits to fishermen and, importantly, often vulnerable fishing communities. We have yet to get the FLAGs off the ground here. From a European perspective, it is an embarrassment. So, it's not just whether we're going to get the money, how much we're going to get, on what basis, but, actually, being able to get it to those who actually need it because, to date, we're not doing that.

Just very briefly from me because we've got very few minutes left, is there anything you think that's missing that desperately needs to be in there?

I think, as a wider point, and it was a point that there was a commitment to it—maybe not that solid—and it was referred to in the White Paper, is that I think safety should be hardwired into the Bill as well. There's a lot of legislation coming through, and some has recently been ratified and will come through this year, but that is an area that needs constant focus and attention. Fishing is one of the most dangerous peacetime occupations in the world. So, that is an area that I think ought to be hardwired into that so that, when policies are being developed, they recognise unintended consequences from that perspective.

Yes. As Jim says, it has to take into consideration things like the new requirements under the International Labour Organisation's 188 in terms of safety, and a responsibility on skippers and owners to ensure the safety of their crew, which hasn't been there in the past.

In answer to your question, the Fisheries Bill does provide some very real opportunities for the Welsh Government to support, encourage and lead on the renaissance of the Welsh inshore fleet, but you'll only be able to achieve that if you utilise the new powers in the Fisheries Bill to bring a level of dynamism and proactiveness to Welsh fisheries management that is currently, sadly, lacking.

I think the other question that the Welsh Government, with all due respect, and the committee has to ask itself is: what happens if there is no Brexit? I think the benefit of this process—this long, long, drawn-out process—ais that it at least has focused on the failings that we have, and the opportunities we can have are obviously much enhanced if we get a fisheries-based Brexit, which is somewhat open to question. But all of it, whether it's European funding, whether it's day-to-day fisheries management, will only work if those things are looked upon and driven by Welsh Government because, as I say, at the moment we are failing miserably in both those respects.

Thank you. Can I thank you all very much for coming along? We've found your evidence very helpful and it will certainly play a major part in the report we finally write and, hopefully, in the legislation that comes out.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:13 ac 11:25.

The meeting adjourned between 11:13 and 11:25.

11:25
4. Trafod y Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol ar gyfer Bil Pysgodfeydd y DU: sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda sefydliadau amgylcheddol
4. Consideration of the Legislative Consent Memorandum for the UK Fisheries Bill: evidence session with environmental organisations

Bore da, good morning. Can I welcome Debbie Crockard of Greener UK, Sarah Denman, UK environment lawyer of ClientEarth, and Emily Williams of the Wales Environment Link to the meeting? Thank you very much for coming. I will now move straight on to questions. Thank you.

To what extent do the provisions set out in the UK Fisheries Bill provide a suitable legislative framework to deliver coherent and sustainable UK fisheries management?

I'll start with this question. We think the Fisheries Bill provides an adequate framework for the UK post Brexit, but what we would say is that it does not provide an adequate framework for sustainability. So, in many areas of the Bill, it pays lip service to sustainability, but it doesn't actually provide the legal mechanisms to deliver on that.

There are two key examples, which I'm sure we'll come on to in more detail in this session. The first is that there's no legal commitment to actually fish to MSY, so this represents a regression in environmental standards from the position in the CFP and international best practice as well. The second key area is that there's no duty on public authorities to actually achieve the objectives. Without this, the great sustainability objectives that we've currently got in the Fisheries Bill don't have any legal teeth whatsoever.

So, without addressing those two key areas, the Bill doesn't provide an adequate framework for sustainable fisheries management post Brexit.

I completely agree with that, definitely.

To what extent does the UK Fisheries Bill strike the right balance between ensuring policy consistency and co-ordination across the UK and respecting the devolution settlement?

I think that's an important question, but it's not necessarily one that we would take a view on. I think there are considerations around the need for there to be a framework on fisheries in certain areas. I think another consideration is around timescales and taking the opportunity to get things in place now. But in terms of the actual balance, I'm not sure we'd necessarily take a view on that.

I want to know about the extent of delegated powers—that's what I'm asking. To what extent do you think it's reasonable and appropriate for the UK Bill, as it exists, to confer extensive delegated powers on Welsh Ministers? Would it be better to put those and confer them on a Welsh fisheries Bill, which then, in turn, would allow scrutiny of those Ministers, to make sure they were delivering on it? Or do you not want to have a view on it?

I think it's a similar point to the one made to the previous question in terms of I'm not sure we'd necessarily take a view on that. But I think, again, those factors that I mentioned, particularly the timescales, are important ones to think about regarding that question.

But you just mentioned a duty on local authorities and you just mentioned the fact that the the MSY isn't in the Bill. One way of perhaps ensuring—taking this question from another angle—that some of those things could be scrutinised and that the Government could be held accountable, would be by conferring the powers on the Welsh Ministers to bring forward a Bill that we could then scrutinise, and ask for those. I suppose it's how you ask the question, so I'll ask it a different way.  

Going from what Emily said, from our position, it doesn't really matter who is in charge of putting those powers forward; it doesn't really matter who is responsible. We want to see sustainable, well-managed fisheries. It's not up to us to decide who is actually going to be doing that. It wouldn't be something that we would feel responsible for taking a position on and making a request as to who it is that does it. We would like to just make sure that fisheries are done in a sustainable manner and that whoever's responsible for them has a duty to meet targets that ensure that fishing is sustainable. 

11:30

I think you'll probably understand, Ms Crockard, that, to us, it matters enormously who makes the decisions. In terms of the decisions being properly scrutinised, from your position, in terms of ensuring that the decisions that are being made are truly effective and that they're stress-tested, surely, you must want there to be proper scrutiny of these processes. It is an extraordinary use of language to say that it doesn't matter. 

No, sorry, I didn't mean it as in, 'It doesn't matter.' What I meant was that those scrutinies must be put in place no matter what, sorry, rather than, 'It doesn't matter.' It should be, 'They are needed; they need to be placed, and they need to be placed in the best way possible.' 

Sorry. I apologise, yes.

We had a number of objectives set out at the beginning of the Bill. I'm just wondering whether you believe they're sufficiently comprehensive and clearly enough defined, et cetera, to start off with. 

I think there are two points on the objectives. So, the first is the actual substance and the second is the legal application. In terms of the substance, it's actually quite a strong set of objectives. So, in particular, we would welcome the sustainability objective, the precautionary objective and the ecosystems objective. I think, one tweak that we would make is to the scientific evidence objective. At the moment, that has two limbs. We would want to see a third limb in there on full and verifiable documentation of catches. At the moment, the rules on documentation come from the EU, but, in practice, I think they haven't been applied very well, and, actually, there isn't much verification of what's being documented, and unless we have a really true and accurate picture of what's being taken out of the sea, it's going to be very difficult to make sure that stock levels come back to sustainable levels. 

In terms of the substance, we're relatively happy with that, but in terms of the legal application, that's actually very weak. There's no duty in the Fisheries Bill for authorities to actually achieve the objectives. Instead, authorities have to comply with a policy statement that sets out how the authorities will achieve the objectives. Now, there are two key problems with the policy statement. The first is that there's no guarantee that it will actually contain any effective policies; there isn't any restriction in the Bill on how strongly or weakly the objectives will actually be dealt with. So, as long as the policy statement touches on the objective, then that's fine from a legal perspective. So, that's a big concern.

I'd say the bigger concern is the fact that the policy statement can actually be completely disregarded if relevant considerations indicate. Now, there isn't any definition of 'relevant considerations' in the Fisheries Bill. So, in a huge range of circumstances there, the policy statement could be completely disregarded, and, therefore, the objectives could also be completely disregarded. So, that poses a huge risk to sustainable fishing.

So, what we would say is that the policy statement approach is fine, but, in addition, we'd also need to see a legal duty on authorities to actually achieve the objectives in order to reach a gold standard in sustainable fisheries management.

So, in that respect, the objectives are weaker than the duties in the CFP at the moment. 

Yes, we would say so. 

And is there any sign that that's going to change, because, you know, I mean, we're very late in the game now, really, aren't we, to insist on some of these—

Yes, I completely agree; it's very concerning. We haven't seen any signs that that's going to change. The particular problem here is the fact that the only place that MSY is addressed is in the objective. So, the fact that there is very weak legal application is really concerning. 

But you would hope, maybe, that some of those would be addressed in the Welsh Bill, if you like, when that comes—?

Yes, very much so. 

Yes, okay. And to what extent do you think that the objectives, as they are currently in the UK Bill, actually align themselves with some Welsh legislation that we have in terms of the future generations Act and the environment Act here in Wales? 

I think they actually align themselves very well, particularly thinking about the sustainability objective, the precautionary objective, looking at things like the well-being of future generations Act and making sure that things are there for future generations. I think that aligns itself very well, as well, with the environment Act and sustainable management of natural resources. I think the way that I would view it is that those two pieces of legislation in Wales act as the more overarching framework and what these objectives do is try to operationalise those in a fisheries context and then give more specifics.

11:35

So, do you see the Welsh legislation offering you some sort of comfort in terms of being able to strengthen, maybe, some of the stuff that's in the UK Bill, or do you think that that would still need to be explicitly done in a Welsh Bill?

I think what we haven't yet really seen in Wales is a narrative around fisheries management that is in line with the environment Act and well-being of future generations Act in terms of really shaping fisheries management in terms of what is in those Acts. So, the Acts are there and that's fantastic, but what are we doing differently in Wales because of those Acts? And I'm not sure that question has been asked yet, and really I think that these objectives are sort of a first step towards that, but I'd like to see more thinking from Welsh Ministers regarding that question as well.

Okay. On maximum sustainable yield, it's rather a blunt instrument, really, isn't it? I mean, surely there are better ways of doing this.

Maximum sustainable yield is currently the best way that we have to manage fisheries. It's used in every advanced fisheries management country in the world. If you look at the best managed fisheries, MSY is what they use at the moment. It provides an opportunity to fish at levels that will give a rate of exploitation that's consistent with sustainable fishing and allows the stock to be rebuilt. It can be a blunt instrument, but that depends on how you apply it. So, a lot of the time we hear things about there being 'An MSY target, an MSY target, an MSY target.' MSY isn't a target;,it's a limit—

And 2020 is the limit, but that's on fishing mortality, so it's specifically on how much we take out. It's the one thing we can control when it comes to fisheries. When we talk about sustainable fisheries, though, you also have to include biomass, and so, actually, MSY by 2020 in terms of how much we are removing from a stock is very achievable, and it is something that we would definitely want to still see. I mean, it's something that's still going to apply to us when we set the stocks for next year—

Sorry, yes, because we've just had evidence from representatives of the industry and, as you would expect, they pretty much welcome the fact that there wasn't a specific reference to MSY in the UK Bill, because they saw it, actually, as an opportunity to think a bit more creatively and look at other options. You would say that they would say that anyway, probably, and they would say the same back to you, I would imagine. So, how do you respond to that, because I'd imagine—well, I know that you're particularly keen for it to be included?

I mean, if you look at it as something that is—by 'more creatively', do you mean fishing higher than MSY? Because that's over-exploitation.

So, it's the way that it's applied that is the issue here, yes?

Yes. The idea is that fishing sustainably is anything up to the MSY point. You can vary it below those points—the rare example is that people have been talking about fishing 5 per cent below MSY—and there are ways that you can apply MSY that allow you to have a sort of mixed fishery that is being exploited in a way that is sustainable. Until you have stocks that are recovered to biomass levels, though, that flexibility should be limited, because you don't have stocks that are in a good state. The minute you start fishing above levels at MSY on a stock that's already overfished and has already got a biomass that's reduced, you're reducing that biomass further, you're restricting how much the stock will recover and you're limiting your fishing industry. If you can have a fishing industry that's sustainable that has high levels of fish already, you're improving how much you can catch. So, it is a win-win. There are examples where you have sustainable fishing and you have higher profits, you have a more reliable industry, you have more predictable fishing situations. So, fishing at MSY levels can be very, very productive.

So, why is it, do you think, that the UK Government has chosen not to include this?

As far as I'm aware, they feel that it is already included in terms of—because they've mentioned the biomass targets. What we would say is that that's the difference between overfishing and being overfished. You can have your biomass targets, but there's no time limit on those and they're also subject to wider things like climate change, whereas fishing mortality is something we can control. So, that is the thing that we should put in there as a target—sorry, not a target, a limit, because that is actually what we have the control over.  

Can I bring us to the joint fisheries statements? Can you share with us your views on the provisions with regard to the joint fisheries statements, as they are in the Bill? In your view, are the purpose and intended effect of the joint fisheries statements sufficiently clear in the legislation, as it stands? And to what extent do you think the joint fisheries statements are a good mechanism to deliver the objectives, which you've been quite positive about?

11:40

Well, I think the policy statements themselves are very good in and of themselves. They offer flexibility, which is really important. If there are changes in science, technology, the policy statements allow the flexibility to allow authorities to adapt to that, which is really good. Also, they offer, obviously, a level of co-ordination between the devolved administrations, which, given the highly migratory nature of fish, is really important. So, to see that level of co-ordination and co-operation between the administrations is really good.

We don't have a problem with the policy statements, per se, but the problem is the application of the objectives. At the moment in the Bill, the policy statements are the only way by which the objectives are applied. And as I touched on earlier, there are some key issues with that: the fact that the statements can be completely disregarded in a very broad range of circumstances, and also, the fact that there's no guarantee that the policies will actually deal with the objectives effectively. So, what we would argue for is to keep the policy statements but to also add this legal duty that we've been talking about to achieve the objectives, and then that should strike the right balance between the flexibility and co-ordination on the one hand and the actual commitment to achieve the objectives, which will result in sustainable fisheries management.

That's helpful. To build on that a little bit, as the Bill stands, to what extent do you think that there are sufficient checks and balances included to ensure that progress is made? Is there enough scrutiny built into the policy statement system, in your view?

I definitely don't think there's enough scrutiny. The only scrutiny mechanism at the moment for these is before they're published. Schedule 1 to the Bill sets out a degree of scrutiny, so, relevant stakeholders can make representations to the authorities, which they then have to have regard to. That's okay, but as soon as the policy statements are published, there is no further scrutiny. In particular, there isn't any duty to report on progress against the objectives. I think the policy statements get reviewed every six years, so in that six-year period, there's nothing to hold authorities to account. Whether they achieve the objectives or not, there's no mechanism to make them accountable; there isn't any transparency there on how the objectives are achieved.

So, as part of the duty to achieve the objectives that you are setting, do you think the legislation needs to set out that there will be a scrutiny process or what the scrutiny process should be?

Yes. I think that would be helpful. I think probably the simplest and most effective scrutiny procedure here would be a reporting mechanism. Every three years is probably quite a good time cycle; I think annually is probably a big burden. In the Marine and Coastal Access Act, as well, there's a three-yearly reporting cycle there, which has worked quite well. But, definitely, without any kind of reporting mechanism, there's nothing to hold authorities to account.

And if that's not achievable in this UK Bill, I guess you'd be advocating that we'd want to ask to have something in Welsh legislation that meant that this place, at least, had to scrutinise. Three yearly seems—. Yes. That's helpful. Thank you.

I think with regard to the fisheries statements, as well, and looking at it from a Welsh legislation point of view, it's interesting in the Fisheries Bill that there's a list of things that might be included in the Secretary of State's fisheries statement, but there isn't a list of things with regard to what might be included in the joint fisheries statements and what Welsh Ministers might include, for example. So, if that isn't included in the UK Fisheries Bill, I think we'd certainly look for those sorts of things to be included in the Welsh Bill as well.

Just looking at the access to fisheries and licensing clauses in the Bill, obviously, clause 7 is a crowd pleaser, but looking at clause 8 in terms of the licensing arrangements, how do you think that this will work out in practice, given the already widespread use of flags of convenience on the seas? You know, so-called UK or British fishing boats, nominally, with loads of boats based in Rotterdam or wherever. How can we make this more in line with the well-being of future generations Act, and the requirement to grow the prosperity of our Welsh coastal communities?

11:45

It's not something that I feel I've got a lot of expertise on in terms of that specific question, but I think there are—. You ask about the well-being of future generations Act and the requirements under that, and I think there are certainly quite a lot of different things we could explore in terms of maximising contribution towards that Act. But in terms of the licensing question, it's not something that I—.

Licensing isn't something that as an organisation we've been focused on, but what I would say as a broad point is, in terms of access, we want to be sure that any European vessels, or any other vessel that comes into UK waters, is still complying with the same high standards as UK boats. I don't think the Fisheries Bill makes that explicit at the moment. So, we understand that, in the terms of licences that are given to EU boats, there should be something in there about complying with the same high environmental standards. But that's not a given. And I'm surprised that that's not in the Fisheries Bill, because this is something that both the environmental groups, but also industry are behind. And I understand from the White Paper that that is the intention of the UK Government as well. 

So, that's our view on the access and the licensing terms—that we need to be very sure that European boats aren't coming in and undercutting UK boats, firstly, from a socioeconomic perspective, and also from an environmental perspective as well. 

Some north European countries have mandatory CCTV on their boats—I think Norway, from memory. Would you want to see that as a provision, a requirement of any licensing?

Yes, definitely. CCTV not only gives you the opportunity to monitor what is being caught and where it's being caught, it can be used for a controlled enforcement perspective, but it's also extremely useful in terms of scientific data gathering. So, you can do things like have a fully documented fishery, for example, and it allows you to have a better understanding of what's actually being caught, where it's being caught and how much is being caught, not just for target species as well. So, CCTV is a really useful, multifaceted tool as well. So, it's definitely something we would encourage to be rolled out within the UK.

Okay. So, is that something that you'd want to see introduced into the licensing requirements of the Bill?

If it was required for UK vessels, definitely. We'd like to see it across the board, yes. 

Well, it would have to be for anybody fishing in UK waters, wouldn't it? Okay.

So, in terms of the—. I think one of the concerns that's being raised is that, obviously, the licensing arrangements could actually work against Wales, given that most of the Welsh fishing industry is now confined to very small businesses mainly fishing non-quota items like shellfish, and therefore it's how we actually ensure that this is an opportunity to restore some of the problems that have arisen out of the existing arrangements to improve the well-being of some of our coastal communities. So, is there anything that you'd want to see there in terms of licensing requirements in relation to where catches are landed, or anything else that would ensure that the natural resource that is a public good benefits communities that are adjacent to those coasts?

Certainly. We would definitely want to see the application of a fairer system for licensing in terms of the availability of quota. I think, to start off with, new quota that's available should be distributed in a way that is fair, and takes into account social, economic and environmental requirements. This is something that, under the current common fisheries policy, is included under article 17, and we don't think that it's fully had the opportunity to be applied within the UK to take into account those social, economic and environmental considerations when distributing quota. And it is something that could be applied more widely, and would definitely be of benefit to any new quota that is gained as a result of Brexit. 

Because the current section 9 is pretty silent on all this type of concern. And the way in which the numbers of businesses have been reduced—there are some very large players, and none of them are based in Wales, as far as I'm aware.

11:50

Just to add to that, we've been thinking a lot about this issue. It probably wouldn't—well, from a drafting perspective, we think it would be better off in clause 20, which currently addresses article 17 of the CFP, and that's about the allocation of opportunities, on the basis of various criteria. At the moment, clause 20 only applies to the Secretary of State and the Marine Management Organisation, so it doesn't apply to Welsh Ministers. I think, from a socioeconomic perspective, it would be very helpful for that clause, with a couple of tweaks, to apply, because that would ensure that any fishing opportunities would be allocated to the fishermen, both on socioeconomic but also environmental criteria, which would really assist especially the small-scale fleet—the kind of low-impact vessels that do a lot less damage to the health of the marine environment.

Following on from that, what can the Bill do to support development of the local low-impact—the under-10s—fishing sector and the associated coastal communities?

Well, I think as we just mentioned, the key point there is amending clause 20. So, article 17 of the CFP sets out how these fishing opportunities are allocated. At the moment, it's based on largely historic catch levels, which is very unhelpful. This is because, in the CFP as drafted, there's no obligation to actually allocate opportunities on the basis of socioeconomic and environmental criteria—it's just a power. And that has meant that historic catch levels have been the basis on which opportunities are allocated, which has been to the detriment of the low-impact sector. So, we would want to see an actual duty in clause 20 that brings across article 17. We'd want to see a duty on authorities to allocate on the basis of socioeconomic and environmental criteria, not on the basis of historic catch levels. The problem as well, obviously, is that that doesn't apply to Welsh Ministers at the moment, so whether that would be amended as part of the UK Fisheries Bill, or in a new Welsh fisheries Bill—but either way, I think that is the biggest legal mechanism by which the small-scale fleets and Welsh coastal communities can benefit.

It does only apply, however, mostly to a quota allocation at this time. So, a lot of the Welsh fishing industry is non-quota, so the management of that is already the responsibility of the Welsh Government.

Wales currently receives substantially less than either its coastal area or its population in terms of quota. What's Wales's population? About 5 per cent, and our coastal area is about 80 per cent, and we get 1 per cent. That does seem that we're not getting as much as we would on any objective criteria. Do you have any views on that? Or maybe not.

Again, I think there is the opportunity to look at how quota is distributed under article 20, so it is something that could be looked at in the future.