All 7 Lord Krebs contributions to the Fisheries Act 2020

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Tue 11th Feb 2020
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Mon 9th Mar 2020
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Mon 9th Mar 2020
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Mon 22nd Jun 2020
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Wed 24th Jun 2020
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Thu 12th Nov 2020
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Lord Krebs Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard)
Tuesday 11th February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, as the Minister so clearly set out in his introduction, sustainability is at the heart of this Bill. The Defra briefing Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations tells us:

“Underpinning everything will be our commitment to sustainability—supporting future generations of fishermen and allowing our marine environment to thrive.”


Clause 1 of the Bill, as we have heard, sets out the fisheries objectives, the first of which is sustainability. If this is what the Bill really delivers, in a world where scientists estimate that in the order of two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks are overfished and in which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, mentioned, only 59% of UK stocks were fished at or below sustainable levels last year, who could object? However, I will argue that the Bill may not be all it seems.

When you look at the Bill in more detail, you begin to question whether or not it will deliver on this sustainability promise—but first I must digress. “Sustainability” is, unfortunately, one of those words used by too many people to mean too many different things and therefore runs the danger of becoming almost meaningless, unless we define our terms. It was not always like this. The term was coined with a very specific purpose by the German forester and land- owner Hans Carl von Carlowitz, whose treatise on Nachhaltigkeit, the German word for sustainability, appeared a year or so before his death in 1714. Von Carlowitz was concerned about the rapid deforestation of western Europe to provide wood for buildings, ships and fuel. He set out the principles by which forests should be managed for their long-term viability for future generations. Nowadays, however, the term is used for a much wider range of objectives. For example, the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals, descended from the 1987 Brundtland report, range from ending poverty and hunger to securing economic growth, justice and gender equality.

So, what does the Bill mean when it talks about sustainability? Does it really mean securing the long-term health of fish stocks and marine ecosystems or does it mean something vaguer and more general? I am sorry to say that, as it stands, the Bill does not guarantee the long-term health of either our fish stocks or our marine environment. Why do I say this? The clue, as has been said, lies in Clause 1(1). This clause lists eight objectives of the Bill, but contains a fundamental category error by listing sustainability as merely one of the eight. If the Government really meant sustainability in the von Carlowitz sense, there would be just one objective: sustainability; the other seven would be subordinate to this as a means of achieving sustainability.

Noble Lords may think that I am making a rather technical—even academic, as suits my background—and abstruse point. However, when we move to Clause 1(2), the alarm bells start to ring loud and clear. This is where the Bill declares its hand. I refer to a point touched on by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, my noble friend Lord Hannay and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. In this clause, the sustainability objective is defined not merely as ensuring that fish stocks are sustainable in the long term, but also as ensuring economic, social and employment benefits.

This is precisely why, under the common fisheries policy, so many stocks have been overexploited. The argument for going beyond the scientifically recommended quotas is that, by adhering to these quotas, the livelihoods of fishermen and communities are put at risk. In other words, in the trade-off between the different elements of sustainability, short-term gain has taken precedence over longer-term pain. By fishing more now, fishermen have good livelihoods today, but their descendants will not have this tomorrow. I therefore ask the Minister, in his reply, to explain to us how the trade-off between these elements of sustainability in the Bill will be calculated, and to assure us that short-term interests will not be placed ahead of the longer-term objective of ensuring that fish stocks are there for future generations. In short, can the Minister commit to a legally binding obligation not to exceed the scientifically recommended levels of quota?

However, the problems do not end there; the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, has already referred to this. The fisheries management plans covered in Clauses 7 to 11 of the Bill are designed, as Defra’s briefing on the Bill says, to

“achieve maximum sustainable yield for all stocks.”

One of the standard textbooks of ecology that I have used for teaching undergraduates at Oxford says that

“a fixed quota strategy at the MSY level might be desirable and reasonable in a wholly predictable world about which we have perfect knowledge. But in the real world of fluctuating environments and imperfect data sets, these fixed quotas are open invitations to disaster.”

The Peruvian anchovy stock was the world’s largest single fishery from 1960 to 1972; it was managed by MSY quotas and collapsed in 1972, taking 20 years to recover. Does the Minister have a view on whether MSY is indeed the measure through which to manage quota? There are alternatives that are well known in the fisheries science literature.

I wish to raise a couple of final points, one of which has already been mentioned—namely, the importance of data. The only way to get real data on what is being taken out of the sea, as other noble Lords have said, is to have remote electronic monitoring or CCTV cameras on board all fishing vessels. Why is that not part of the deal?

My very final point is something that has not been mentioned before: fishing vessels are continually increasing in efficiency. One estimate in the literature is that the introduction of GPS and sonar on fishing vessels has resulted in an increase in efficiency—catch per unit effort—of between 300% and 400% in recent decades. It seems an ineluctable consequence that, if we are to fish at sustainable levels, the fishing industry will in the future have to shrink. There will have to be fewer fishermen, each operating a more efficient vessel. Do the Government acknowledge that one element of sustainability in the future will be a smaller fishing industry?

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 4th March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, the whole point about sustainability is that we have moved, as I said in an earlier discussion, from 12%, I think it is, to 59% of the stocks that we know about now being fished at MSY. The whole thrust of what we want to do is to improve stocks and know more about them, so that there will be more fishing opportunities. We believe that there are opportunities, with our new arrangements, to do much more work in the short, medium and long term. We are coming on to fishery management plans and so forth, so that we are going to be more sustainable.

I am afraid that I cannot crystal ball gaze. My noble friend will know, having been a Fisheries Minister, that crystal ball gazing as to the size of the fleet or the numbers of people engaged in it over the next 30 or 40 years is difficult, but I have spoken about financial support, in terms of the new domestic grant scheme for training. One of the difficulties comes with very experienced people. This training is a continuum, and I can think of some skippers who have been at sea all their lives and therefore probably think further training is not required. Continuous understanding of different conditions, improvements in boats and in gear and equipment are all areas by which we will start to reduce bycatch and modernise fishing. They are all areas where we need to work collaboratively with fishing communities.

My noble friend may be being overly negative in his spirit about fishing opportunities. If we get to a sustainable harvest, which is what predicates all our work—the framework of the Bill is about moving towards sustainable fish stocks—then we will get to a point where we can harvest. This is a hugely important part of our food resource, in feeding our nation and beyond.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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I thank the Minister for giving me a chance to ask—

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I had not finished, actually, but I will sit down.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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Thank you. I have a further question in relation to the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. Although it may be difficult to project what the size of the fishing fleet might be in the future, there are surely statistics, which I invite the Minister to quote, on the current increase in efficiency of fishing vessels in the United Kingdom fleet—that is, catch per unit effort. How much has catch per unit effort increased over the last two decades, for example?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I wrote to your Lordships, and I can read what I said in that letter about the size of the fleet, if that would help:

“Lord Krebs raised a question about advances in technology leading to a smaller fishing fleet. As technology advances, the UK fleet may be able to catch more fish in a more efficient and targeted way, which is one of the reasons why the Bill includes a sustainability objective. The sustainability objective in the Bill includes a fleet capacity objective, seeking to ensure that fleets are balanced with fishing opportunities available and that they are economically viable but do not overexploit stocks. Given this objective, we will assess the impact of any additional quota that is negotiated once fishers start to fish against it, as it relates to the size of the fleet.


As to more precise details, I am afraid that I will have to write to the noble Lord.

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Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB)
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My Lords, this amendment largely speaks for itself. It is all very well having all the noble objectives in Clause 1—made, one hopes, even more noble if some of our discussions to date bear fruit in the future—but, as they used to say in 16th-century diplomatic circles, “Fine words butter no parsnips”.

Once we are cast adrift on the post-Brexit realities of running our own fisheries, there will be numerous parties all promoting their own visions. The parties will range from the fishermen themselves to the local communities, local authorities, LEPs, the MMO and the devolved nations. They might even wiggle, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said a moment ago. They will also include the Secretaries of State at Defra and BEIS—after all, fishing is an industry and a business—and even the Secretary of State at the Department for International Trade. I suspect that at some point in the future—probably quite a long time down the line—they will have priorities that do not necessarily liaise with the objectives in Clause 1. The visions of all those bodies will be influenced by wholly separate objectives that might or might not be in line with Clause 1.

Politics in action, both local and national, has a tendency to be influenced by lobbying, usually involving specific interests, and, as Harold Macmillan was apparently wont to say, “Events, dear boy”—both of which tend, in turn, to be influenced by rather shorter-term objectives than the long-term sustainable priorities that we are all trying to achieve in Clause 1.

My amendment is hardly dictatorial, but I hope that it is a good starting point for discussion. The Minister will remember our debate last year on the then Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill, in which local authorities were given a “must have regard to” obligation concerning the environment and biodiversity. What happened? In most cases, absolutely nothing. The noble words of the objectives in the NERC Bill did not enter anyone’s thinking or area of responsibility. Other problems such as roads, housing and the local economy were more pressing—that is the lobbying influence—and austerity overtook any good intentions that there might have been. That is the “Events, dear boy” bit of the equation. We must not let that happen to our sustainable fisheries objectives.

In his reply, the Minister will no doubt refer to Clause 2(1)(c), where the fisheries policy authorities have to make a statement on how “proportionately” they have applied the Clause 1 objectives—but what mealy-mouthed words are those? I totally support Amendment 30, which would remove the word “proportionately”. In spite of that, there is no legal obligation even to have a duty of care towards the Clause 1 objectives, let alone to promote and implement them, which is what I am trying to achieve.

The Government will also likely argue that the joint fisheries statements and fisheries management plans are where the policies that will achieve the fisheries objectives will be set out and that, as the joint fisheries statement and fisheries management plan will be legally binding, there is no need to have a commitment on the face of the Bill to achieve the objectives. However, there is currently too much flexibility around how the joint fisheries statements and fisheries management plans are to be drafted, and no detail about the timeframes. Moreover, there is the ability to opt out or amend the joint fisheries statement where there is a “relevant change of circumstances”, as referred to in Clauses 7 and 10. A relevant change of circumstances can include a socioeconomic change—“Events, dear boy”.

Experience in Scotland, which has a similar provision in the Marine (Scotland) Act, has shown that, where that opt-out exists, environmental considerations can get pushed to one side in favour of economic impacts, and important measures that could benefit the environment are not taken. Six years after the designation of the Small Isles Marine Protected Area, fishing continues unchecked over the protected features, because a hole in the Act has allowed the authorities to opt out. I am trying to prevent such a hole in our Bill. In his reply a moment ago, the Minister referred to this: that, while unlikely, there is a risk that a future Government might not be so committed to sustainable fisheries, and they could amend fisheries management plans or let aberrations in those plans, or in joint fisheries statements, go through unchecked.

Frankly, my Lords, without my proposed new clause inserting a legal duty to achieve the fisheries objectives, Clause 1 is merely a series of hopeful words. As I say, it will certainly butter no parsnips—nor, for that matter, sustain a long-term and profitable UK fishing industry.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, I speak in support of my noble friend’s amendment, and apologise for not being here on Monday as I was overseas and unable to join the debate. However, I read the account in Hansard very carefully, and it seems to me that, as has indeed been said this afternoon, one of the key problems that a number of us have with the Bill relates not to its apparent intent—we are very happy with that—but the amount of wriggle room that is left in the Bill.

We heard again, in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, a few minutes ago, about the wriggle room around the meaning of sustainability. We all agree that sustainability has three pillars—the economic, the social and the environmental—but there is a question of how you balance them. The Minister referred to the need to balance them, but how you do this leaves a great deal of wriggle room. I will not repeat the arguments that were rehearsed on Monday, and again briefly earlier this afternoon, about the way in which economic considerations will always tend to trump environmental considerations because the short term is here and now, and the long term is the next generation’s problem.

This amendment that my noble friend Lord Cameron of Dillington is proposing is attempting to narrow down a further possibility of wriggle room. As he has so eloquently explained, without a legally binding commitment on the noteworthy and honourable and desirable objectives, it is not clear whether they will be adhered to in the fisheries statements and fisheries management plans. So the question for me is: who is going to be accountable if the objectives are not met, and what sanctions will be placed on the fisheries authorities, or other bodies, if that happens? I do not wish to repeat the arguments that my noble friend Lord Cameron of Dillington rehearsed so eloquently, but I would like clarity on the question of accountability.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interest again today—if I may do it once, rather than each time I speak. As I mentioned on Monday, the company of which I am a director is in a partnership with an agency whose clients include UK fisheries.

I know we discussed this, but with Amendment 28 the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, has enabled us to illustrate a question. It will be interesting to hear my noble friend’s answer, but I am afraid I cannot bring myself to agree that the amendment is needed. By virtue of Clause 10, national fisheries policy authorities are required to make fisheries statements—either a joint fisheries statement or a Secretary of State fisheries statement—and fisheries management plans, and they are obliged to do so in ways that show how they wish to balance the objectives.

We know that there are eight objectives. We discussed all that on Monday, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, quite rightly said. We acknowledge that this range of objectives presents a particularly testing task for the fisheries policy authorities. There is a relatively large number of objectives and several are, in themselves, relatively testing. As far as I can see, virtually none of them can be said either to have been achieved or not achieved. One is always in a process of seeking to achieve them. The balance that is struck, and the extent to which one achieves those objectives, is entirely the issue.

Clause 10 makes it clear that, whenever the national fishing policy authorities engage in anything to do with fishing or aquaculture, they must seek to apply the objectives in doing so. That is the link between Clause 1 and the rest of the Bill. Why then do I think that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, has asked an interesting question, to which I do not know the answer? It is because he said that there are many public authorities that are not necessarily fisheries policy authorities. This is true. When setting objectives in relation to one sector of governmental activity, we would not normally expect to include a clause every time saying, “Oh and by the way, it must apply to every sector of government whatever it happens to be doing.” I do not go down that path; but, in this instance, we live in a world where the relationship between access to fish stocks and quota will potentially, in certain circumstances, be part of the same negotiation as the trade and market access relationships that we have with other countries.

My question, off the back of the noble Lord’s amendment, is: are the fisheries objectives—and, by extension, joint fisheries statements and the like—regarded as equally applicable to the Department for International Trade as to any national fisheries policy authorities?

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Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington
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My Lords, I have put my name to Amendment 31 in this grouping because I think it is important that we put in place agreements with other nations who host most of the stock we live on.

When I first heard that a new UK fisheries policy was one of the primary reasons for Brexit, I scoffed, because surely fish do not understand national borders. As we know, they move about and we can never have a fishing policy without close co-operation with our neighbours. But that was before I understood the absurd principles of relative stability and how our total allowable catch was based on fishing records from the mid-1970s, when our large fleet was fishing around Iceland before the cod wars and our inshore fleet kept very few records, and before climate change moved our national dish of cod into northern waters. Did your Lordships know that we are only 8% self-sufficient in cod? Furthermore, we currently consume in the UK three times the total EU quota of cod. We are no longer blessed with being—as I was taught in my childhood—an island built on coal and surrounded by cod. Climate change has changed all that. So, to some extent, our fishing arrangements with Norway, the Faroes, Iceland and even Russia are going to be as important as our fishing arrangements with the EU.

But the problem for the EU fleets is that their catch, like ours, has moved north. Therefore, they catch a lot of their fish in UK waters. The European Fisheries Alliance reckons that cutting them off from our waters would slash profits for the EU fleets in half, leading to job losses for at least 6,000 people. A fish war with the EU, or at least clashes between boats, is not such a remote possibility, which is why the EU Commission has given itself the powers to command any or all EU fishing boats to return to port. They have also allocated funds from the EMFF to compensate fishermen forced to retire due to Brexit.

The EU is also gearing itself up for the possibility of tariffs or other restrictions on the 60% to 70% of the UK catch that is currently exported to Europe. I have often thought that one of the best ways we could spend the replacement for European Maritime and Fisheries Fund money would be to have a massive marketing campaign to stop us eating so much cod and persuade the great British public to eat more of the fish we produce. Sadly, I suspect that the great British public could not afford to do that, even if they were so inclined.

We all hope that it will not come to clashes at sea, but the point of this amendment is to prevent future clashes with our neighbours while at the same time ensuring that we use the best up-to-date science to sustain our fishing stocks. Zonal allocation is a far better way of distributing quota among national fishing fleets than the historically based quotas. The seas are always changing, and so are the fish within them; this amendment is an effort to take account of that fact.

However, the problem is that looking at relative stability terrifies the Europeans—opening up a whole can of worms for them, from the Black Sea to the Baltic —even if they know in their hearts that it is the right thing to do. We have to enter into very serious negotiations with not only them but our other fishing neighbours in order to achieve sustainable fisheries.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, a few years ago I had the great pleasure of serving on the Energy and Environment Sub-Committee of the European Union Committee, under the very able chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. In our inquiry into Brexit and fisheries, we heard very compelling evidence about the management of shared stocks and nobody, from the fishing industry to private fishermen to the Minister at the time—now the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—disagreed that any policy for the management of UK stocks has to take into account the fact that many of our stocks are shared with other European countries and, therefore, we cannot develop plans on our own.

For me, one of the more compelling anecdotes was the case of species that spend the earlier part of their life in, for example, French waters, and later move into UK waters. One could envisage a future situation in which, in this case, the French might say, “Okay, we will harvest the younger fish and leave the older ones for you.” Of course, there would not be any older ones. I just emphasise that all the evidence I heard in that Select Committee inquiry three years ago makes a very compelling case for this amendment on shared stocks.

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Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick
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My Lords, I will speak briefly on Amendment 54, which is to do with shared stocks. The UK Government share the Irish Sea with the Irish Government. An agreement is already in place in legislation called the voisinage agreement, which is like a shared fisheries management plan. I am seeking reassurance that that will remain in place and that the alleged regulatory border in the Irish Sea, as a result of EU management issues, will not impact on fishing efforts in the Irish Sea.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, I will speak very briefly to Amendment 33, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I have to confess that it raised in my mind a thought I had not had before, and I thank her very much for it. Her amendment reflects the fact that in certain circumstances, the removal of one species from an ecological community can have a dramatic effect on the whole ecosystem. I used to teach this notion to undergraduates in Oxford. It refers in particular to the idea of a keystone species—one that might have a disproportionate effect on the balance of an ecological community as a whole. In a quite unanticipated way, fishing effort on a particular target species might disrupt and radically transform the whole ecosystem. The noble Baroness’s amendment suggests that the ecosystem objective should be built into consideration of fishing effort. Of course, we saw the ecosystem objective at the very beginning of Clause 1, which is one of the objectives that form the pillars of the Bill. Does the Minister or his officials have a clear view about the notion of keystone species and unintended disruptions to the whole marine ecosystem that might arise as a consequence of a fishing effort targeted at a particular species?

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington
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My Lords, I put my name to Amendment 34. It is obvious that setting quotas at MSY is a largely short-term approach. I realise that it is incredibly complicated, particularly for mixed fisheries—the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just introduced me to a new complication—but the point is that MSY tends to be set to allow for some harvest or return from whatever level the stocks reached, unless, of course, the scientists think that they are getting close to the point of no return or BLIM. Many conservation biologists think that MSY is dangerous and can be misused. If possible, stocks should be set above sustainable levels, so that we are not always living from hand to mouth and our children’s children have a truly sustainable fishing future ahead of them.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 9th March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
These amendments would enable the Bill to make a real change to the marine environment, so that we as a nation and an independent coastal state can take a lead and make a difference to biodiversity and the sustainability of fish stocks. That is why I believe that this amendment, together with other amendments tabled by Members, are so important and should be pursued.
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who has expressed so eloquently many of the points I want to make. I shall try to avoid repeating them; nevertheless, I want to extend the argument. I agree with the noble Lord that if the Government are to make only one change to the Fisheries Bill, this should be it.

The purpose Amendment 124, in my name and those of my noble friend Lady Worthington and the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, is to ensure that all boats fishing in UK waters are fitted with remote electronic monitoring. My amendment focuses on data collection as opposed to the discard ban, but the two are not incompatible and REM would support both. If we introduce it on a phased basis and with consultation, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, suggested, it could be achieved in a way that does not disrupt the industry. It will be accepted internationally as the way to collect accurate data on what is being taken from the sea, to inform the scientific analysis of sustainability.

As the Minister said last Wednesday,

“One of the things that we must all wrestle with is that currently, we do not have adequate scientific information on all stocks and we need a better assessment”.


This will help to achieve that. The Minister also said:

“Where we cannot make such an assessment, we will gather scientific data so that such an assessment is possible”.—[Official Report, 4/3/20; cols. 652-53.]


Well, here is a method of contributing to that. Without direct on-board monitoring of fish catch, there would be a crucial gap in the scientific data on which to assess sustainable harvests. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has already said, while we were in the CFP it was argued that compelling our boats to deploy REM would put them at a disadvantage compared with fishers from other countries. That in itself tells you something about fishers’ behaviour. But now we have taken back control, we can set our own rules to require all boats in UK waters, whether or not they are UK-registered boats, to operate on a level playing field with REM fitted to their boats.

It was also argued that it was unaffordable and not suitable for smaller boats—the under 10-metre fleet. However, a recent report on the San José gillnet fishery in Peru, concluded that

“small-scale fishing vessel remote electronic monitoring offers potential for affordable at sea monitoring costs in coastal fisheries.”

I am told that there are also new technologies—the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to this—such as Shellcatch, which is cheap and easy to use. Is the Minister aware of Shellcatch and similar technologies, the use of which would be a very appropriate step for the Government to take?

The proposed new Clause in Amendment 124 would also require all boats to have GPS, so that their location is known, and it would require the establishment of a framework for monitoring and enforcement to prevent illegal fishing. The accurate collection of data is always important in fisheries management, but even more so as the Government are intent on pursuing the mistaken notion that maximum sustainable yield is the right way to manage sustainable fisheries. At Second Reading, I pointed out the folly of this proposition, but my warning did not seem to elicit a warm response, so I am going to repeat it at greater length now, for the record.

I am delighted that the notion of experts seems to be coming back into fashion, because I will refer to a number of experts in fisheries science. I first quote from two of the leading fisheries scientists of the 20th century. Canada’s P.A. Larkin, one of the leading fisheries scientists of his generation, wrote in his 1977 paper An Epitaph for the Concept of Maximum Sustained Yield:

“In many ways, it is a pity that now, just as the concept of MSY has reached a world-wide distribution and is on the verge of world-wide application, it must be abandoned.”


J.A. Gulland, who wrote the world-standard FAO manual on fisheries science, said:

“It is very doubtful if the attainment of MSY from any one stock of fish should be the objective of management except in exceptional circumstances”.


I also consulted two colleagues who are fisheries experts: Professor Marc Mangel from the University of California, arguably the top fisheries scientist in the United States, and Professor Sir John Beddington, former Government Chief Scientific Adviser and adviser to the UK Government in international fisheries negotiations. Both confirmed that MSY is not a desirable tool for fisheries management. Professor Mangel said:

“MSY as a management tool simply won’t go away, regardless of evidence that ‘managing for MSY’ has not been effective”,


and

“MSY is a very dangerous fishery management target unless one knows lots about the stock, about fishing mortality, and has the ability to really control fishing effort (particularly shut it down if needed). MSY is generally not used as a target in North America.”

Sir John Beddington is even blunter in his assessment that there is complete consensus among fisheries scientists that to set harvest levels at MSY is not appropriate. I apologise for going on at some length about MSY, but also note that I could have gone on a lot longer. Instead, I commend to those who would like to follow up my points a book entitled Quantitative Fisheries Stock Assessment, by Hilborn and Walters.

Sadly, the Government are committed to a misguided fisheries policy. I am not an expert fisheries scientist, but I have looked carefully at the issue and consulted experts, and the consequences of this misguided policy will be felt by UK fishers in the years ahead. I urge the Minister to listen to world fisheries experts and consider whether the Bill needs to be changed accordingly. However, I am not optimistic that the Government are prepared to do that, so, at the very least, they should agree to record properly what is being caught and where, so that when things go wrong—as they certainly will—they can change the policy. This amendment would enable the Government to do just that.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, asked why the amendment refers to phasing in REM rather than introducing it straight away. I have talked to people involved in this in the Chilean fishery, where REM is required on boats over 15 metres long. I was told—as was the Select Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson—that a culture change has to go with the introduction of REM. Consultation and phasing in would therefore enable the Government to achieve buy-in from the fishing industry, particularly the important, smaller boats under 10 metres long.

That does not undermine the fundamental objective: to gain accurate data to enable us to manage our fisheries, in spite of our aiming for the undesirable target of MSY. We can manage the fisheries with good data, and change the plan when the data demands it.

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Clause 36(4)(h) and equivalent provisions—
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, and I thank him for sitting down. The notion of an amendment proposing REM is not specifying a particular technology. As I mentioned in my introduction to Amendment 124, there are rapidly emerging technologies; I gave the example of Shellcatch, which works on your smartphone. I did not see this as prescribing a particular method, but rather saying that what we need is a system to get accurate data on what is being caught—whether it is from the point of view of the discard ban or of getting accurate harvest data to inform fisheries scientists’ modelling—without prescribing particular technologies. I just want to make it clear that I did not have a particular gadget in mind, I had the notion of using whatever was the latest technology—which will, as the Minister has said, evolve over time.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

All I will say to the noble Lord is that some amendments referred to, for instance, cameras or whatever. If he will allow me, I will move into areas that might be more in tune with some of the other points. I agree with noble Lords that this is an area where the range of technologies and abilities are going to be immensely helpful in what we all want to achieve: a vibrant ecosystem, marine conservation, and sustainability.

The UK Government also recognise the effectiveness of introducing a requirement for vessels to operate a vessel monitoring system for fisheries enforcement purposes. This is a satellite-based monitoring system, which at regular intervals provides data to the fisheries authorities on the location, course and speed of a vessel. This provides a picture of fishing activity which can support targeted enforcement action, which is why it is currently a requirement for all UK-registered vessels over 12 metres in length, but this is not prescribed through primary legislation.

Defra ran a public consultation in February 2019 to introduce inshore vessel monitoring systems—IVMS—for all British fishing vessels under 12 metres in length operating in English waters. In its response to the consultation, Defra concluded that IVMS would be introduced and that it would bring forward the required statutory instrument. The requirement will also apply to all English-registered vessels wherever they are fishing. I understand that the devolved Administrations are adopting similar policy proposals; picking up on the point of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, here the devolved Administrations, entirely within their gift, are adopting similar policy proposals.

The balance the UK Government are trying to achieve is a proportionate and practical approach to monitoring and enforcement that reflects the risk of discarding. This includes factors such as the fishery being exploited, the type of gear being used and the size of the vessel. Further, in respect of Amendment 80A as it relates to foreign vessels, we are also clear that we wish to ensure a level playing field between UK-registered vessels and any foreign-registered vessels which we allow to fish in our waters. In principle, ensuring that the same standards apply to foreign vessels as to our own is a sound concept.

We wish to conclude the trials and assess them. We recognise that enhanced monitoring has huge potential benefits and I am genuinely grateful to all noble Lords who have raised this matter. It is extremely serious and we need to undertake more work to come forward with further proposals on it.

On the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on the catch certificate app, obviously the safety of fishers is paramount. While it is important that catch records be submitted as soon as practically possible, this should take place only once the vessel and its crew are in a safe place. Catch records ought to be submitted in port when it is safe to do so, not at sea. We know that most fishers operate in good faith and make efforts to comply with catch recording guidance, but I thought it helpful to say that we want to be pragmatic about these points and have an overriding objective of keeping people safe.

I turn to the requirement in Amendment 124 to develop a framework to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated—IUU—fishing. The Government agree that we should seek to eliminate IUU fishing and remain committed to co-operating globally to this end. The EU’s IUU regulation will be incorporated into UK law as retained EU law. The UK aims to be a global leader in the fight against IUU fishing.

I was interested in the exchange between the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on the fisheries management plans. I fully intend for us to have this meeting. I will ask scientists to come to it, because obviously the fisheries management plan was intended to be a new insertion into this second Bill precisely to ensure that every stock is managed and fished sustainably. I would like the opportunity, before we get too jaundiced about it, to work together with noble Lords to see, with the scientists, what we can make of it and how best to take it forward, because it is an opportunity to make sure that the management plans of all stocks are in good order.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, raised MSY. I am very happy to talk to him about it. MSY is—I note the number of eminent people he referred to—internationally accepted. However, if I recall right, we recognised at Second Reading that it is just one tool, which is why we have included a range of sustainability objectives in the Bill. As the noble Lord will know well, ICES provides advice about MSY. I was interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said on this. MSY is internationally accepted. I am very happy to discuss MSY with the noble Lord; it is a term used both in this country and internationally, so it would be a personal endeavour of mine to understand what other points he wishes to make.

In this context, I hope that I have explained the work already in hand on REM. We recognise that this is an extremely important area both now and for the future. We are bringing forward these proposals, but for the sake of this debate I hope my noble friend feels able to withdraw her amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Monday 9th March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
In order to be effective, this must also be underpinned and supported by properly resourced and effective monitoring, control and enforcement. We are looking for the Minister to give a legal commitment on the face of the Bill not to fish above sustainable levels. I believe that the maintenance of sustainable fish stocks is the golden thread which runs through this Bill, so they must be protected. I beg to move.
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I rise to speak briefly in support of the amendment because it provides me with an opportunity to give part two of my lecture on maximum sustainable yields, although I detect that the undergraduate audience is less than enthusiastic about hearing it. However, I want to ask the Minister the following question. The classic textbook on maximum sustainable yield was written by William Ricker in 1975. In it he defined it as

“The largest average catch or yield that can continuously be taken from a stock under existing environmental conditions.”




The three key elements of that definition are “average”, “continuously” and “existing environmental conditions”. I hope the Minister will tell us whether, given that the Government are set on harvesting at MSY—which, as I explained earlier, I think is a mistake—there is a definition in their mind of “average”. To give three possibilities, is it the arithmetic mean, the geometric mean or the harmonic mean?

There must also be something in the Government’s mind about “existing environmental conditions”, which the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, already referred to. What does “existing environmental conditions” mean and how will the change in MSY be linked to changing environmental conditions? The Government must also have in their mind a definition of the word “continuously”. Perhaps the Minister could clarify those points for me.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I cannot say much more than the noble Baroness has already said, very eloquently. I lend my support to this amendment because it addresses a fundamental question about Clause 23.

In the next group we will discuss some of these issues in relation to Clause 25 in great detail. For now, I fully support the idea that we should be putting these conditions into this agreement. It is similar to my Amendment 103, so I do not want to rehearse it, but I was struck by the noble Baroness’s comments about the fact that we should be managing this stock for future generations and not simply for the short-term economic needs of those who are benefiting from the status quo.

Not to trivialise the debate, but my children are engaged in the marine environment for a number of reasons, not least through watching the wonderful BBC series “Octonauts”. The Octonauts’ phrase is that we should explore, rescue and protect. I hope that the Bill can be transformed into one which enables us to explore the fishing industry with data, rescue those stocks that are in need of respite and their levels to be restored, and protect the socioeconomic conditions of the whole fishing industry, not just a subset.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 22nd June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-R-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report - (22 Jun 2020)
Moved by
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
“(2) The “sustainability objective” is that—(a) fish and aquaculture activities do not compromise environmental sustainability in either the short or the long term;(b) subject to subsection (2)(a), fishing fleets must—(i) be managed to achieve economic, social and employment benefits and contribute to the availability of food supplies, and(ii) have fishing capacity that is economically viable but does not overexploit marine stocks.(2A) The sustainability objective is the prime fisheries objective.”Member’s explanatory statement
This ensures (a) that environmental sustainability takes precedence among the various elements of sustainability and (b) that sustainability is the prime fisheries objective.
Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover of an amendment and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or any other amendment in the group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we spent a great deal of time discussing sustainability during earlier stages of the Bill so I do not wish to repeat the arguments at length. However, because it has been well over three months since we last discussed this issue, I will recap briefly.

This amendment supports the Government’s own aim. At Second Reading, the Minister told us that

“this Bill creates a strong and legally binding framework to deliver this Government’s ambition to leave the natural environment in a better state than we inherited it.”—[Official Report, 11/2/20; col. 2167.]

He also said that sustainability is at the heart of the Bill. Sure enough, the first fisheries objective in Clause 1(1) is the sustainability objective. Unfortunately, however, as drafted, the Bill does not guarantee the protection of fish stocks and the wider marine environment. To be absolutely sure that the Bill does what it claims on the tin, let us get the commitment to protecting the natural environment written into it. That is the purpose of this amendment.

What is the problem? History shows that whenever there is a trade-off between short-term economic and employment considerations and longer-term environmental sustainability, short-term factors nearly always win. This is what has led to overfishing and long-term damage to the marine environment in many of the world’s fisheries, including those covered by the common fisheries policy. That is the key point. The Bill as drafted allows for the possibility of short-term economic and social factors overruling environmental sustainability in making trade-offs.

Clause 1(2) defines the sustainability objective as having three elements: environmental, social and economic. I do not argue with the fact that sustainability has these three components; indeed, the Minister reminded us that they are the UN framework. I want to ensure, however, that socio-economic factors do not win out over protection of the marine environment. That is why the first part of the amendment ensures that, in calculating trade-offs between these three, the environment always remains the priority. This will ensure that we do not repeat past mistakes of putting short-term economic and social interests ahead of protecting the environment.

The second part of the amendment refers back to Clause 1(1). As we discussed in detail at earlier stages of the Bill, the eight fisheries objectives are not all born equal. The sustainability objective, as redefined in the amendment, takes precedence. The other seven fisheries objectives should support, or be subordinate to, environmental sustainability. This would make it unequivocal that the aim of the Bill is to harvest our marine resources without compromising the health of the marine environment. The amendment is not saying: “no fishing”; it is saying: “sensible fishing”. It is not saying that there will not have to be trade-offs, but it sets boundary conditions for the calculation of the trade-offs.

At earlier stages of the Bill, the Minister did not agree with the arguments that I have rehearsed. I suspect that he will argue again for a proportionate approach that gives equal, or at least undetermined, weight to all three components of sustainability. In Committee he acknowledged:

“We might have a collision point on sustainability.”—[Official Report, 4/3/20; col. 629.]


He also said:

“We must balance the protection of our marine environment with our objective of supporting thriving fishing and aquaculture sectors.”—[Official Report, 2/3/20; col. 461.]


If the Minister is not minded to accept this amendment, I would ask him to explain how these trade-offs will be made in practice.

This is our big chance to get the management of our fisheries on a genuinely sustainable footing and avoid the mistakes of the past. We can join the leading nations in the world such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA, managing our fisheries in a genuinely environmentally sustainable way, or we can languish lower down the international league table, with the risk of putting short-term gain ahead of long-term pain. I will listen carefully to the Minister’s reply at the end of this debate, but unless there is a significant change of tack, I would wish to test the opinion of the House on this crucial issue of the Fisheries Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering [V]
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My Lords, I lend my support to this amendment. There is a certain attraction in having one objective, namely sustainability, in the context of the Fisheries Bill, as the primary objective. Part of my reasoning for this is that the House might wish to take a broader view and make sure that we come to the same view on the Fisheries Bill as we do, for example, when we come to consider the Environment Bill. We should not consider one in isolation from the other.

I was very taken by the Minister’s argument in Committee that in relation to objectives, there was a three-legged stool, whereby environmental, social and economic objectives should be given equal weight. There is a distinct attraction in singling out the environmental objective as the “prime fisheries objective”, as it says in the amendment. I know that it is a concern of Scottish fishermen and the Scottish Government in particular that we should look at the broader use of the marine environment, particularly in regard to renewables and other resources. There is an overwhelming attraction in having the sustainability objective as the prime objective. To put my mind at rest, I would be very interested to learn from the Minister, in the event of a contest between the three legs of the stool, how the Government would decide to prioritise between the economic, social and sustainability objectives.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, that there have now been many iterations of the Bill and a lot of consideration has been given to it. We have a balance of objectives here: sustainability, the three-legged stool and all the many other essential objectives, including—as the noble Lord, Lord Mann, effectively mentioned—addressing climate change. There could be no more important objective than that. The Government believe that the balance we have created with the support of the devolved Administrations offers the strongest possible way forward.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, I thank all who have taken part in this important debate; we have heard some interesting and well-informed contributions. Although we are not all of the same view, a clear majority of those who have spoken support the amendment.

I want to pick up on a couple of specific points. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, talked about how the different priorities could be balanced, but the difficulty is that Clause 1 contains a fundamental category error. Sustainability is an overarching objective; others, such as the scientific, precautionary and client objectives, are subservient to sustainability. So, it is not a matter of weighing them up against one another; it is a matter of seeing that sustainability is an overarching priority.

I turn to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, who suggested that, in the amendment to Clause 1(2) we had already referred to the three-legged stool. If noble Lords read the amendment carefully, the objective in proposed new paragraph (a) is that

“fisheries and Aquaculture activities do not compromise environmental sustainability in either the long or the short term … subject to”

—and it then goes on to talk about economic, social and employment benefits.

I now come to the Minister’s summing up. I thank him very much for his comments and his thoughtful response to the amendment and the debate. As he said, we are all aiming for the same thing—sustainable fisheries, which mean that today’s activities do not compromise the health of the marine environment in the future. He also reiterated the need to balance the three legs of sustainability; indeed, many noble Lords who spoke also referred to the balance of the trade-offs, including the noble Lords, Lord Blencathra, Lord Teverson, Lord Randall of Uxbridge and Lord Cameron of Dillington, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, and Lady Jones of Whitchurch.

The Minister said that he thought that the three legs of the stool should be given equal weight. I have difficulty with that because, when I think of weighing something, I need a currency to weigh it in—is it pounds or ounces, kilograms or grams, or what? I am also unconvinced by his explanation of how the trade-offs will be made. Is it mathematical so that, for example, 100 jobs are worth one fish stock? Is it a purely political judgement? If so, by whom and on what basis? Is it a response to lobbying, where those who shout loudest get their way? That would clearly be unsatisfactory. I did a quick search of the specialist literature on how these three legs of the sustainability stool are balanced; the literature suggests that no one has cracked this problem. So, we have to take it on trust that the Government have a solution to the problem secretly up their sleeve. I am afraid I cannot take that on trust.

The Minister also referred to compromising our position in international negotiations. Surely, however, setting out a strong position by saying that we are at the top of the world league table in stewarding our marine environment, along with countries such as Australia and New Zealand, would be a very good starting point for any international negotiation. In view of the fact that I am not convinced that the safeguards proposed will be sufficient to protect the marine environment, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

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Moved by
3: Clause 1, page 2, line 17, leave out subsection (6) and insert—
“(6) The “bycatch objective” is to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality in support of sustainably managing fisheries, and supporting and conserving protected species.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment ensures that the bycatch objective focuses on the outcomes rather than on the processes that might lead to the outcomes. It also brings the objective into line with practices in other jurisdictions.
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, I hope and expect that this amendment will not take as long as Amendment 2, so I will be very brief in my introduction. First, I thank the Minister and his officials for their very helpful discussions on the question of bycatch, and my Oxford University colleague Professor EJ Milner-Gulland for her expertise and advice in drafting the amendment.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the bycatch objective focuses on the desired outcome, rather than on the processes that might contribute to the outcome. As drafted, the objective appears to focus primarily on undersized and unwanted fish species rather than on the wider marine environment. Yet we know that, globally, non-selective fishing gear—including long lines, gill nets and trawling—causes major mortality among non-target species. According to WWF, bycatch is the single largest cause of mortality in small cetaceans; it causes significant mortality in turtles and 26 species of seabirds; and it destroys large areas of coral reef. North Sea trawlers are estimated to discard up to 150,000 tonnes of marine invertebrates annually, including starfish, sea urchins, sponges and marine worms.

In Committee, the Minister assured us:

“The Government are resolutely committed to minimising bycatch of sensitive species as much as is practically possible”.—[Official Report, 2/3/20; col. 461.]


That is absolutely in line with the purpose of this amendment. He also referred specifically to seabirds, cetaceans, sharks and rays, and to the definition of “sensitive species”, which goes wider than the category of endangered species. Furthermore, he pointed out that the ecosystem objective encompasses the bycatch of species that are not covered by the bycatch objective.

In short, the intent of the Bill seems to me quite appropriate, although it may appear to some to be slightly confusing to have the issue of bycatch spread across two fisheries objectives. It would be very helpful if, in his reply, the Minister were able to remove any ambiguity by confirming that the bycatch objective aims to reduce bycatch—and bycatch mortality—to support the conservation of not only fish stocks but the wider marine environment. I beg to move.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on bringing forward this amendment, which I have signed and am lending my support to. The amendment seeks to delete subsection (6) from the original Clause 1. I have particular difficulty with subsection (6)(c) and the wording therein. It says that,

“bycatch that is fish is landed, but only where this is appropriate and … does not create an incentive to catch fish that are below minimum conservation reference size”.

My noble friend Lord Gardiner will recall my disappointment in Committee that the original Bill had looked to have a discard objective. I would still place on record my belief that that is preferable to bycatch, or should be seen as additional to bycatch. During his comments in Committee my noble friend said:

“One limb of the bycatch objective is that catches are recorded and accounted for. We will improve the accuracy of the data available on fishing mortality and enable sustainable quota setting that avoids overfishing”.—[Official Report, 2/3/20; col. 425.]


I will take this opportunity to ask my noble friend how he expects to achieve that. As a supplementary point, it would be helpful to understand precisely what the bycatch objective is.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for this amendment, because it provides me with an opportunity to expand on the Government’s position on bycatch. As he said, we had a most productive meeting before lockdown. All the scientists getting together was fascinating; I tried to keep up with them. The Government are fully committed to ensuring that our stocks are fished sustainably, and to ending the wasteful practice of discarding. We now have an opportunity to develop, for the first time, a catching and discards policy tailored to our own marine environment and our diverse fishing industry. As is made clear through the bycatch and ecosystem objectives in the Bill, it is the Government’s intention that we adopt a more holistic approach for our future policies. We will seek to address the challenges of the wider ecosystem, rather than looking at each area in isolation.

Therefore, I emphasise that the Government wholeheartedly agree with the principle behind the noble Lord’s amendment. We aim to reduce the level of catches and mortality of bycatch to protect and conserve vulnerable fish stocks and, I emphasise, other protected species—I was most grateful to my noble friend Lord Randall for mentioning the albatross, for instance. However, we certainly want to work towards a holistic way of reducing and avoiding bycatch.

Indeed, we believe that the current bycatch objective actually goes further than the noble Lord’s amendment, by setting out a number of sub-objectives. The Government and the devolved Administrations will be legally bound to set out policies relating to all of these sub-objectives in the joint fisheries statement. I therefore hope that this will help my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

Clause 1(6)(a) states that bycatch, and the catching of fish that are below minimum conservation reference size, should be reduced. That is similar to the noble Lord’s amendment, but our objective goes on to stipulate that we will also work to avoid it entirely where we can—I say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that it is important that we are working towards avoidance rather than reduction. That might be achieved through more selective fishing practices—I think the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, alluded to that—and we think that is a stronger position to be in on the matter.

The specific reduction or avoidance in catching those fish which are under minimum conservation reference size, or juvenile fish, is important in the Bill’s objective too. It is particularly important to protect those juvenile fish, as they are, quite clearly, what sustain the stocks for the future. These fish can be at specific risk of being targeted and then sold on or used as bait, which is why paragraph (c) specifically notes that policies must be set out to avoid creating a market for the landing of those fish.

Paragraph (b) of the bycatch objective in Clause 1(6) also sets out the need for accurate recording and accounting for of all catches, which is essential in capping overall mortality. By not accurately recording all catches, we believe that we risk introducing uncertainty in whether stocks are being fished at or beyond MSY—maximum sustainable yield. The amendment proposed by the noble Lord removes some of this detail which, in practical terms, we believe may unintentionally undermine the sustainability of our stocks and may mean that protected species are not conserved. I know that that is not the intent of the noble Lord or of any noble Lords in this amendment.

The bycatch objective in the Bill has been carefully thought through and worded in such a way as to tackle not only discarding itself but also the root cause of discarding in the accidental take of fish. As I say, I found our discussion with the scientists stimulating, but I hope that these further remarks on this issue will help the noble Lord to feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
- Hansard - -

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I think that we are all agreed on the purpose of the amendment and the intention to make the bycatch objective contribute to the sustainable management of our marine environment. I also thank the Minister for his reply, although he was rather too modest in his account of following the science; he was very good at asking the hard questions that put the scientists firmly on the spot.

However, on the substance, the Minister has provided the reassurance that I sought. To recap what I understood him to have said, the bycatch objective aims to reduce bycatch and bycatch mortality as part of sustainable fisheries management in order to support the conservation of fish stocks and the wider marine environment. Although I would prefer to reword the bycatch objective as I proposed in the amendment, I am content that the Minister’s statement in his reply explains the Government’s position, which is in fact that which we had hoped to reach in tabling this amendment. I therefore beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 3 withdrawn.
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When we debated this issue in Committee, the Minister referred to various reports which set out the expectations on the fishing sector to play its part in mitigating climate change. I do not doubt that there is a lot of good work going on around this issue, but more action needs to be taken, and the Bill is an opportunity to set out more clearly the obligations on the sector to play its part and act now. It provides the legal teeth to deliver that change. I hope noble Lords will see the sense in these amendments and that the Minister will feel able to give them government support. I beg to move.
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for tabling Amendments 7 and 53. I have added my name to the latter. I strongly support them for the reasons she set out so clearly.

The climate change committee will publish its annual report to Parliament this Thursday. It will be a very uncomfortable read for the Government. The committee’s chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Deben, is reported in yesterday’s press as saying that the response to the climate crisis in the UK is being run by the Government like a Dad’s Army operation. Fisheries and aquaculture may not be the biggest contributor to our greenhouse gas inventory but, if we are to get to net zero by 2050 or even sooner, every sector of the UK will have to make its contribution. Furthermore, the way in which we fish will have to change as a result of the inevitable climate change to which we are already committed as a result of the greenhouse gases that we have pumped into the atmosphere over the past 150 years. For instance, there is growing evidence that changes in ocean temperature will affect the distribution of the plankton that form the basis of the marine food chain. As a consequence, the distribution and abundance of fish will change, and this will need to be taken into account and anticipated.

I had the privilege of sitting on the climate change committee for eight years, and chaired its adaptation sub-committee. In every one of our annual reports we called for a step change in action by the Government: on both mitigation, reducing our greenhouse gas footprint; and on adaptation, preparing for the inevitable climate change that we will experience in coming decades. Amendment 53 will ensure that fisheries and aquaculture contribute to that step change. There is overwhelming public support for more action from the Government on climate change. For instance, the recent Climate Assembly poll showed that 80% of people agree or strongly agree that, in the post-Covid world, government plans to achieve net zero should be advanced.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for bringing forward these two amendments and allowing the House to debate this issue briefly. What will be the relationship between this part of the Bill—and the new climate change objective, to which she referred—and the Environment Bill? Can my noble friend confirm my understanding that fisheries activities do not themselves contribute greatly to climate change? We should recognise that and commend this activity as being fairly neutral in that regard. My concern is the impact of climate change on our waters, as so eloquently expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. My understanding is that, as the waters warm, various species migrate as they cannot adapt to the warmer temperatures. This will obviously have an impact on any agreement, either within the United Kingdom or, as a coastal state, with our erstwhile partners in the European Union under the new arrangements. How can the Minister and the Government be absolutely sure that any arrangement that we come to will not be undermined by the fact that the fish are no longer where we thought they were, but have migrated to colder waters?

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 24th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-R-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report - (22 Jun 2020)
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I will speak briefly in support of the amendment. I have little to add to the excellent introduction by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch.

When preparing to speak to this amendment, I looked to see where fish caught in UK waters are currently landed, and I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will correct me if my figures are wrong. According to the Marine Management Organisation, UK vessels harvest about 80% of their catch in UK waters. However, in the first three months of 2020, only about half their total catch of just under 200,000 tonnes was landed in the UK. According to MMO figures, vessels from other EU countries catch 35% of their fish in UK waters, but they landed just under 9,000 tonnes in the UK in the first three months of 2020.

Although there is a licence condition called the economic link, already referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, which aims to support the coastal communities, it does not require landing more than 50% of the vessel’s catch in the UK. It is true that there are other ways of showing an economic link, including at least 50% of the crew being UK-based, sourcing goods and services in the UK, or supporting UK coastal communities in other ways. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, the Bill is an opportunity for the Government to further enhance the support for the future thriving coastal communities that we all wish to seek. I very much hope that noble Lords will support the amendment if it goes to a Division.

Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for moving this amendment. I have little to add in substance to what she said. However, I ask the Minister: if the purpose of Brexit was to repatriate powers to Parliament, withdraw from the common fisheries policy and the common agricultural policy, and so on, would not this amendment be wholeheartedly in support of that objective? The Government are rightly committed to a policy and a programme of levelling up. Would not this amendment be very much in line with such a policy?

As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, eloquently put it, for all jobs created at sea, multiple jobs are created on land, and indeed, there could be a key role for looking at how we develop new technologies to assist not just the economics of fisheries but in all aspects, not least in connection with conservation and commitment to the long-term sustainability of our fish stocks.

Does my noble friend agree that the amendment would ensure that at least 65% of the plaice caught would indeed need to be landed at our ports—at our place—and that it would absolutely be in line with everything that is being said by No. 10 and across government regarding plotting a new future for the United Kingdom?

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Teverson, for adding their names to Amendment 29. I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Lansley and Lord Cameron of Dillington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, on the redrafting of Clause 25, which rewrites Article 17 into UK law and will avoid any further confusion should Article 17 be amended later in the EU. This sits better with Clause 23, the objectives criteria in Clause 1 and the joint fisheries statements in Clause 2. Amendments 29 would follow neatly on from this by putting a duty on the Secretary of State to consider the case for allocating further fishing opportunities—that is, quota—to new entrants and to the under 10-metre fleet against the background of the sustainability criteria or the environmental, social and economic factors.

In Committee we debated two amendments—Amendment 106 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and Amendment 107 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch—that proposed reserving a portion of English fishing quota to these two categories. Having considered the Minister’s response to these amendments, and given that there are very similar arguments in favour of preserving a portion of quota for both groups, we have chosen to combine the two previous amendments into a single, more comprehensive text. With the new Clause 25 and the consequential government amendments, a minor technical adjustment is now needed to proposed new subsection (4) in Amendment 29, where “each calendar year” would need to be consequentially amended as well to the relevant quota period.

I will briefly outline the system we envisage, as well as reminding noble Lords that it would extend to England only and therefore have no implications for the devolution settlements. Before making the first determination of fishing opportunities under Clause 23, the Secretary of State would have to establish a baseline allocation for each group, the under-10 metre fleet and any reserve for future new entrants. When doing this, they would have to consider historical fishing opportunities through an average of the last three years.

However, and crucially, the Secretary of State could alter this level on the grounds of sustainability under Clause 1(1)(c), which we debated at length on Monday. To all intents and purposes, this would set a minimum benchmark of quota that could be allocated to either new entrants or the under-10 metre fleet. Once the baseline has been established, the Secretary of State would have to consider the case for increasing it with each period’s determination, before laying a statement outlining the outcome of their deliberations before Parliament. If they chose not to increase the reserve quota, the statement would have to outline the reasons.

We believe that such an approach strikes the right balance between providing the Government with flexibility to implement their own policy once the UK is an independent coastal state while affording new entrants and the under-10s a degree of certainty about their current market access and potential for future growth. As I said, if Ministers chose not to prioritise new entrants or the under-10s as part of the overall distribution of fishing opportunities, this system would act as a fail-safe to protect what the two groups already have. In that sense, it upholds the principle elsewhere in the Bill that fisheries plans should consult and consider historical catch data. Conversely, if we wanted to provide significantly more quota to either target group, Ministers would be free to do so.

This amendment merely requires the establishment of a minimum which is then kept under review. There is nothing to prevent that minimum being exceeded in any given year without it necessarily becoming a permanent arrangement. This approach would not be overly burdensome on the Minister’s department and could have significant benefits for the vitality of the sector. This was something that the Minister emphasised as a priority when responding to the amendments in Committee.

We are all aware of the high proportion of UK quota owned by foreign firms and of the predominance of the larger boats. While this new provision would not immediately challenge the dominance of such firms, it would allow the Government slowly to rebalance the sector in favour of smaller domestic fishers, who enjoy close links with their communities, and would reinvigorate the workforce and expand coastal economies. The Government claim to be committed to helping new entrants and smaller vessels but, despite warm words there is little in the Bill for them. This amendment would provide an opportunity for those commitments to be pursued.

While we will listen carefully to the Minister’s response, the guidance for Hybrid Proceedings compels me to say that we are minded to test the opinion of the House on this matter. The amendment provides a very good starting point for supporting new entrants and the under-10-metre fleet. There is nothing in the Bill as it stands. Having reclaimed our ability to set fisheries policy, it would be a tremendous shame if we were to pass up this opportunity to support our home-grown talent. I beg to move.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, I strongly endorse the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and I have added my name to the amendment. I shall speak very briefly on behalf of under-10-metre boats. As we all know, under-10-metre boats make up 80% of the UK fleet, and surely deserve a better deal than they get at the moment. When I served on the Energy and Environment Sub-Committee of the EU Committee, under the excellent chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, we carried out an inquiry into Brexit and fisheries. We heard that the under-10s do not have annual quotas but instead fish against a monthly allocation from the MMO. This is in contrast to larger boats, which can swap quota via producer organisations and thereby mitigate the risk of choke. Let me quote from an under-10 fisher who gave oral evidence to our inquiry. He said:

“The monthly quota system implemented by the MMO does not work. In the winter, we can catch a lot of pollock and we never catch it for the rest of the year … We have been explaining since 2013 that we need to catch pollock earlier in the year because there is none at the end of the year … They have taken no notice whatever”.


Surely the Government should seize the opportunity to accept an amendment that could make the system fairer for 80% of our fleet and make provision for new entrants. Along with the earlier amendment on the national landing requirement, this amendment will surely help to secure the economic health of struggling coastal communities, many of which rely on small fishing vessels. I urge noble Lords to support this amendment if it is taken to a Division.

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This is a real opportunity for Defra and the Government to move ahead on this issue. I have said in the amendment that it needs to be done within three years. That is easily possible; the technology is there. As the Minister knows, there have been a number of successful trials of this technology within the UK. Although there have been voluntary schemes, no vessel will volunteer to undertake it. It needs to be done across the fleet as a whole. On that basis, for the future of our seas, our marine environment and a tried-and-tested technology that is waiting to happen, I beg to move.
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who set out the issue so clearly. I have little new to add but would like to echo three points that he made. First, on the role of data, we have heard repeatedly in earlier debates that there is a deficit of good data on which to base our fisheries management models and quota allocations. We cannot fish sustainably if we do not know what is being taken out of the sea. Secondly, as the noble Lord said, we want to ensure, as part of managing our fish stocks and the marine environment for the long term, that there is full compliance with the landing obligation. Thirdly, one argument we have heard is that requiring REM would be too burdensome or costly. I am not convinced by that argument. As the noble Lord said, new technologies are coming on stream that are bringing down the cost of REM. For instance, in Committee I referred to a system called Shellcatch, which is being adopted for fisheries management by small vessels in Puerto Rico and Chile. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are exploring these new technologies?

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

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

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


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

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am happy to have put my name to this amendment, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just said, this is probably the most important amendment that we can make to the Bill.

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

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

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

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

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

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Moved by
58: Clause 48, page 33, line 17, leave out “theoretical”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment ensures that the level of harvest is based on empirical data and not on theoretical single species models.
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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, it is getting late, so I will try to be as brief as possible. I start by thanking the Minister and his officials for extensive discussion of this matter and my Oxford University colleague Professor EJ Milner-Gulland for her advice and help.

In earlier stages of this Bill I spoke against the use of MSY as a target in UK fisheries policy. I cited leading fisheries scientists from the UK and US, who described it as outmoded and dangerous. I also referred to the fact that leading jurisdictions such as Australia and the USA no longer use MSY, because they have recognised its limitations. Sadly, I have lost that battle. I now seek to ensure that the definition of MSY in the Bill minimises its potential for harm.

Just to recap briefly: the concept of MSY dates back to the 1950s. Fisheries scientists wanted to work out in theory how many fish one could catch without driving the stock to extinction. The answer can be summarised very simply: when the harvest exactly matches the recruitment of new harvestable fish, the population is in balance and the harvest is sustainable. Harvest a bit over this limit, and the fish population begins to decline to extinction; harvest below, and fishing opportunities are missed.

The trouble with this neat theoretical idea is that in practice you often do not have enough accurate information to calculate the rate of recruitment, nor do you usually know the precise harvest. That is why some fisheries harvested at MSY have in the past collapsed. These problems are compounded when dealing with mixed fisheries, where setting MSY for one species may incidentally cause another to be overfished. Furthermore, as the environment changes—for instance, as a result of climate change—the recruitment rate and other variables will change, so the MSY will no longer be appropriate. That is why the wording in the Bill needs to be changed.

Clause 48 defines MSY as

“the highest theoretical equilibrium yield that can be continuously taken on average … under existing environmental conditions without … affecting the reproduction process”.

The problems with this definition are as follows. First, it refers to a theoretical calculation rather than relying on actual data from the sea. Secondly, it refers to the recruitment process, which is only one factor that can affect the viability of fish stocks. Other factors, such as environmental change, can also be important. Thirdly, it is not appropriate for mixed fisheries.

My proposed change is very simple: remove the word “theoretical”, so that the calculation is based on real data, and replace “reproduction process” with “viability of the stock”, which allows for both environmental change and mixed fisheries.

I was pleased to hear the Minister say this afternoon that ICES is the body whose advice the Government respect and use. Here is what ICES says in its advice on the management of the exploitation of living marine resources:

“ICES considers ecosystem-based management … as the primary way of managing human activities affecting marine ecosystems with ecosystem-based fisheries management … specifically addressing the fishing sector.”


It goes on to say that MSY

“is a broad conceptual objective … The MSY concept can be applied to an entire ecosystem, a fish community, or a single stock. … ICES interpretation of MSY is maximizing the average long-term yield from a given stock while maintaining productive fish stocks within healthy marine ecosystems.”

My question to the Minister and his officials when I met with them was: why not simply use the ICES definition in the Bill? Remarkably, one of the officials said that, although he had helped to draft the ICES definition, the definition of MSY in the Bill could not be changed because it was the definition used in the common fisheries policy. I thought the point of Brexit was that we would determine our own way of doing things, but apparently not in this case; this has actually been a recurrent theme in debates on the Bill.

I fear that the Minister will not agree to change the wording in the Bill, even though I strongly believe that my wording is an improvement on what is currently there. If the Minister is not willing to change the wording, it would at least be encouraging if he were to reassure the House that the management of fisheries will be based on real data and that it will include broader ecosystem considerations such as environmental change. I beg to move.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for bringing forward these two amendments. I had the opportunity, just out of personal interest, to meet the scientists at ICES in their Copenhagen offices on two separate occasions. I was very amused to learn that they have annual visits from the Scottish fishermen, who try to massage some of the research figures; I am delighted to say that the ICES scientists have managed to bat these away—they are leading independent scientists in this field.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has done the House a great service this evening by identifying why MSY is possibly outdated and no longer fit for purpose and pointing to the basis on which ICES relies, which is an ecosystem-based management. Recognising that MSY might be moving forward and given the fact that climate change is changing the nature of fisheries—the waters are warming in certain parts and the fish are moving to cooler waters—I support the sentiments behind these two amendments and indeed have lent my name to them. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has pointed out, ICES is the leading marine scientific base of research. These amendments give my noble friend the Minister an opportunity once again to confirm that we will continue to take its research going forward, at the very least—he could not commit to five or 10 years —for the next year or two. I do lend my support to these two little amendments.

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Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Speaker
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My Lords, I have received no requests from any noble Lord wishing to come in with a short question for elucidation, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Krebs.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for taking part in this short debate on a key concept in fisheries management, and for the support for my amendment from across the House. I also thank noble Lords for their kind words about my contribution. I will take this opportunity also to thank the Minister not only for his reply to this amendment but for what in my view has been his outstanding handling of the Bill on Report with great patience, dignity and a positive spirit.

I refer noble Lords to the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. He explained to us, I assume from a legal point of view, that when it says “theory” it actually means “data”, and when it says “reproduction process” it actually means “viability of stock”. I am only a scientist, as I gather the noble and learned Lord was when he started out, but he progressed to becoming a lawyer, and I accept that if it is not what it says on the face of the Bill in legal terms, perhaps that is right. However, it would have been nice to put the words on the face of the Bill.

MSY is one of those ideas that simply will not lie down and die. We could have taken the opportunity in the Bill to kill it off and move into the 21st century. Instead, we are fossilising our system in an out-of-date framework, apparently because we want to remain aligned to the common fisheries policy. We could have changed the definition of MSY in the Bill to meet the concerns that I have expressed.

Although the Minister explained why he was not prepared to change the wording, I see a glimmer of light. He acknowledged—I am most grateful to him for saying so—that fisheries management decisions will be based on data-driven science and will include broader ecosystem considerations, including climate change or environmental change. Although that is much less than I would have originally hoped for, I accept that it is a concession to the point in my amendment and I therefore beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 58 withdrawn.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords & Ping Pong (Minutes of Proceedings): House of Lords
Thursday 12th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 143-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons amendments - (10 Nov 2020)
This has been a steep learning curve for me, which I perhaps should have started on some time ago, but I am always keen to learn. I wait to hear my noble friend’s reply to my points. I am also acutely aware that this Chamber is appointed and not elected, and I do not want to embark on something that will unreasonably delay the Bill. I beg to move.
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who explained the purpose of his amendment so clearly. I can be brief on Motion 1B, because I believe—and I will come back to this—that the Minister agreed to the point of the amendment in his opening speech. The rationale of my amendment, like that of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, is to ensure that the Bill places primacy on the environmental sustainability of fish stocks and the marine environment.

My amendment explicitly put environmental sustainability as the primary fisheries objective when I tabled it on Report. It was rejected by the Government because, it was argued, sustainability is a three-legged stool. It is about the environment, but it is also about the economy—the livelihood of fishers—and communities. I accept that sustainability is a three-legged stool. Amendment 1B asks how the three legs will be balanced against one another. Like the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, I wish to see transparency in how these calculations are done. As he said, we must avoid making the same mistakes that we have made in the past. We do not need to repeat the arguments that we have heard many times during the passage of this Bill, that many fish stocks, not only in European and UK waters but in other waters around the world, are heavily overfished because short-term gain has always been put ahead of sustainability—the livelihoods of fishers today put ahead of the lives of the fish tomorrow. I am asking the Government to show us their workings. If they are going to balance these three elements of the stool, they must show us how. How have the joint fisheries statements balanced the three legs of sustainability, along with the other fisheries objectives?

In his opening remarks, the Minister answered this. I listened very carefully and wrote down what he said, which was that the joint fisheries statement will include an explanation of how the fisheries policy authorities have sought to balance the individual components of the fisheries objectives, including, importantly, the three elements of the sustainability objective, which is exactly what my amendment was asking for. Furthermore, he said that the fisheries authorities would also give the reasons why their balancing of these different elements of the objectives, including the sustainability objective, is the most appropriate way of meeting the sustainability objective. If the joint fisheries statements follow the indication that the Minister has given, we will end up with transparency, we will all understand the workings and we will understand that if sacrifices are being made in the short term to the marine environment on behalf of the livelihoods of fishers and their communities, we will at least know that this has happened, and why it has happened, which will be a significant step forward.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, I pay tribute to the Minister, his officials and the Secretary of State in the other place, for their very patient listening. I too have been a thorn in the side of the Minister and his officials. I apologise, but through these prolonged discussions over many months, we have improved the Bill and the surrounding commentary from the Minister at various stages. In thanking him, and in speaking to my amendment, I also support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. No doubt when we hear from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I shall support his amendment. I had the great privilege of serving under his chairmanship on the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, where we spent many hours cogitating and hearing evidence on remote electronic monitoring.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I remind the House of my interest, as chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership. I will speak to Amendments 14A and 14B in my name, but I shall first refer to some of the other amendments. It is excellent to follow the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, to whom I give all credit for his persistence in ensuring that this matter around objectives is not allowed to rest. I hope the Minister will give the noble Lord the assurances that he needs.

I will not go on about it after this, but I must say that the Government have made it quite clear that this Bill is the first time for 40 years or more that we have been able to have our own fisheries legislation—fundamental primary legislation—in this House and in the other place. There are good things in it, and I am delighted that the Government brought it forward, but they should have had more courage to make it, in the Prime Minister’s words, a world-beating and ambitious Bill, rather than one that takes us half way to the destinations we need to reach. I give it credit for where it has got us, but it could have gone further, which is why I am disappointed that the four amendments that this House sent to the other place were effectively rejected.

Regarding the ordering of the objectives of fisheries plans and management, by giving all those objectives equal status, there are a number of escape clauses to avoid the difficult decisions with the fisheries industry around setting tax and quotas. I suspect that we will not have a fundamental fisheries Bill for many years now, so these escape routes will cover future Governments as well as this one. Whatever reassurances we have now, we cannot be certain that they will be carried forward by future Secretaries of State or Governments. That is why I am so sad that we are repeating the mistakes of the common fisheries policy. However, I will move on, and if the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, is happy with the Minister’s response, I give it full credit.

I thank the Minister for mentioning the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation. From what he says, I suspect that he has been in contact with it. It is great at promoting not only fishing activity but the whole supply chain and the excellent provenance of Cornish fresh fish products.

Going through a couple of those other amendments that we have not talked about so much and do not have counterproposals for, I recognise that the Government are moving ahead on the obligations regarding the proportion of fish landed, which I take positively. However, on the redistribution of quotas, I still want to understand from the Government, given the large foreign ownership of those stocks effectively through British companies, how the Government will resolve those issues and ensure that British fishers will still be the main beneficiaries of that extra quota, which comes from greater control over our EEZ, and not foreign owners of British companies. Will the National Security and Investment Bill, newly introduced in the other place, be a method by which we protect this resource for British fishers? Is that an intention of this Government? It deserves that level of interest, given the potential application of the legislation. Otherwise, we gain the EEZ, we go through difficult negotiations with the EU, and then we give it all away again. How do we ensure that we do not do that?

Coming to my own amendments on remote electronic monitoring, I very much welcome the Government having quickly put out a call for evidence. This will lead to a consultation, and I am also pleased that the Government have given a timetable for that, although it is not until next year, and clearly, even though we are almost into next year, the evidence has yet to come in.

I am slightly disappointed that there is still quite a bit of caution. Clearly, we have to take notice of the evidence that comes in to that call, but there seems still to be no understanding that REM is the way forward. It is the only technology to gain the right data and ensure that enforcement is effective. Sure, some of that might change, but it will change through the software and the way that information is used or processed; it will not be the technology itself—the technology will just get cheaper and easier to use.