|Andrew R.T. Davies AC|
|Jenny Rathbone AC|
|Llyr Gruffydd AC|
|Mike Hedges AC|
|Neil Hamilton AC|
|Debbie Crockard||Marine Conservation Society|
|Marine Conservation Society|
|Gareth Cunningham||RSPB Cymru|
|Griffin Carpenter||Sefydliad Economeg Newydd|
|New Economics Foundation|
|Jim Evans||Welsh Fisherman’s Association|
|Welsh Fisherman’s Association|
|Yr Athro Richard Barnes||University of Hull|
|University of Hull|
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Craig Griffiths||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol mewn perthynas â Bil Pysgodfeydd y DU - sesiwn dystiolaeth 1||2. Legislative Consent Memorandum in relation to the UK Fisheries Bill - evidence session 1|
|3. Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol mewn perthynas â Bil Pysgodfeydd y DU - sesiwn dystiolaeth 2||3. Legislative Consent Memorandum in relation to the UK Fisheries Bill - evidence session 2|
|4. Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol mewn perthynas â Bil Pysgodfeydd y DU - sesiwn dystiolaeth 3||4. Legislative Consent Memorandum in relation to the UK Fisheries Bill - evidence session 3|
|5. Papurau i'w nodi||5. Papers to Note|
|6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod heddiw||6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:10.
The meeting began at 09:10.
Bore da. Good morning. We've had apologies from Joyce Watson. Are there any substitutions and declarations? No.
Can I welcome Professor Richard Barnes, associate dean for research, the faculty of business, law and politics, University of Hull, and Griffin Carpenter, senior researcher, New Economics Forum—Foundation, sorry? Welcome. I'm very pleased that you've been able to join us today.
If you're happy, can we move straight to questions? And if I can start: in your view, how does the 2017-19 Bill compare with the 2020 Bill? And to what extent do the provisions set out in the UK Fisheries Bill provide a suitable legislative framework to deliver coherent and sustainable fisheries management across the UK?
Shall I start?
Okay. So, when I came before the committee last time, my view was that the provisions of the previous version of the Bill were a good general framework for fisheries management in the UK. I did highlight that there were some perhaps areas where it could be strengthened, in particular its environmental credentials and the link between the fisheries objectives and how those would actually operate in practice. My view is that the new version of the Bill introduces some changes that improve those elements of the Bill. So, it still provides a good general framework.
Ultimately, a lot will depend upon how things are put into practice in subsequent legislation and in policy. I guess there will be perhaps more specific questions on elements of that to come.
Yes. So, just to highlight a couple of areas of change between the Bills. So, there's a couple of new objectives—we might get on to discussing those—but I think they're important additions we've seen this time around I would say, probably, aligning the Fisheries Bill more with what we see in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, a broader scope of how fisheries impact on society. We see more devolved powers—I'm certain we'll discuss those later— and then, as Richard was getting at, more kind of joined-up thinking between joint fisheries statement, the objectives, and the management plans. So, all positive additions, in my mind.
Okay. Thank you. Well, we've touched already on the objectives, so we might as well start at the beginning. Clearly, there have been a couple of additions, and I'm just wondering what your views are around those objectives that have been added—to start with, and we'll come on to other things then.
Do you want to—?
Sure. So, the two new objectives are the national benefit and climate change. National benefit is an interesting one. When I've been giving evidence in Westminster, I've been emphasising that fisheries are a public resource. Part of the problem of fisheries management, in my view, over the past 20 years, is that it's essentially become a privatised public resource, and now is our chance, in developing new fisheries legislation, to try to change that, to right those wrongs, and there was nothing in the Fisheries Bill that was addressing that.
The national benefit goes some way towards doing that, but not fully. So, what the national benefit does is that it says the UK, or parts of the UK, need to benefit from this resource. And that can be defined in different ways. What we've seen, when the Secretary of State is explaining this objective, it seems like what it's getting at is dealing with foreign ownership and saying, 'Well, we can't have a situation where boats are owned by another nationality, they're using quota or other fishing opportunities, landing it abroad. What's the benefit to UK or any regions of the UK?' But that's kind of a different thing from privatisation. So, I'll leave that there. But that's the basis of where this is coming from. There's also the climate change objective.
Before we move on to climate change, would you like to add to that, then, given that you've set a hare running there, really, haven't you?
I did. I agree that the introduction of the national benefit is quite an interesting innovation. I think it was perhaps a compromise between recognising that fisheries are a kind of public good, and so the use of them has to be devoted to the national benefit. I think it's a concept that has been used to avoid what you call 'property issues', where they basically say who is the owner of them. So, it just says, 'Well, we'll ignore that,' and also says that the use of them has to be devoted to a particular public purpose. The challenge is, in legal terms, what does it actually mean. It's very much like, say, sustainable development. You can have a duty to develop sustainably, but, actually, it needs articulation in much more precise terms. So, the national benefit could be, for example, construed as requiring vessels to land at UK ports, it could be cost recovery, so that the benefits of fishing are shared through contributions to the Exchequer. It could be conservation and management. So, it could be absolutely anything, and so—
So, do you see the motive as the wider public goods agenda, or is it more, do you think, national interests in a more political and economic sense?
I think it's vulnerable to capture in that kind of political sense, so much will depend on that. The fisheries White Paper, I think, talked about, for example, potentially, quota reallocations. It talked about increasing revenue from these—recovery of management costs. So, I think it could speak to that particularly. One thing in the fisheries White Paper that hasn't been followed up is this notion of stewardship and the idea of actually taking responsibility for those decisions, and that's a little bit vague.
Okay, and we could come on to which nation are we talking about here and whose sets of values, and social and economic values as well, but, there we are, we won't go there. So, climate change then, briefly, sorry, as well.
Yes. So, climate change is an interesting addition and another one where I see the Fisheries Bill moving more towards Welsh legislation in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. It's interesting because this is still a very new area for fisheries. We don't exactly know what a low-climate-change fleet looks like. There is an opportunity here to lead, and it could be Wales, it could be somewhere else, but, basically, the fleet will need to become electric at some point, and that doesn't exist. Norway has, maybe, a slight lead at the moment in developing this, but there are still opportunities, and I think, actually, they're quite exciting, because there's tension with offshore wind being developed on fishing grounds. So, right now, there's a tension between electricity providers and fishermen, so it would be nice if how this looks in five years is actually reversing that tension into working in complement with each other.
Yes, it's broad, so it says we need to consider climate change, low-carbon fisheries, and then also the impacts of climate change on fisheries—so, the two different directions of climate impacts.
In terms of the climate objective?
Again, it's very much a framing concept, so it allows mitigation and adaptation measures.
Just to come back to the national benefit, one thing that's interesting about the way in which it's phrased at the moment is it only applies to UK vessels, and it doesn't apply generally. If fishing is going to be conducted by other vessels, you would think that, actually, the national benefit ought to encompass any fishing activity, so I suspect there's room for tightening up that provision and having a more general scope of application.
Okay. Okay, well, that's interesting. Thank you for that. We have a bycatch objective as well, now, of course, that replaces, I suppose, the discards objective. How do you see them compare and contrast? Are they—?
As a general starting point, they're very similar. I think the emphasis on bycatch rather than discarding suggests the focus should be on catch and harvest activities at that point. That said, it's absolutely critical, I think, that catch is recorded, that discards are minimised as far as possible, and that there are no incentives at all for catching fish using bycatch as a way of increasing that. But, broadly speaking, I think the terms of the provision are fairly similar, if slightly differently worded to the earlier version.
Yes, I agree with that, and I think it makes sense to shift the focus earlier. So, to make an analogy, it would be like having a landfill objective or incineration objective versus a waste objective. So, focusing a little bit earlier, saying, 'Well, let's minimise the bycatch in the first place, rather than just specifying what happens with discards.'
Just to pick up on what Richard was saying, stating that catch needs to be recorded is actually a pretty revolutionary thing. It will change the way fishing is done. It probably moves us quite quickly toward something like closed-circuit television on board fishing vessels, because, once you see that the recorded data isn't matching what science is telling us is coming out of the sea, you can only sustain that for a couple of years before saying, 'Well, we need to monitor directly what's happening in order to meet this objective.'
But is there a little bit more ambiguity in the more recent iteration? Because, forgive me, I think, previously, 'discards' was related to all species caught, whereas 'bycatch' they described as caught in the course of fishing for fish of a different description. So, is there potential there for—or am I just reading too much into it?
I'd hate to see how that one comes out down the line if there is a dispute about it.
Yes, okay. I'm just wondering whether it gives the Government greater wriggle room in any way to—.
Yes, ultimately, it is an objective. So, actually, it's how the provisions are articulated that matters.
Fine, okay. Dr Stewart, during the inquiry into the previous Bill's LCM, said that the discards objective was 'less stringent and comprehensive' than the common fisheries policy landing obligation. Does that remain the case with the new bycatch objective, do you think?
I don't remember exactly what I said last time, but I think that sounds fair. It's less prescriptive. That's actually general across the objectives. These are much more high level than the CFP, which sets out the objectives and then is quite specific, and is criticised accordingly for getting quite specific on how those are implemented. So, I think the same thing is the case here, and is probably done intentionally, because the discards—the landing obligation of the CFP is something that was criticised by UK fishers, so we wouldn't expect it to look exactly the same.
Okay. What about the rewording of the sustainability objective, then? How do you see that? Sorry, I'm jumping on now.
No, it's okay. One of the things I picked up on is now there's part (b) in the sustainability objective, which is about overcapacity, and that wasn't in there before, which is interesting because—I come from an economics background, and this is basically an economic issue that says, 'There's a problem if we have 100 vessels in a certain fishery when we could have 10. That's a misuse of capital and that's a misuse of resources.' It's not necessarily an environmental sustainability issue. If those 100 vessels are catching the same amount as you could catch in 10, what's the problem? Why is inefficiency used that way? We wouldn't look at other sectors of society and say, 'Oh, there are too many farmers in this, we need Government policy to remove some of the farmers.' No. That works out. If people are making a living from it, what's the issue there?
So, it's an interesting addition. I'm not sure exactly where that's coming from. Just to give the opposite side of the story, one reason why overcapacity can be a problem is for non-quota species. So, maybe the quota is respected, but then fisheries like whelks are important ones in Wales, where a lot of this fishing effort—these many vessels are shifting to the whelks fishery because they can, because there's no quota limit there. That's the overlap of having too much capacity when some species are not quota managed. So, it's probably a good addition, but I would see it more in terms of economic sustainability.
I'd agree with that. I think it's probably worth emphasising, though, that if there is excess capacity in the fleet, then that does put considerable pressure politically to make decisions to make use of that. I think what will be interesting about this provision is whether or not the requirement to prevent over-exploitation, in effect, trumps what you might call the economic viability of the industry. So, that remains to be seen. It's not clearly framed in the objectives so those competing concerns might be reconciled.
Okay. There's still no duty to deliver the objectives in the Bill. I know you've flagged this up previously. That's, presumably, still an omission.
I think that is still the case; they're framed as objectives. I think what's interesting about this version of the Bill, though, is that the mechanisms or the pathways for actually delivering the objectives are a lot better—they're improved—than in the previous Bill. So, there is a much stronger duty now upon states to adopt the joint fisheries statement.
Additionally, this has now been supplemented by the provisions on the creation of fisheries management plans. So, within the joint fisheries statement, they have to take account of the fisheries objectives, rather than the more weakly worded provisions in the earlier version of the Bill. So, actually, they will be foregrounded within that.
The fisheries management plans, again, have to set out specifically how the objectives of the fisheries statement— the fisheries objectives—will be put into operation. These now have been supplemented by requirements to explain and provide reasons for this. There are also enhanced reporting requirements in the fisheries management plans.
So, whilst there isn't a duty now, I think there's going to be greater transparency, and there will have to be more explicit reference to the fisheries objectives in the fisheries statement and the management plans, and that will provide a degree of at least political accountability.
Now, obviously, there are still areas where I think there is potential for misuse: for example, you can conduct fishing activities outside of what's in your fisheries management plans if there's a change in circumstances, but again, in those situations, if you do deviate, you have to say why you're deviating and how this impacts upon the fisheries objectives. So, I think those kinds of processes and checks are for good.
I agree there's now a duty. There's a duty to provide a joint fisheries statement, but that's quite different from a duty to deliver sustainability. This is why you'll hear later today from the environmental NGOs that this is a weaker standard than the CFP. It's aspirational in the objectives, but then you need to say how you're meeting those objectives. So, there will be lots of text produced in the future on sustainability, but that's different from actually seeing a change in how fishing is conducted, and that's a problem.
My particular area of concern here is actually on shared stocks. There is very little in the Fisheries Bill on this, and it will be, in my mind, the greatest sustainability concern going forward if the EU keep up their amount of fishing pressure—they don't want to reduce—and the UK wants to gain this sea of opportunities. So, if one side's keeping its fishing the same and the other one's increasing, we have a huge problem with shared stock management. If the UK Government is pointing to its fair share of the quota, its zonal attachments, while we're sticking to the scientific advice and only fishing our share, well, it doesn't matter if one side's fishing their share of 70 per cent and the other side's fishing their share of 70 per cent, you're still overfishing. So, this is my greatest sustainability concern, and I don't see how the Fisheries Bill mitigates that in any way.
Thank you. So, the joint fisheries statements; one of the changes is there's a new deadline—18 months, rather than approximately a year. Do you think that's a sufficient timescale for resolving all the various issues that are going to need to be in this joint fisheries statement?
It's an interesting question. This is a whole new kind of endeavour that we haven't done before this, so the fisheries administrations are going to be working through this—they're probably thinking about it already. A couple of key points: (1) having a deadline of 18 months from adoption is much better than having a fixed point in time. Obviously, we don't know how long it's going to take to get this through Parliament, so I think that makes good sense. I think 18 months is kind of feasible, but I think the challenges within this will be, for example, how the positions of the different devolved administrations are reconciled in setting the joint fisheries statement.
Clearly, there will be different regional and national interests at play there, and how those are prioritised and expressed within a common document is going to be interesting, I think particularly because there'll be differences in capacity between the administrations on how they're able to actually put forward their positions. There will also be questions about how you ensure there is a degree of what you might call complementarity between potentially divergent views. This is all quite important because, ultimately, the fisheries management plans will have to accord to this. So, once you've got that basic document done, then it sets the tempo for everything that comes after. So, I think 18 months is a good period of time.
Ultimately, there's a kind of caveat, because if it's not perfect first time around—and I suspect it won't be—there is provision within the Bill for there to be adjustments and changes to that, and that can be done on an ad hoc basis that allows you to correct things as you go along.
Probably what we don't want, though, is too much recourse to that, because one of the things that the fishing industry wants is a degree of stability and certainty. So, they don't want a joint fisheries statement changing every six months or a year; they would like to have something that allows them to see the direction of travel and make investments and plan their activities over the course of a couple of years. That probably relates, I guess, also to notions of things like multi-annual plans, where you've got to think about not just how you fish within a year, but over a period of years.
Obviously, those who are doing well out of the current system will be very keen on stability and certainty, but obviously the Welsh fishing fleet tends to be made up of very small businesses, and most of them are fishing products that are off quota. So, how are their needs going to be reconciled in the sustainability and precautionary objectives?
I agree there's a massive challenge. There's a degree of asymmetry there, I think. There's a question of capacity. I think this is something that the administrations are going to have to try and support and invest resources in to make sure that their positions are properly articulated and advanced, and there's probably good evidence for that.
I think a major change—and I hope this announcement of 18 months will spur this change—is investments in science, because the reality is we do not know if some stocks are overfished at the moment, especially the non-quota species, where science is important because we're determining the quota with partners every year. If it's not managed by quota and it's just domestic regulations on the number of pots to fish whelks, there is less of an onus to get that science because it's not informing a negotiating position with a partner. So, there will have to be a big change in the amount of science.
I haven't heard complaints about 18 months, so I assume they've got that pinpointed exactly, but I have heard complaints about the fisheries management plans. So, if a stock is found to be overfished and a fishery is unsustainable, how long does the Government have to recover that stock to a sustainable condition? This is what world-leading fisheries looks like.
In the US, they're actually very prescriptive on this point about what defines an overfished stock and then how long you have to recover that. So, that's what, certainly, the NGOs that will speak later want to see in those fisheries management plans, to say, 'Overfished is this biomass level, you have five years to recover the stock, that might involve reducing fishing pressure in that time.'
Yes, amazingly, they are world leading.
But, actually, is there some virtue in looking at the methodology they're using in the United States for preserving fish stocks?
Absolutely, and it surprises me as well. My accent is Canadian, so I'm a neutral party in this. [Laughter.] Their fisheries are actually doing very well by the common metrics of sustainability across countries, over 90 per cent of their stocks are at sustainable levels—what we're trying to get to. Their fisheries Act is seen as part of that success. They're quite prescriptive in defining what overfishing means and, as an example, their fishing authorities cannot set fishing quotas above scientific advice; it's just against the law. So, we have all of this discussion about balancing socio-economic and environmental concerns; they just can't. The only decision is to set it lower, to say, 'We want sustainability, we don't want the quotas going up and down year to year.' They just cannot exceed scientific advice, full stop.
And that is one of the major concerns in this Bill, really, isn't it? It's the ability of the Secretary of State to simply override sustainability issues based on commercial reality.
Yes, exactly, those 'get out' clauses. It's been a problem in the common fisheries policy. It mostly comes up in the quota debate, so has been less important to Wales, but this is the battle in December each year about each interest group coming with their own evidence. That just doesn't happen in the US.
Okay. That's very interesting. Thank you very much for that piece of information. What stakeholder engagement has there been so far as far as either of you are aware?
To date, apart from, obviously, the various hearings in terms of the actual passage of the legislation, the development of the fisheries White Paper, I'm not sure what's been done since then.
Okay. Because, obviously, now the joint fisheries statement is, if you like, the next chapter in this plan. So, you're not aware of anybody having gone out and talked in detail about these different objectives that are going to have to be agreed.
No. I'm assuming on the basis of past practice that there is a degree of close relationships between, for example, Government and the leading fisheries bodies. For example, when the Bill was announced, there was a pre-briefing of that to different organisations, so I suspect there's a bit of partnership working there. And I think this raises interesting questions about the extent to which there is wider consultation and engagement, and the capacity to actually do that. I know through, for example, the work of Seafish there is a lot of work there trying to actually capture information from the small-scale independent fishers who are not necessarily given a strong voice in other fora. I think that is really important.
I think also, touching upon what Griffin mentioned about the US system, one reason why it's really strong and successful is because it has a high degree of regional engagement in these kinds of processes. So, the extent to which there is the capacity for that in the actual design of the joint fisheries statements is going to be critical. Now, obviously, there is a consultation process set out in the Bill for that, but what it doesn't do is actually detail who, why, when, and the timescales for this, and how that might be enabled. So, it could be a little bit open. And what it doesn't deal with also is the fact that, sometimes, influence or engagement can take place through other routes, such as political lobbying, I think. So, it's important that we acknowledge that, I think.
If I could highlight one concern. When the Fisheries Bill was put out and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did its press release, there were quotes from one fishing organisation, the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations in England, in the press release. So, they had been consulted, clearly, prioritised as a stakeholder, and quoted as praising the UK Fisheries Bill, which I found very odd, and kind of the opposite direction to where we want to move in fisheries, which is acknowledging many stakeholders all together. There are always issues of trust in who Government is speaking to, so I was really disappointed by that.
Okay. Well, obviously, that's something we should be alert to. Professor Barnes, you've previously suggested to the committee that the Bill enables fishery policy authorities to deviate from the joint fisheries statement and fisheries objectives. Do you think that the latest iteration still enables that to be the case? And how concerned should we be?
There are still these what you might call 'get-out clauses', which allow you to deviate from the joint fisheries statement. I think, on the one hand, that's useful, because fisheries is quite dynamic; things change, and I think you have to have a policy mechanism or structure that allows you to make changes to adapt to those unforeseen changes. And that could include, for example, a moratoria on fishing and closing in particular areas—things that just simply weren't foreseen. So, I think you need that.
At the same time, I think it's important that that is kind of carefully constrained. And I think, as I mentioned earlier, that the provisions in the new Bill, which require you to explain and provide the reasons for that, are important backstops. I would hope that that prevents any kind of misuse of that potential power.
Okay. Well, we'll hope to test that. But, clearly, what we want to do is try and prevent vested interests from piling in behind the scene, and locking up all the benefit for existing interests.
Are you aware of any other framework documents being developed to supplement the legislative framework that's framed in this Bill?
My answer to that one is quite short—no. Obviously, there are other pieces of legislation that, I guess, are progressing. So, we've got the environment (governance and principles) Bill; things like that might have an influence on it. There are the existing structures. So, Griffin's already mentioned the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. So, actually, it will be interesting to see how fisheries fits within that kind of broader set of environmental provisions. Normally within legislation of this kind, so we're looking, for example, at things like the habitats directive and the common fisheries policy, there are, sometimes, what you might call 'legislative guidance notes' produced that kind of guide people involved in setting a regulatory agenda, or even participants in the system, to understand what the particular rules are, and suggest how they might be adapted. That could be used, but I think the challenge is that, actually, the parties who would normally draft that are the parties who are probably involved in doing the joint fisheries statements. So, I'm not sure that there's really scope at the moment for that, and given that this is a new endeavour, I'm not quite sure how you would actually be able to pre-empt that at the moment.
All right. Fine. If we move on now to Schedule 5 of the new Bill and the regulations to make provision for the sale of rights for Welsh catch quota in a calendar year, giving Welsh Ministers this right is an addition, as I understand it, but it excludes Scotland and Northern Ireland, which aren't mentioned. That's a slightly strange development. I wonder what they're going to say about that. So, I wondered what you think these new provisions will deliver for Welsh Ministers.
I'm assuming, for example, in the case of Scotland, at the very least, if they wanted to, they could adopt legislation that would enable them to make these kinds of transactions and support them, so I don’t think that that’s precluded. So, you’ve got that.
In general terms, first of all, it’s a provision that only deals with additional quotas, so I think it’s going to be perhaps of limited impact in practice. As I understand it, the power to set up mechanisms for the sale of these are very widely drafted. So, it can be used, for example, to generate income; it can be delegated to persons to exercise on behalf of the administrations; the sales can be terminated and there are all sorts of other things that can be attached to it. So, it’s quite a wide-ranging power. So, at least as a piece of enabling, I think it can work quite well. I think you need that flexibility. I guess the real question is how that power's going to be exercised.
Now, I'm aware, I think, that, in some of the discussions of—I'm trying to remember—the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, this was raised as an issue and there was concern that, actually, the power to sell these would just be a way of actually generating revenue, and it might be something that is putting small-scale fisheries in a vulnerable position, because, obviously, if there is a sale or a tender, the smaller independents are probably less able to pay the premiums that the larger concerns are able to pay. So there is concern that, actually, it might end up consolidating the quota in other hands. But there was certainly an assurance made that, actually, the idea of just using it as a way of raising money is not the principal concern now, and it's just one among many other factors that could be taken into account. So, for example, it could be used to encourage environmentally friendly practices or to build up particular sectors of fishery. Ultimately, though, because it's a widely drawn power, much will depend upon how it's implemented in practice.
Okay. Obviously there's been huge consolidation of quota amongst a very small number of English businesses and yet, there's very high expectation amongst fishing communities, which don't necessarily benefit from that, that by leaving the European Union, we're somehow going to see a renewed flourishing of fishing communities. So, how do you think that this power could be used by Welsh Ministers to enable more of the abundant Welsh fisheries to be used for the benefit of Welsh businesses and Welsh communities?
I think that power exists there, and as long as there is political will to move in that direction, then I think it's something that it would probably be good to see progressing.
Yes, I don't think it would be through this power that that outcome would be achieved. I think part of the motivation for this power is actually more of a transition period. So, if the UK is successful in its fisheries negotiations, all these new quotas coming in—there isn't the fleet to catch it at the moment. So, there would be a couple of years where the quota opportunities are available and the fleet just can't go out and catch it.
So, you could sell those fishing opportunities—lease them out for a year or two to foreign vessels that are currently fishing them; allow that to continue, but in the meantime, you're building up the infrastructure for ports to land the fish—the vessels that are required to catch it. And at the same time, not only are you earning income from it, but you're actually pre-empting a challenge, which is that, if a country is not fishing the resource that is available to it, under the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea—and Richard knows 100 times more about this than I do—there is a challenge where other countries could say, ‘Well, they’re not fishing their resource; we should get access to it’. So, by selling the quota, you’re actually pre-empting that. So, I think that’s more of the motivation behind this than creating a new Welsh fishing fleet that would be not selling the quota, but allocating it based on landing it locally or being a low-impact fishing fleet, smaller vessels—this non-economic criteria would have to be applied.
In theory, because it's a provision that's designed to deal with that, it's also a continuing provision, so I would assume that if, for example, there was a retention of what you might call a pool quota, it could be used as a way of dealing with transactions in respect of that. What it allows you to do, I guess, is to make more nuanced decisions and then you have a basis to deal with fluctuations. I could be wrong.
Okay, because Dr Stewart had previously suggested that additional quota could be targeted towards small-scale vessels, but you're actually saying that it's going to be about capacity and building up that capacity.
You could do that; I think you should do that, but I don't think that it's in the sale of fishing opportunities that that's achieved. It needs to be outside of a financial mechanism for the smallest of the fleet to benefit.
Okay. So, the financial assistance powers that are in this Bill—Schedule 6—do you think that they provide sufficient ability to build up the fleet that we want to see?
Yes, they're fairly broad; actually, broader still than the existing funding under the EMFF—the European maritime and fisheries fund. So, there are opportunities there, and I think a lot of fishers will feel relieved to see that in the Bill. There's probably still too small a scope on what the fishing industry is. So, the recreational fishers, for example, might feel, 'Well, we're part of the fishery as well; how come we're not specified under the different conditions here?' There is mention of training, which is good to see. In Wales, like in other parts of the UK, the fleet is ageing in terms of the vessels and the people working on the vessels, so there needs to be a concerted effort saying, 'If this is an industry that we want to see rejuvenated, we need people to work in it.' There's not the interest at the moment. There aren’t the qualified people at the moment. That's something you need to combat directly.
Okay. Thank you for pointing that out. What about the new provisions in Schedule 7 that confer powers on the Welsh Ministers to make regulations to impose charges in respect of relevant marine functions? Presumably, were we to sell quota, pending building up the Welsh fleet, we could charge other people for the privilege of fishing in Welsh waters. What's your view on that ability to redirect investment?
I think it's an important power. Similar provisions now exist for all of the devolved administrations. The Marine Management Organisation is quite widely drawn, so, whether you use it or not, how you use it and for what particular purposes—. So, I think that's good, and if, for example, the Welsh Ministers want to use that as a way of actually generating income to help reinvest in the fleet, that capacity exists there.
I think, perhaps, one of the challenges that might exist here is, because this is a devolved power, it could be exercised in different ways, and that then might have impacts upon, for example, the competitiveness between the different sectors or the different fleets within Wales, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland, because, obviously, if you impose cost recovery in one administration, it increases the cost of fishing there, and that might then put pressure on fisheries activities in other areas. So, I think that's something that has to be considered, for example, within the joint fisheries statement—how you might be exercising these powers.
Okay. So, one of the most important issues is the cost of monitoring and enforcement of any quota licensing that we were to give, and, Griffin, you've previously expressed concern about how we might do that. Do you think that these provisions are sufficient to enable us to ensure that when we give a quota for x, only x is fished?
Yes. It's sufficient in enabling, but that doesn't relieve my concern in that it's just going to be a lot of money, and you need to figure out how much you're willing to spend on fisheries to ensure enforcement. If you're spending more, then the landed value of the fish—. At some point, someone needs to ask, 'What’s the public benefit here? What's the national benefit if we're losing money on this industry?' There are very valid reasons for that—cultural, political, vulnerable communities—but these are the questions you need to answer. So, my concern is not so much about the enabling power, it's just the practicalities of what needs to happen.
One of the practicalities that the Bill is silent on is ensuring that there's mandatory cameras installed on all fishing boats, and that seems to be one of the most cost-effective ways of ensuring what's being fished.
Perhaps cost-effective, but still costly. So, as I mention in the objectives, to me, they steer that direction—it's just going to be very hard. And so, I think one of the motivations for the charges here is not so much about selling or leasing quota to foreign vessels, but actually about the domestic fleet as well, where if our premise is that this is a national resource, why aren't people who are making profits from that resource paying into it? And again, looking internationally, we can see some examples of this. So, Iceland has gone very far in this direction; about 7 per cent of the landed value goes to the Government now, for two reasons—one is cost recovery, the cost of the Government doing its monitoring, but also this idea of a public resource, so in economics, we would call that a resource rent. This is how we deal with oil and gas.
It is, yes. So, there are two different taxes, one on the amount of fish you land, and then one on your profits, because this deals with the kind of—. Landed tax might be that you're using the resource; you're costing an administration to monitor the report. Profits is this idea of a resource rent—private profits from a public resource.
The problem with profits, as we've found with corporation tax, is that you can decide where to make them.
Exactly, and for small businesses, even more so, because what is your wage that you pay yourself and what is profits is pretty arbitrary. But again, there are international examples; Iceland is dealing with this.
I presume that the provisions in terms of cost recovery could be more effectively targeted, because they could be attached, for example, to licenses. I know that Griffin's mentioned international examples, but in other jurisdictions, there has been a kind of reluctance to impose cost recovery because if you do that at the outset then it creates hostility, and what you want to do is try and attract the industry into partnership and then gradually increment things. So, I suspect that cost recovery would have to be carefully calibrated in practice.
I'd like to consider the scope of powers to be included in the Bill. Can I start with a general question? Do you think that the legislative consent motion provides sufficient clarity about the intended use of the regulation and order-making powers that are in the Bill?
I had a look at that. I think it provides a good general overview of the powers there. I think it kind of acknowledges where there are changes and differences so I thought it was satisfactory.
Okay. In relation to the last Fisheries Bill 2017-19, we were concerned about the extent of the provisions relating to Wales that were being made through UK legislation. Do you think that in the current Bill, there are powers relating to Wales that could reasonably be brought forward by a Welsh fisheries Bill at a later date, or does the requirement to have powers that are going to be effective immediately we finally cut adrift from the EU justify including them in this Bill?
I think, clearly, there would be a case for adopting legislation specific to Wales, and to do that in a kind of structured and co-ordinated way. I think that the fisheries Bill provides a good template for that, but I think, if Wales is going to move forward with this, it needs to set out a position so there is a kind of political signalling of the virtue and the importance of fisheries in doing that. I think there's a value in setting out the powers in a consolidated and integrated way, which would be useful.
There is also then the scope, as Griffin's already mentioned here, to kind of integrate particular concerns such as the interests articulated in the well-being of future generations Act. I think that would allow a much more nuanced approach to fisheries management in Wales.
Obviously within the UK context, it's desirable that there should be, if not uniformity, at least there should be a broad congruency of approach in the way that we approach the management of fish stocks and the development of fishing as an economic resource. That's not to say that there would be considerable scope for variation to allow for local circumstances. But clearly, given that we've got devolution, whatever one thinks of it, it's desirable that Wales should be legislated for by its national Parliament rather than by the UK Parliament. That's why we have this concern that we've got a body, which is of course responsible to the Welsh people, but that we have no direct connection with, which is taking decisions that perhaps ought more properly to be made here.
I think this is quite important, because I still think that there are tensions within the current Fisheries Bill between reserved and delegated powers. So, there are a number of provisions, for example, where the Secretary of State can adopt regulations that deal with, for example, international law aspects or issues that aren't covered within delegated legislation. So, the question of how those powers are actually exercised and the fine lines between—for example, most aspects of fisheries have an international dimension concerning total allowable catches; you're agreeing stock-control measures between different states and that, then, has to filter down into national practice. The question is: in making those kinds of decisions and regulating for them, how does that impact upon, potentially, the exercise of devolved fisheries management?
I think, in many respects, actually, having specific legislation within the devolved administrations' jurisdictions will be quite important, because it helps demarcate what they think is important and what the extent of their powers are. That clarity, in and of itself, may be useful.
Yes, good. That's very helpful, thank you. Finally, I'd like to ask you, in respect of Schedule 9, Part 2 of the Bill, a question. This inserts a new section in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009—section 134A. Section 134 in the 2009 Act provides for powers for Welsh Ministers to make Orders, but they apply only within marine conservation zones, whereas section 134A will extend that to the entirety of what we used to call our sovereign waters—a grand phrase—namely the whole 12-to-200-mile zone. So, I wonder what you think of the scope of these powers—whether it is necessary to apply them over the entirety of the zone or whether it is better to maintain the existing scheme, whereby it's concentrated on areas that are specifically designated.
I think, as a matter of competence, it's probably important that the Welsh Ministers and authorities have the power to make laws to the full extent of their spacial jurisdiction. I'm sure that Wales would like something that goes out to 200 nautical miles, but I think, in practice, it's probably about 30 miles at its maximum extent there.
I think it's probably important to do that because of conservation purposes. So, simply being able to regulate within 12 nautical miles may ignore, for example, the trans-boundary importance of particular features or habitats, so I think it's a good innovation—it's something that's to be applauded.
Yes, I think it could potentially be revolutionary, and it might be the type of thing that we'll look back on in five or 10 years and not realise how important this was. So, for example, with the climate change objective, Wales or any other fisheries administration could say, 'We're not going to allow fisheries in this whole region. We need to protect the habitat where carbon is stored'. You also have this equal-access objective, where fishers from different administrations can move freely within UK waters. So, you would have this whole zone that is designated as a non-fishing zone, and, well, then, do we really have an equal-access objective? So, what I'm saying is that, potentially, you could have a very forward-looking climate-focused Government that uses this provision in a very strict way that, maybe, we're not anticipating at the moment.
Thank you, Chair. Fishing opportunities and access around the allocation of quotas—do you think the Bill ensures that there could be greater benefits for Welsh fisheries regarding the allocation of quotas? If you don't, do you think that's a deficit of the Bill?
Oh, gosh, that's a tough one. I'm not entirely convinced that the Bill deals with this.
Well, do you think that the Bill should deal with it, or are there measures that can be dealt with outside of the provisions of the Bill?
At the moment, obviously, the allocation of fishing opportunities is something that is dependent on the fisheries concordat between the home nations through the quota-management rules, and that position is expected to continue. I would like to have seen more in the Bill dealing with the principles of allocation and how that's taken forward, but I suspect, in practice, it's a very politicised issue and there would be a reluctance to actually set out in law how that has to happen. So, yes, I'll maybe come back to that.
Yes. I agree with Richard that it's not dealt with in the Bill. Whether it should be or not is a difficult political calculus of: how much controversy shall we put in this Bill so that it never gets passed at all? But I take your point that, if you're a Welsh fisher wanting to get access to more quota species, what's in this for you? Nothing, at the moment. That's fact.
So, from what you've impressed on me today, then, and the rest of the committee, is that, actually, it'd be a political decision that'll decide on the allocation of quotas rather than, necessarily, a legal one to be contained within this Bill. Have I understood that correctly?
Yes. I mean, what may be interesting is, for example, how the joint fisheries statements skirt around this issue, because, obviously, they have to address things like the national benefits, and that might entail something that indicates the principles on allocation and access, I guess. So, there may be discussions about that, and it may evolve in the future, but—
Okay. Griffin, you previously have highlighted your concerns with article 17 in the common fisheries regulations around environmental, social and economic criteria. Do you see the Bill making any improvements in those particular areas?
Yes. This is a difficult one, and I'm of two minds, because one is that I'm very firm in my belief that fish resources are a public resource and should benefit society. This means not just going to the highest bidder or the largest vessel, but that we should consider how coastal economies can benefit and how low-impact fishing takes place. So, this is what article 17 of the CFP was trying and failing to achieve. And the reason it was failing to achieve it is that the EU didn't actually want to be so prescriptive to different member states and say, 'You must give your fishing quota to small vessels or to vessels using this gear or to that gear'. That was seen as overstepping it. And we have that same problem of what should be devolved in the UK.
So, I would like to see a statement that sets out more criteria and is more rigid in those, in allocating fishing opportunities. But, of course, there's a problem with devolution whether that should be in a UK fisheries Bill. So, I think it's more a Welsh fisheries Bill, or however this looks going forward, it needs to be more prescriptive. But it probably is better to take place at that level than the UK deciding what all the administrations should be doing.
So, whilst it's desirable, from your part, to be more prescriptive, as the Bill is currently constructed, you're content, or 'happy' is the wrong word, but you're satisfied that, actually, these areas can be addressed when the devolved pieces of legislation are put in place, such as a Welsh fisheries Bill.
Yes, or rather that they should be. So, again, if your two principles that I'm trying to balance are: devolution is a good feature, regionalism is a good aspect of fisheries management, because you want to make decisions close to the resource in different areas, but at the same time, ensuring that a public resource is used to benefit all of society, well, you can't be prescriptive about one at the risk of jeopardising the other. So, it is hard to balance. It means that, as I read the provisions on quota allocation, they're insufficient at the moment, but I'm hoping that the fishing administrations will be more prescriptive in their own pieces of legislation.
Okay, thank you. And to both of you, do you have any comments about the provisions of access in the Bill?
I mean, they remain the same in the previous and the current version in terms of, obviously, limiting foreign access, although it can be done through licensing activities. I think that's fine in and of itself.
I think one of the things that the Bill doesn't deal with, which is related to this, is the question of UK-registered vessels that are effectively foreign-owned at the moment. So, you've got the Anglo, Spanish, Dutch fleets, and they will continue to be treated as UK- registered fishing boats, and they will continue to have access to quotas at the moment. The Bill hasn't addressed that, although I guess there is scope in the future to look at the registration requirements, and strengthen the economic link. That's not something that the Bill does at the moment, but I think it's something that probably will be on the agenda, going forward.
Yes. I think there are some huge controversies here that haven't been picked up. It was really interesting to see the Secretary of State giving evidence to the House of Lords' EU energy and environment committee. There are two important points to pick up on access: one is about foreign vessels, so foreign-flagged vessels—Belgian vessels, let's say—operating in Welsh waters. And there's a growing consensus, and I don't know where it began, that this is going to continue. Where the focus is on is the zero to 12 miles. Most of the concerns, let's say, are in that region. So, we can be very strict, maybe only allow a little bit of access in that region. But the 12 to 200 will probably look similar—as it does today. So, that's really interesting, and I don't think what some people imagined fisheries would look like post Brexit.
Then there's the second issue of foreign vessels with UK flags. This is, in Wales, the Spanish-owned fleet that fishes the vast, vast majority of Welsh quota at the moment. If you talk about access to UK waters, it gets more complicated with those vessels, and what the Secretary of State said is they're not looking at changing that. There will still be foreign ownership. The UK is open to business; that's the general mantra of what society looks like post Brexit.
So, of course, we have a problem here and the Secretary of State says this will be dealt with in the economic link—that's a policy saying you need to land a certain percentage of your catch in the UK. But the ownership does not change. So, again, this is one vision of what access looks like, but I don't think a vision that was shared by all in the fishing industry about what they hoped the industry could look like in five years.
Okay. Well, with no further questions, can I thank you both very much for coming along and giving us evidence this morning? It's been very helpful, and we're very grateful. Thank you very much.
No problem. Can I welcome Jim Evans of the Welsh Fishermens Association to the meeting? If you're happy, can we move straight to questions?
Could I start by thanking the committee for the invitation to give evidence, firstly, and follow that quickly with an apology for not getting my written evidence in by the deadline, but I will do that as soon practically possible. Thanks again to the committee clerks for their patience in giving me a bit of extra time, but, like I say, failing to deliver even against that extension. So, thanks again and apologies, but I will follow that through.
Thank you very much. In your view, how does the 2017-19 Bill compare to the 2020 Bill? To what extent do the provisions set out in the Fisheries Bill provide a suitable legislative framework?
Thank you for that. The clear difference between the 2017-19 and 2020 Bills is the introduction of the additional fisheries objectives: the national benefit objective and the climate change objective. Equally, the joint fisheries statement now includes fisheries management plans. Clause 43, which we welcome, amends the section 108A legislative competence of the Government of Wales Act, and that extends the legislative competence of the Assembly to the Welsh zone beyond 12 nautical miles. Schedule 9; again, we would welcome the amendments to section 134 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, because we believe that power will enable us to introduce flexible, adaptive fisheries management. Schedule 7 is another addition that we've identified that refers to powers of Welsh Ministers to impose charges for the exercise by them of the relevant marine function.
The Bill provides the necessary legal framework for the UK to operate as an independent coastal state after the implementation period and we leave the common fisheries policy. As I understand it, other non-legislative arrangements will be necessary, for elements of fisheries licensing, for example, and the distribution of quota. The JFS, again, I think is another framework element, and I understand that fisheries licensing and the distribution of quota will be done either by a concordat or memoranda of understanding. From a Welsh perspective, though, the powers in clause 43 in relation to the legislative competence and Schedule 9 are a significant step forward.
Good morning to you. I just want to ask a few questions around the objectives. You've touched on the two additional objectives, the national objective and the climate change objective. Are those welcome additions? Do you have a particular view on any of them?
Again, I'm certainly not an expert, you've already spoken to experts, what I'm giving you is my opinion and that of my colleagues. As I understand it, the national benefit objective relates to strengthening the economic link requirements of, shall we call it, UK flag vessels. I know the terminology is 'UK vessels', but I think it picks up that element, because that's been a historic weakness that hasn't provided the necessary economic links to Wales.
So, what would that benefit look like in your opinion? How would you like that to manifest itself?
Normally, the economic link could be made up of a number of one or the other of a series of options. It could be that a certain amount of the catch is landed in the UK, but I think rather than that being land-bridged to other ports in Europe added value needs to take place in Wales. So, that's an important step. The economic link can be satisfied by quota swaps, and there is also an employment requirement where you'd need to have a certain percentage of your crew from the UK or from a port in the country of registration.
So, this is the kind of language that you were hoping to see in this Bill, yes? Is that positive, in your view?
That is, I think, an important introduction, because that hasn't really been the focus of any previous iteration. That doesn't, importantly, include EU vessels that may have access at some point going down the road, but then the licensing would deal with those economic links in any event. So, I think that completes the circle, so to speak.
That's good, thanks for that. And what about the climate change objective? Is there anything there that you are not content with?
Yes, one concern, actually. The climate change objective makes reference to adverse effects of fish and aquaculture activities on climate change being minimised and adapted to climate change. I think this narrative fundamentally misrepresents aquaculture, particularly the molluscan aquaculture that takes places in Wales, because that provides a lot of what we would call ecosystem benefits or nature-based solutions such as carbon sequestration, increasing biodiversity, water quality, water filtration and things like this. I'm no expert on aquaculture; obviously, my colleague James couldn't make it today and he would have answered that in more detail. That objective is a mystery. That seems an odd element to include in there.
Okay, but it isn't necessarily the case that adding this objective means that any positive aspects that are currently happening out there have to change. It's about bringing everybody up, I suppose, isn't it, to a certain level?
I think what it does is confuse molluscan aquaculture with maybe some historic issues in relation to finned fish aquaculture. They are very, very different altogether.
I think that would be helpful, yes.
Okay, thank you very much. The bycatch objective has been introduced now, instead of the discards. Is that a big deal, or are we a bit too sensitive to what is effectively just a change in terminology?
I think it depends—you're right, I think whoever you ask will probably have a different view. The bycatch objective, as I see it, focuses on selectivity, and that is with the intention to avoid or reduce catching fish below minimum conservation reference size. That's referred to in the previous discards objectives as 'unwanted catches'. So, technically it covers that. The language is broadly the same.
The other bycatch objective adds other bycatch, which is something that wasn't in the previous proposal. Again, with any kind of bycatch in terms of stock management and understanding the science behind each stock, and particularly to do with the protected species, we need to understand what those interactions are to help develop an evidence base in relation to those. So, understanding that bycatch and occurrences and things like this this is particularly helpful. So, I think that's another positive thing that strengthens the objective, as opposed to the previous.
It also requires catches to be recorded and accounted for. As I mentioned earlier, that's an essential part of stock and species monitoring and scientific assessment. That, I think, is an improvement, again, on the discards objective. It also includes the landing of fish by catch, but only where appropriate. I'm assuming that that means that this additional requirement will add to the understanding of bycatch mortality to build a stronger science base for species such as spurdog and other species where they might be caught but they've got high survivability so they'd be returned. But, equally, you'd want to record it, even if it's returned alive, to have a much bigger understanding of what the distribution and population dynamics are and that kind of thing.
I see. Okay. So, generally, you're comfortable with it as long as the interpretation is one that's amenable.
Yes, I think so.
Okay, thank you. They've reworded the sustainability objective as well. I'm just wondering if there's anything there that—
Well, primarily, we fully support, as we did in the previous iteration, the sustainability objectives. As we see it, this objective, the 2020 version, has been amended to include fishing capacity of fleets such that fleets are economically viable but do not overexploit marine stocks. I think that's quite a useful addition to have in the objective, because without sustainable resources, small-scale fishermen in Wales wouldn't have a future. So, I think the language in there—although we agreed with the previous iteration—has strengthened further.
Good. Okay. Just two very short additional questions, then. There's no duty to deliver the objectives in the Bill. The duty is to set out policies for achieving the objectives, so I don't know whether you're sensitive to that in any way, or should it be a duty? But also, there's no requirement to review the objectives periodically, and I'm just wondering whether, as times goes on, we should have that facility within the Bill just to—
I understand that, but what I think is different with this is that the fisheries management plans that we'll get to in a bit, I would imagine, within the joint fisheries statement they will, I think, be the vehicle that enables that to happen, because I think sometimes, you can put hard objectives and timescales into legislation that become impossible and have a lot of unintended consequences that go with that. So, I think that, whilst that is—. You know, I understand the point you're making; I think that that could be delivered through other vehicles.
Thank you very much. Moving on to the role of the joint fisheries statement that is going to have to come out of this Bill within 18 months of it being passed, what do you think of the draft? What do you think of the content of this joint fisheries statement? Is it sufficient? Too detailed? What's your view about the things that are going to need to be in that joint statement?
I certainly raised an eyebrow when I saw it, because it's not what it does say; it's what it doesn't say that was more of a concern to me. To explain that, the way I understand it is that fisheries policy authorities between them produce a joint fisheries statement, and it must contain a list of fisheries management plans that the fisheries policy authorities propose to prepare and publish. These must include the stock or stocks of sea fish, the type or types of fishing and the geographical area or areas within which the plan will relate. In clause 6, sections 3 A and B add more detail to that. In the statement, the plan must specify whether the available scientific evidence is sufficient to enable a relevant authority to make an assessment of the stocks, consistent with maximum sustainable yield. And if it is, it has to specify policies to restore or maintain sustainable levels, or if it isn't, it must specify policies for maintaining or increasing levels of stocks.
The issue with that, and my concern, I think, more broadly, is that we don't know how many fisheries management plans are likely to be produced. Would they relate to purely to total allowable catch species? Are they in relation to non-TAC species? Those questions push at the fact that, clearly, we're in an area where the marine area is well known as having a paucity of data, and in terms of non-TAC species, the requirements to assess stocks and report—[Inaudible.]—don't exist because they sit outside the non-quota species and sit outside the common fisheries policy. So, in some species, we're in a better position than others. What that means is that the timetable then becomes a problem because, first of all, we need to identify where are our evidence gaps are in terms of our knowledge of the stocks, and then we have to undertake further work to develop measures and plans around that. I'm not sure that 18 months is enough time to do that, even if there was sufficient resource to put into that kind of evidence collection.
Okay. So, 18 months feels like a very tight timescale for achieving all these objectives.
It does, unless we understood better how many plans there were going to be, perhaps that would be more manageable within the time frame.
Okay. Would you agree with one of our previous witnesses that the spotlight has always, in the past, been on the common fisheries policy and how we negotiate the dividing up of quotas, but now there's an opportunity to look at the wealth that comes from our seas in its entirety and look at different species, and understand better the science that's needed to restore and maintain stocks?
There are drivers already in legislation that look to achieve that ambition through descriptors in the marine strategy framework directive, which, again, will still be a regulation that is part of the withdrawal Act. I think that's right—yes. So, essentially, all the plans that you make—. That would be a central part of that, and that includes all biological resources that are harvested, not just TAC species but non-TAC species. So, I think the ambition has been, and the frustration is, that that's the space that we want to get to. And I think this is why we welcome some of the additions in this Bill, because it provides the Assembly and Welsh Government, or Welsh Ministers with their powers, to, hopefully, enable that to happen.
Okay. So, there are eight different objectives that are going to have to be contained within this joint statement. Obviously, you've expressed concerns about whether we're going to get the scientific evidence in time for that timescale. But are there any others that you would be concerned about in that regard? Some of them are obviously potentially contradictory.
I think there's always a risk. I think you try to create ambitious objectives, and then the reality of being able to implement those comes home or is realised.
Yes, I think that, whilst we've talked about the evidence side of things and that particular objective, achieving those, along with developing fisheries management plans for all of those to essentially try and deliver against those objectives for each of the fisheries that are identified, and then develop a joint fisheries statement that then has to be agreed between all devolved Assemblies, or Governments rather, I see that as quite an ambitious amount of work that needs to be completed within a relatively short space of time, being that we haven't discussed anything in that much detail yet, because the Bill, again, is still subject to amendments and has got a fair way to go before it concludes its passage through Parliament. And there could be further changes, and that's also going to take time. So, do you wait until the end to see exactly what you've got to work with and then everybody starts talking about these things, or do we do that sooner? I'd prefer to do it sooner, but I'm not so sure that that's feasible or even practical, in some cases.
Because you're not quite clear what the landscape's going to look like. So, have there been any discussions with stakeholders at this stage, or nothing beyond what occurs regularly with Government anyway?
As an organisation, we've discussed with our members the—. Basically, in a previous inquiry, we'd already submitted evidence that broadly supported the Bill, and supported amendments being proposed to the Bill. So, that was clearly understood.
I think what we've done now, more recently, is focus on the amendments that were included within the Bill, and initially, the response to that was positive, particularly in relation to legislative competence and in terms of the changes or amendments to the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, because that will provide us initially, with the tools to enable us to develop sustainable fisheries in the way that we've been striving to do for some time. And I think that that, in itself, is making a good use of a UK Bill whilst we then focus on and consider what a future fisheries policy at a Welsh level looks like for the Welsh zone, and then determine from that what we haven't got in this Bill that we then need to bring forward, possibly, in a Welsh Bill.
So, that all makes sense to me and, obviously, some of the powers that apply to Welsh Ministers are of a transitional nature, as far as I understand it. So, we're quite comfortable with that, because the positive aspects of that will enable change to happen relatively soon in legislative process terms.
Great. Okay. So, are you aware of any other framework documents that are being produced to supplement the legislative framework that's offered by this Bill?
Only, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, in relation to licensing. I think that's going to be—. As far as I understand it, that might be done through an memorandum of understanding with the Marine Management Organisation for a single issuing authority, which will deal primarily with licensing arrangements for foreign vessels at a UK level. So, I think all the devolved Governments are going to be taking that approach.
Yes, that's a separate issue altogether. They are on the UK register, so they're not affected by these changes anyway, other than to the national benefit objective. The other framework issue is—. Oh, yes, sorry—quota: I imagine the thinking is that that will more than likely be through some form of concordat. So, again, a non-legislative arrangement that sits alongside the Bill.
Okay. So, obviously, there are new provisions in this Bill that weren’t in the 2019 Bill that ate the dust, which confer powers on the Welsh Ministers to sell rights to Welsh catch quotas. Do you think that this power is appropriate and proportionate?
I must admit, when I read that term, I was a bit nervous about the word 'sale', because that is a fairly clearly defined legal term, and that suggests that you sell something, and that resource, that opportunity—whatever it is—is gone. But it also makes clear that that sale only applies to a calendar year. That is more consistent with what we'd hoped, because we wouldn't want to support—or, certainly, we wouldn't support the position where Welsh quota had the potential to be sold. Our position is that Welsh quota should be a Welsh resource and, more importantly, a Welsh resource for future generations. We shouldn’t be making that into a commodity—we should manage, build and look after that for just our current generations and future generations, and come up with a mechanism of enabling us to do that.
Can I just ask, as a point of interest, does the quota have a financial value to it? I'm wearing my farmer's cap and understanding that milk quotas had a considerable financial value at one time, and there was a huge amount of transactions. I profess little or no knowledge of the fishing quotas. So, is there financial value attached to the quota that the fishermen or women who own that quota could derive from it? And does there need to be a consideration on restrictions if those transactions do take place?
You're right—I think history has shown us that. I think the introduction of fixed-quota allocations—. I'm giving you, basically, a layman's version, because I'm not an expert on it, but—
—my understanding is that when FQAs were introduced, it wasn’t the intention to create any kind of value in relation to those, because there was no price attached to those. Having said that, when you create entitlements, it's the law of unintended consequences then that has meant, if I've got a legal entitlement for this, that that then generates a value.
If I could just come back, again, wearing my farmer's hat, that was the EU's position—that the milk quota was never to have a value attributed to it. But you restrict supplies, you create value, and you can't restrict free movement or trade, if you like, under what were EU rules at the time, and it created a huge value there. So, the point I was trying to get to—does that value exist in the fishing quota at the moment, or could it potentially arrive at a situation where that quota does have considerable value?
It does have a value at the moment, yes.
So, if you put restrictions on it to say that Welsh fishermen or women couldn't trade that quota because it had to stay within Wales, you'd be suppressing the value of their asset, would you?
It's a balancing act. We'd need to think carefully about how we have a national resource, but through that opportunity that we don't currently have that we create the right environment to encourage investment, to make sure that people will invest in the opportunities and increase capacity to take advantage of those opportunities. But we need to then, obviously, make sure that we're not creating these unintended consequences along with that.
So, I don't profess to have the answers to all of that, and it's probably quite an ideological way of thinking about how we'd like to have quotas in Wales. But whilst we haven't got the detail to come up with a fuller answer on that question, the ambition is that that resource would be Welsh and that, in the short term while we build capacity, it could be leased rather than sold to—. I think, within the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it provides that catch allocations that you can't fish are to be shared with neighbouring coastal states.
So, if, for example, Wales wasn't able to meet the allocation it has been provided, the surplus there could be leased out in-year, while in the meantime we build the capacity of our fleets to realise those opportunities going forward, and along with thatd evelop the infrastructure then to make sure that we maximise the economic benefits to Wales.
Yes, I think you've partially answered the things I was going to ask you, but focusing on the regulations in the Bill about the quota for a calendar year, do you think that that would enable Welsh Ministers to lease fishing rights and use that lease payment to help build up the capacity of the Welsh fleet?
Yes. That process or procedure already exists. The bit that isn't clear in here is, clearly, the Bill doesn't provide a mechanism for quotas. That's not its purpose, and this is where the non-legislative elements come into it, through memoranda of understanding and things like that, because that's a Secretary of State power—reserved, or whatever the term is. But the mechanisms—I don't think that there would be any reinvention of the wheel.
But what we don't know at the moment is how the cake is going to be divided up, in the UK particularly. So, for example, there should be some uplift as a result of zonal attachment. I think the reality is that we probably won't have sufficient evidence to support a claim in relation to zonal attachment on a UK level for probably another three or four years, maybe longer. So, the thinking at the moment is that any annual negotiations would be on that basis—that they would be annual rather than for any extended period.
But, in the short term, I think there might be some minor uplift in relation to the access arrangements. So, it might be that there's not as much EU effort within our fisheries as there has been previously. Does this mean that there would be some immediate uplift in the short term that could be dealt with through annual negotiations? If that's the case, what proportion of that and how much would be Wales's allocation of that? These are the details that need to be resolved.
When we know that, then that'll be a short-term thing. But longer term, yes, I think the systems they already have or the mechanisms they already have probably would be utilised in a similar way. I understand any uplift in terms of zonal attachment is likely to be referred to—I think in a previous White Paper they talked about a 'reserve quota'. So, rather than quota directly going to the fixed quota allocation holders, any uplift, DEFRA's proposed a reserve quota. And this is the bit that we don't yet understand, and it's not explicit in the Bill: how will that be divided? Because Wales will have a share of that, but we don't know what that share looks like. That will obviously be the future opportunity for us, and that is what we'll be keen to encourage: investment and improving the viability and revitalising coastal ports and villages throughout Wales.
So, this is key, really, because obviously some people are emphasising the importance of stability and certainty, but they're the people who are doing very well out of the system at the moment, and you've got these very large businesses with UK flags attached to them, none of which are in Wales, and Wales has almost no quota from the way in which the cake's divided at the moment. So, what assurances are you getting from the conversations you may be having with Welsh Government that there is a determination to ensure that more of Welsh fisheries will be able to be fished for the benefit of the communities and economies of Wales?
Again, I've got no guarantees, but I certainly get a very strong impression and understanding that the Minister and her officials are committed to ensuring that we achieve the best possible outcome for Wales. I think nobody could say specifically what that would look like until all these other processes have been determined.
Okay. Just one final thing is that one of our previous witnesses said that the United States' system of regulation was very effective in ensuring that fish stocks weren't exhausted and that restoration of fish stocks was adhered to because it was the law. Have you had any conversation on that or knowledge of that?
None other than being aware of other fisheries management regimes globally; there are a number of good examples. I think, to all intents and purposes, some of those—or I think at least the framework or the tools, I guess, are perhaps in the Bill to enable such changes to happen in the future. So, I think we'd be fools to say that we know it all and we've got everything right when there are good examples elsewhere in the world that we can look to replicate, providing we have the legislative tools to enable us to deliver those.
I'd like to move on to the powers that it will give to Welsh Ministers. You've referred already to schedule 7, which gives the Minister the power to impose charges in respect of various marine functions, including quota, monitoring fishing activities to ensure they're carried out lawfully, registration of buyers and sellers, and catch certificates. What's your view on the charging regime that might come in as a result of this?
I must admit, I did raise more than one eyebrow when I got to Schedule 7, particularly because, again, it wasn't specific, it was fairly broad. My initial reaction to that was one of concern given the issues I've already described around data paucity, the need to develop our evidence base, enforcement requirements, and habitats regulations appraisals that need to be undertaken to enable fishing to take place. There are a raft of other regulatory requirements that have to be satisfied, in addition to the ones that are mentioned here.
Then, if you square that with the fact that 90 per cent of our fleet are under-10m vessels—microbusinesses probably would be maybe an exaggeration of the scale of some of those businesses, but we do have very different examples within that subset—I don't think, given the way in which that segment of the fleet is influenced by weather patterns, by tides and all the rest of it, it's certainly not in a healthy enough state to withstand costs and charges that are at the moment unknown.
I can understand the purpose of putting it in there for further down the road, and that might be a power that will be exercised at that point, but presumably we'd consult and go through that and determine what was right and appropriate and how that would work. So, as a broad suite of measures it certainly, like I say, was a concern to me for those reasons.
It's vitally important, if this is to complement the new freedoms that we're getting rather than to conflict with them, that the interests— particularly of small vessels—are fully taken into account. If the principal objective of this is to reinvigorate coastal communities, the Government should look favourably upon giving exemptions or certainly restricting very significantly any charges that might be introduced.
I agree and, I have to be honest, I did make a phone call after reading it, and the explanation I had was that it was a kind of power that would apply at a UK level and it would be a devolved matter as to how that would be implemented, if indeed it was implemented. So, I can kind of understand the purpose of having it in there. I wouldn't say I'd been assured, but I'm fairly confident that there would be a process before any such powers are used, if they're not defined within the Bill in any event.
Yes. Well, obviously, any Orders that might be introduced would be debatable and at least give us the opportunity here to—
I can't remember whether it's the affirmative process, or the negative.
I think it's the negative process. It's the negative process. So, that is a worrying aspect of the—
Yes. I did look up the meaning of that yesterday, and both eyebrows came out at the same time. [Laughter.]
Indeed. On a more positive note, there are also powers in the Bill to give financial assistance, and these have been broadened from the powers that were in the previous Bill in 2017. What is your general view of the situation as it exists now in the 2020 Bill?
As you mentioned, Schedule 6 includes minor amendments that increase and improve the scope. However, a successor scheme for the European maritime and fisheries fund will need to support the policies within the joint fisheries statement for achieving the objectives. There may be elements in there such as selectivity and technological developments to improve selectivity and things like that to achieve those objectives that don't really jump off the page in terms of those. Yet, in Europe, obviously, the successor to EMFF is already under way, and it will have that suite of proposals there where their fleet is being helped to adapt towards selective fishing techniques and so on. That's going to be an ongoing challenge. I think there needs to be more specifics in there, and I didn't really see a more general sort of element in there that would capture that and that description either. But I think fundamentally, whatever scheme replaces EMFF or any other European funds, it must be user-friendly. That's been a big issue with EMFF, certainly in Wales.
Certainly, one of the worst aspects of the common fisheries policy in earlier years was that whilst we were having to decommission our fleets, subsidies were given to other parts of the EU to build new vessels, which then came and took the fish from the waters that the decommissioned vessels would otherwise have exploited. So, we've got a big reconstruction job to do to make the British fleet once again a force in the land.
Yes. And I notice as well that in this—and I'm assuming it's because the trade Bill is a separate series of negotiations—we don't have any common organisational market within this, as it did sit within the CFP, so the marketing aspect of that isn't captured in here. I didn't see anything in relation to addressing market failures and helping to develop those aspects of seafood businesses, then. Other than that, it's kind of where we have no indication at the minute, because I don't think it's been determined yet whether this is a UK fund and that's devolved, and if it's devolved, do Welsh Ministers or the Welsh Assembly have authority over how that's distributed and under what kind of scheme? I'm not entirely clear about that. So, I think funding, again, isn't one of my special areas of expertise, but I think there seems to be—. I think more work and more understanding of that would be helpful.
Well, obviously at this stage we're just providing the skeleton and the flesh will be put on at a later date so, we're just flagging up at the minute potential problems or opportunities, and it's very much useful to get your general view on that.
Thirdly, then, I'd like to ask you about the provisions in Schedule 9, Part 2, of the Bill, which broaden the powers of the Welsh Ministers to make orders. At the minute, in the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009), these powers apply only in marine protected areas; the current Bill will extend those to the entirety of Welsh waters. Do you see this as objectionable in any shape or form?
You might be surprised to learn that the amendments to 134 are something that we have been advocating—not necessarily that vehicle, but in a context of getting some form of mechanism that can effectively deliver adaptive fisheries management. What's being provided through the current UK Bill will enable us to do that through these amendments. If that isn't a perfect mechanism, then maybe those improvements or any subsequent amendments could be done through a specific Welsh Fisheries Bill. So, yes, in essence, we're very supportive of that, together with the legislative competence, because then that vehicle, or those mechanisms, would be able to be used to the extent of our Welsh zone rather than just our territorial waters.
So, that was the next question I was coming to, because when this committee considered the last Bill, the 2017 Bill, one of our criticisms was that a UK Bill was being used to legislate for a devolved area of policy. In relation to fishing, one can see practical reasons for doing this, in the context and the timing of Brexit—you can't do everything at once. And there is a need to provide some sort of a common structure for UK waters, generally, although there is plenty of scope, I think, for tweaking this at local level to take account of the different circumstances you find around the coast of the UK in the devolved areas. So, are you bothered about this, that this Bill at the minute is legislating in this way for Wales?
As far as I understand it, I'm guessing again that this is probably a negative procedure.
These aren't formally statutory instruments so they're not subject to any procedure.
Oh, right, okay.
Right. No, in that case, I think the ambition to move sooner rather than later, because this has been something that we've been trying to achieve for a number of years, is to get to a position where we have evidence-led, adaptive fisheries management. This will be a vehicle, maybe not the perfect vehicle in the first instance, but it will certainly be a vehicle that will hopefully enable us to do that in the short term, and like I said, maybe then improvements or revisions or whatever will need to be made when we consider then what our—. Because we've yet to define what our future fisheries policy is, and until we understand that more clearly—only at that point will we know what tools we need in the tool box.
Okay, thank you. We've only got five minutes left, can we move on to Andrew Davies and access and wider considerations, please?
You'll be levied now, you'll be. [Laughter.] What are you views, Jim, on the provisions within the Bill around access, and in particular the provisions around enforcement for Welsh Ministers?
Right. My understanding is that clause 12 sets out when foreign vessels may enter British fishery limits by UK EEZ and enables Welsh Ministers to designate, by order, the foreign countries whose vessels may enter the Welsh zone. As I said earlier, these licensing requirements for foreign vessels are going to be administered through the single issuing authority by way of a non-legislative arrangement with the Marine Management Organisation. I'm more than comfortable with that and the terminology there.
So, I'm conscious that the Chair has given us a time warning, so, on those two provisions, are you content with what's in the Bill?
Great. In another part of the Bill, there are provisions that are England-only provisions, such as discarding provisions, for example. Do you think those types of provisions need to be extended to encapsulate Wales as well? Or can they be dealt with when, obviously, we have our own fisheries Bill come forward?
As I understand it, or what struck me when I read that, was that that could create some perverse consequences—unintended consequences, possibly. Because the way I looked at that is that, given that fish stocks are allocated within high seas rectangles and that those straddle boundaries of devolved nations, it may be possible that UK vessels could be, under equal access objectives, incentivised to carry out their activities in Welsh waters—not necessarily creating further pressure overall—and that would be subject to quota, but where charges, then, wouldn't apply.
But equally, looking further ahead, whilst we don't have an awful lot of quota at the moment and don't have an issue, essentially, with discards—and the majority of fish that are returned, certainly shellfish, would be returned live—I think that this would all change once we get an uplift in quota in the future and then we might have an issue that we need to address. So, it's kind of two things. The immediate concern is, would it create some perverse consequences? Because I don't see, in the charging scheme, that by entering that scheme, which is voluntary, that that means that when you enter that, that applies wherever you go in the UK and—
In my view, but, then, I don't profess to be an expert.
Yes, but that's why we're trying to listen, obviously. So, your view would be that it does need to take in Wales at the moment because we don't have our own Welsh fisheries Bill, basically.
We certainly need to think about that, yes.
Okay. And are there any other consequences in relation to trade and fisheries that maybe we haven't captured in our lines of questioning to you today that you might want to put on the record?
It'll be no surprise that with 90 per cent of the landed catch in Wales being shellfish, live shellfish, and the majority of those exports have been to EU markets, given the impacts recently in relation to the Chinese market and then the development to the coronavirus and all the impacts that that's having in terms of closing down key seafood, or shellfish, markets, this, then, creates even further uncertainty and concern.
I would like to think that—and everything is subject to the negotiations—while we're making our plans to develop our fisheries to realise the additional opportunities that will arrive, once we get to two or three years down the road—. But in the meantime, we need to make sure that we stabilise and make sure that our industry is able to have as frictionless trade as possible, accepting that non-tariff barriers would be a huge concern. It would be very devastating; they would already push up the cost of the product, and then getting the product to market and things like this. So, there are a number of concerns there, but I'd like to think that, in the end, some sort of agreement could be reached where we're able to strike the right balance.
Thank you very much. We've reached 11 o'clock, so thank you very much, Mr Evans, for coming along and giving your evidence. We are very grateful.
Colleagues, we’ll have a break for 10 minutes, and we do need to be back at 11.10 a.m.
Could I beg your permission just to add one very quick, final issue?
It was just a query, and it's something to check or the committee might want to check, but, within the legislative consent memorandum that was submitted for the 2017-18 Bill—in that Bill, there were objections raised in relation to what was then clause 18, Secretary of State powers. That clause, or that section, has now transferred into the 2020 Bill verbatim—it hasn't changed at all—and yet, there's no objection within the LCM for the current proposed Bill.
You're welcome. Thanks very much.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:01 ac 11:10.
The meeting adjourned between 11:01 and 11:10.
Good morning. Can I welcome Debbie Crockard, fisheries policy manager at the Marine Conservation Society, representing Greener UK; Gareth Cunningham, principal policy officer—marine, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Cymru; and Sarah Denman, UK environment lawyer, representing Client Earth? I hope I got all that right. You're very welcome. Do you mind if we go straight to questions?
In your view, how does the 2017-19 Bill compare to the 2020 Bill? And to what extend do the provisions set out in the UK Fisheries Bill provide a suitable legislative framework?
I think it's important to say at the start that we do very much welcome certain other new provisions in this version of the Bill, so in particular the new climate change objective and the new bycatch objective. However, we are concerned that a number of the issues that both we and the committee raise about the 2017 Bill have not been addressed in this version.
Obviously, since 2017 the Welsh Government has declared a climate emergency, and we also had the UN publish a report last summer that highlighted that overfishing is the biggest cause of marine biodiversity loss. So, in that context, we would have expected this 2020 version of the Bill to include more provisions and more detail on preventing overfishing, and on recovery of the marine environment. One of our biggest concerns in this version of the Bill is that it seems to give even more discretion to authorities to depart from both the policy statement and the new fisheries management plans, and there also continues to be no binding commitment to set fishing limits in line with sustainable levels. Now, as before, that very much represents a regression in environmental standards from the common fisheries policy, but it also is in breach of international law. So, we've got sustainable development goal 14, which is to end overfishing by 2020. So, you can imagine these provisions in the Bill are not going to achieve that goal.
Obviously, we'll go on to talk about the detail in this session. I think overall our general view is that the Bill does have a lot of potential, but there are a lot of legal loopholes, and that means that the Bill isn't going to place the UK or Wales as a leader in sustainable fisheries, and I think for us that feels like a real missed opportunity.
Yes. I suppose the only other thing I would add is that, of course, there are recommendations at the beginning of the Bill to align with the achievement of good environmental status. And it just follows your previous session—this is about enabling us to have the actions and deliverables that can move us towards sustainable fisheries management, and that's not just important for the industry, but it's also important for other legislative and policy commitments we've already made in both Wales and the UK.
Thank you. I'm just going to ask a few questions around the objectives. You touched on the climate change objective that's been added, but also there's a national benefit objective that's additional, so I'm just interested in your observations as to what extent they're welcome and sufficient, or not.
The climate change objective in particular is really welcome for us. Obviously, the ocean has such an important part to play in tackling climate change, so it's really fantastic to see this being addressed in the Bill and acknowledged. As it's an objective, it will be dealt with by way of policy statements, so the kind of policies we might expect to see for the climate change objective might be around considering the impact of fishing on sea grass, for example, which is a really important carbon capture habitat. I think sea grass captures something like 35 times more carbon than the rainforest, so it's really important, and sea grass is also a really important habitat for nurseries and for juvenile fish.
Another example of a policy that might come under this climate change objective is decarbonisation of the fishing fleet. So, these are really, really important policies, and I think it's really progressive to see the climate change objective in the Bill.
With regard to the national benefits side of things, we have seen that they're going to pull across article 17, which already exists within the common fisheries policy. One of the problems there is that that hasn't ever actually been applied in a way that is beneficial for environmental objectives or for social objectives as well. There's been a small redistribution of quota to the small-scale sector around the UK, but what we really want to see is a fairer approach to the distribution of fishing opportunities, and especially as Wales has a relatively small-scale sector, we're relatively unsure who could benefit from those sorts of advances in the legislation.
Okay, fine. Of course, we have now the bycatch elements, as opposed to the discards previously. Is that a welcome difference?
Yes, I do feel it is meaningful. In the 2017 Bill, as you said, you had the discards objective; that just touched on unwanted fish catches, it didn't actually go to cetacean bycatch. What you've now got with the bycatch objective is that it covers cetaceans and endangered species. So, it actually goes much further than the discards objective, which is really, really positive to see. I think it places fisheries management within the wider ecosystem, which is something that's really important. It seems that they've tightened the wording around this as well. There was some wording, I think, in the discards objective in the 2017 Bill around 'as far as possible', and that seems to have been tightened up now. So, yes, we do very much welcome the bycatch objective.
It goes back to my earlier point that we've already got a lot of work being done by the statutory agencies at a UK level to address bycatch and do a plan of action, but this will give that legislative underpinning to that. So, we have a plan of action being developed, which should be ready by this year, and this will give a legal framework to deliver that, which is great. So, it's nice to see policy actually matching up with the legislation.
There's been a change of wording as well on the sustainability objective. Is that something, again, that you welcome?
Yes, that seems positive. I think that's around balancing fleet capacity against the need to not overexploit marine stocks, which is obviously really welcome.
We still have concerns about the fact that the sustainability asks within the Bill are not necessarily in line with reducing fishing pressure, they're more to do with a long-term objective to reach sustainable fishing, so there are still some concerns around that. But as for the actual objective itself, it is welcome to see those changes.
Okay. And there's a lack of duty still, isn't there, to achieve the objectives? Is that a concern of yours?
Yes. This is probably one of our biggest concerns, and it's something that was raised as a concern by this committee as well, last time around. You also recommended having milestones and targets in there in your report, which would have been really beneficial, but of course, that isn't in this version of the Bill. So, as before, there's still no duty. The objectives are dealt with by way of a policy statement. Now, one of the key issues with that is that, because there's no duty to achieve the objectives, there's no guarantee that the policy statement will actually contain effective policies, which is obviously a really big concern. The objectives are really strong—in fact, stronger than they were in the 2017 Bill, so this feels like a real omission.
The bigger issue is that, as before, the policy statements can actually be disregarded in a wide range of circumstances. Now, one of the key differences with the 2020 version of the Bill is that there's now a definition of what those circumstances are where you can actually depart from the policy statement. Back in 2017, there wasn't actually a definition. What you did have was wording in the explanatory memorandum, and that talked about these circumstances being limited to catastrophic events that might impact the marine environment. So, those are very exceptional circumstances where we would absolutely agree you might want some flexibility around the policy statements. What we've got now is this definition in the 2020 version, and that goes much, much wider than what was anticipated under the 2017 Bill. So, what it talks about now is—[Inaudible.]—of the definition in both clauses 7 and 10. It now introduces socioeconomic considerations as one of these circumstances. That's really worrying because, as we'll come on to discuss later, there isn't any legally binding commitment to maximum sustainable yield, and the only way that sustainability is really dealt with is by way of the objectives.
So, you might imagine that a policy in one of the policy statements to deal with the objectives might be to cut fishing limits to recover a dangerously overfished stock. The danger is now, with this socioeconomic trade-off, that that policy might be disregarded because you might imagine that that might have a negative socioeconomic impact in the short term. So, that's really worrying now, now that we've got this balancing of policies that are essential to protect the marine environment being balanced against socioeconomics. So, that's really concerning.
What I would say is that one positive is that new clause 11 in the Bill around the policy statements does actually take on board one of your previous recommendations. That's around reporting. Now, authorities have to actually report the extent to which the policy statements address the objectives, which is really good to see. So, it's still not a substantive duty to achieve them, but it gives some sort of accountability for authorities and will hopefully allow people to see how the policies are addressing the objectives and how they might be changed to make them better.
That's fine. You touched on the maximum sustainable yield. There's clearly still—.
Thank you. So, turning to the new fisheries management plan requirements within the Bill, how robust do you think they are in terms of them not necessarily having the same legal duty that's in the common fisheries policy?
We do very much welcome the concept of fisheries management plans, and if they're done properly they could really help deliver recovery of the most at-risk stocks. The problem is the way they are drafted in the Fisheries Bill is really not robust enough. One of the main issues is that there's no provision in the Bill to require authorities to actually put in place a plan. All authorities have to do is say in a statement whether they'll introduce a plan for a particular stock or whether they won't, and the reasons for that. That's obviously really concerning from an environmental perspective, because you might imagine that certain of the most at-risk stocks that might a recovery plan the most—that's obviously going to be hard work to implement that plan, so authorities can now decide to not put one in place at all.
From a Welsh perspective as well, it's very difficult when you think about it. If Wales has responsibility now for stocks out to, say, 100 nautical miles, quite a lot of the stocks in that area are in a very overfished state and in a very difficult state, so having to put into place a management plan for that should be essential. And if there's the opportunity to pick and choose which management plans you're going to put into place and which ones you're not, there's a concern that some lower hanging fruit may be put in place before the ones that are most at risk. The Celtic sea whiting, cod, things like that, are in a pretty poor state and, obviously, they're not stocks that Wales themselves necessarily fish upon, but the responsibility for them will become part of the Welsh Government's remit, shared with other countries within the devolved nations but also with the EU. So, we are concerned that there's a real situation where they're not going to get the plan that they need as quickly as possible, because there's the opportunity therefore to choose which ones get priority or which ones get a plan in general—there are issues, and also from a Welsh perspective, trying to make sure that it's covering all stocks, not just the existing stocks that we cover under the CFP, but things like shellfish stocks, which are massively important to the Welsh economy. So, those ones—we need to have management plans in place for them as well. So, imaking sure that it's not just some stocks that are going to have plans for them, but that all stocks have some sort of management plan in place would be essential.
And even if that management plan simply says, 'Continue as we were before', because we have an effective management plan, so stocks that aren't quota-led—. So, as we said, the shell fisheries—some of those actually are still waiting on legislation—the whelks and other crustaceans are still waiting for orders to be brought forward since the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 came into place, but some other ones in Wales already have orders in place, so we have management plans. You could actually say, 'New fisheries management plan for that species—tick, we've done it; we will continue as it is currently and review as necessary.' So, there is a management plan there, but for others we need one actually developing.
So, having taken on these new responsibilities that were previously conferred on the whole of the EU, do you not expect to see in the fisheries management plan a coherent overview of the need to maintain and restore all stocks, and not just the ones that are in quota, to maintain a healthy sea for the areas for which we are now going to be responsible?
Yes, that would definitely be the ideal, and that's what we would want to see as management plans for all of those. One thing, because most of those finfish stocks are shared, we'd have to agree those management plans as well with the EU because it's not just the UK that are fishing on the stocks. So, there is a need for some discussion and negotiation and inclusion within the development of those management plans, but, yes, that's exactly what we'd like to see.
Okay. So, how concerned are you that whatever the wording in these joint fisheries management plans, that they could be traded away in pork barrel negotiations over something else that negotiators think is more important?
Certainly, that's one of the things that we are concerned about: within the Bill itself, the lack of information on how negotiations will take place with shared stocks. So, obviously, not just with the EU, although that is, from a Welsh perspective, more important, but also with Norway, with Iceland, with the Faroes. There is a real lack of information as to how those negotiations are going to take place. What we would definitely like to see as the bare minimum is an agreement to fish at levels that are consistent with maximum sustainable yield, so at sustainable levels across the shared stocks. If we can get that, that's a really strong benefit and it is something that I think everyone would like to see on all sides; they want to see sustainable stocks.
It will just be down to how those negotiations take place and, in that case, I think it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State to negotiate quota shares, but everyone should be involved in negotiating those and making sure that they are done in a way that is beneficial to the environment and to the stocks themselves. Because, as you said before about the socioeconomic side of things, you can't have a good socioeconomic system if you don't have the fisheries there to support it. If you don't have the environment in a good state, you can't have a very profitable industry. So, you need to have the balance there for it.
Okay. And what about this 18-month timescale that's set from the passing of the Act, rather than some artificial calendar date, given that we don't know when the Act's going to be passed? Do you think that's a realistic timescale for tying down all these important issues?
I think it's ambitious.
It will depend on the scope. So, as we've said, if they don't do fisheries management plans for every stock, then that burden becomes much smaller. But, of course, as they've said, there's going to be a read around domestically as well. So, we'll have fisheries management plans within each nation, and obviously different nations fish from each other's waters, so we need to make sure there's a consistency there so we don't end up with a race to the bottom or people exploiting an area of fisheries where it's more favourable for their vessel or their fishing practices. So, there needs to be some leadership to make sure that we have shared stocks within the UK managed to an equivalent level to each other.
Okay. Obviously, given that we're not now just focusing on the deals we're going to do around quotas with the other 27 countries, how much do you think all the devolved administrations and the UK will be doing proper evidence-based research on the areas that we've previously ignored because they weren't in quota?
That's a very good question. In fairness, there is some evidence-based research currently being done on some of these stock levels as I've mentioned earlier. Some of the Orders that were coming through in Wales, while progress may have been slow, the research is there as to whether we're starting to align different sea fisheries councils, as we had prior to the marine Act, and how the landing sizes for, say, lobsters or velvet crabs—. All of those things have had to be looked at. What we need is the application of that into practice, and I think the fishermen would agree it would be quite good to see that finally come to fruition.
A conversation then will have to be had around access from Scottish or Northern Irish or even English vessels to Welsh waters. Are they going to have the same landing sizes? Bass is a good example, because there are two different landing sizes between the English bass landing size and the southern Welsh. There's been a little bit of give and take on that, so maybe we could have a consistent one so it doesn't favour one country over another.
An essential part of that as well will be funding and providing enough funding for further research to take place. It's an area that's consistently been a struggle. For even when you need the research to take place, actually where do you get that funding from? Previously, it would have been the EMFF. Where is a lot of the funding going to come from this time to support those fisheries management plans, those data deficient stocks, everything that's going to need a stronger scientific evidence base? I think that's going to be a very, very key part for any sort of research that needs to be done.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, how much do you think we can look to other administrations around the world in terms of how they develop and manage a sustainable fisheries policy? Counter-intuitively, one of our earlier witnesses said that the US fisheries system was really quite robust and was adhered to because it had the strength of the law. So, is that something that we could look at, in terms of its transferability to the UK?
I think the US is a really great example, actually. So, they have provisions on fisheries management plans as well, but they're a lot more robust and have a lot more detail than what you see in the Fisheries Bill. So, in the US legislation, there's a lot of detail around what the plans need to contain for the most at-risk stocks—the most important thing being that there's a 10-year time frame. So, it says a management plan must deliver recovery of a particular stock within 10 years of the plan being implemented, which is a really good thing to see. Now, there isn't any of that sort of detail in the Fisheries Bill.
There's also a lot of detail in the US Act on setting fishing limits. So, there's a lot of environmental safeguards in the US Act itself. We don't see any of that kind of detail in the Fisheries Bill. All it says is that they can put in place fisheries management plans. There's nothing to say what they're meant to be achieving and what the parameters are around those.
You could probably also draw a comparison to the EU multi-annual plans. So, again, there's a lot of detail on there around what kind of fishing limit should be put in place, gear selectivity, things like that—all intended to make sure the plans are as effective as possible. So, there does need to be a lot more detail in the Fisheries Bill around what the plans are even meant to achieve. Are they meant to achieve recovery of a stock, or is it something different?
Okay. But it's perfectly possible that, within 18 months, we will be able to see those sorts of robust plans, as long as there's a political willingness to do it.
Yes, I think that's right.
Okay. Are you aware of any stakeholder engagement taking place on these important matters? Because, obviously, some stakeholders want to go on as before; 'stability' is the watchword for those who are already doing very well out of the current situation.
So, we did have a meeting on the joint fisheries statements with regard to the previous Bill, with representation from all around the UK, and it included fishing industry representatives and non-governmental organisations as well, which was a really positive workshop. Unfortunately, since that Bill then fell, the workshop will probably have to be run again.
We would definitely think that stakeholder engagement is key, is essential, but it also has to cover everything. You have to make sure there's representation from all the devolved administrations. There needs to be representatives of the different aspects of the fishing industry as well. So, not just the larger scale players from, say, Scotland or from down in England. There needs to be a representation of all the aspects of the fleet, and also NGOs and anyone who's got specific knowledge of socioeconomics and things like that as well. Having that broad representation is key to making good legislation going forward. Like I say, they had that at the last joint fisheries statement meeting that we had, but unfortunately that was a while ago now.
Okay. So, what other framework documents are being developed, as far as you're aware, to supplement this legislative framework? Clearly, there is the beginnings of an understanding by the UK Parliament of the importance of the well-being of future generations Act, which is obviously one of the things that frames our response, but are there other things coming on alongside that you're aware of that will be important in ensuring we've got a robust system?
I'm not sure.
Okay. In terms of the scope of the powers, the 2020 Bill introduces and broadens these regulation and Order-making powers for Welsh Ministers, including a regulation for the sale of quotas, which importantly in terms of a particular calendar year is obviously endeavouring to limit the timescale of that. What are your views on the extent of these regulations and powers in terms of how they could be used?
So, obviously, there are new powers for Wales within the Bill and there are also new powers for England, which in effect will bring parity with the powers that Scotland already has. So, in England, that will give additional powers for the offshore area, and the same within Wales. From our point of view, that's pretty welcome, because it's something that we're lacking at the moment.
There are a few legislative gaps. So, if you think beyond the 12 nautical miles, there aren't as may powers available to Wales to manage the fisheries both within protected areas and outwith. So, this will actually create those powers that, in Wales, will be delivered through Orders. As you've touched on there, there are already existing powers to create Orders within Welsh legislation. So, the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 has powers for the Minister to create emergency Orders within European marine sites. What we're not clear on is how that aligns with the new Bill. Currently, if a Minister in Wales wishes to make Orders, the Bill requires them to consult the other nations on those Orders that they intend to make.
There is a question then around if you make an Order under emergency circumstances to deal with a threat, would that require a read around from the other three nations, which would delay the process to deal with an emergency? So, that was something I would suggest that the committee goes back to the Welsh Government or DEFRA to clarify: how do the provisions under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 marry up with the Orders and the powers that you're able to create under the new Fisheries Bill?
As you've already outlined, clearly, the Welsh fishing fleet at the moment is not a long-distance fishing fleet, so the most difficult areas are going to be how Welsh Government exercises its new powers and responsibilities over 200 nautical miles, rather than just the inshore 15 nautical miles. How much is it a danger that our focus will be simply on the 15 nautical miles, because that's the area we can most easily develop? Meanwhile, horrible things are going on further out at sea. How can the legislation ensure that we are actually taking these new responsibilities seriously?
Monitoring, control and enforcement are an essential yet lacking area, consistently, with fisheries management. The potential, though, for things like more electronic monitoring—so, cameras on boats, using existing vessel-monitoring systems and that sort of thing—have huge potential for being able to manage an area that we haven't previously had to manage as an independent coastal state.
It also provides the opportunity to look for data collection as well. So, it's not just about that enforcement side of things. If you've got remote electronic monitoring closed-circuit television cameras, you've also got the ability to collect information, data—catch information—through documented fisheries. There are a lot of really positive things that can come out of that kind of monitoring. It also means that you don't necessarily have to have the control boats that you would need to cover a much, much larger area.
So, it's definitely something that we support, and it was supported by the House of Lords as well when they looked at the Fisheries Bill last time. It was something that they saw as being quite lacking—that monitoring, control and enforcement—and the benefits that you could have from more electronic monitoring.
Okay, just going back to slightly more detail on the broadening of the existing powers of Welsh Ministers to make Orders, and that this will give them powers to have these powers apply outside of marine protected areas, how significant is that?
It's fairly significant. So, as I said at the beginning of the session, at the beginning of the Bill there is a provision to help deliver towards good environmental status, which is a requirement under the marine strategy regulations that apply to all nations. Effectively, that looks at how we are managing our marine environment both within the protected site network but also outwith.
The four nations reported last year on progress towards delivering good environmental status. Unfortunately, as you'd expect, we haven't delivered that. There are certain elements of the 11 descriptions that they measure that are doing worse than others. So, they relate to things like fisheries levels, impacts on seabirds and impacts on cetaceans.
Having powers to set Orders against potentially damaging activity allows you to actually bring up your aspirations to deliver good environmental status and gives you the tools to do that. It doesn't mean we ban fisheries, but what it means is we can actually manage fisheries in a way that they are sustainable, and in line with other legislation like the well-being of future generations Act. So, we shouldn't be having harm on the environment; we should be acting sustainably.
Within the marine strategy regulations, it clearly says that the recovery of the marine environment should not be hindered by human activity. So, if we don't have the tools to achieve that aspiration, we're going to have a hard time achieving it. This Bill, if it has sufficient legal underpinning, could be a mechanism to deliver that.
Okay, thank you for that. Just finally, the Bill gives powers to England to have a discharge charging scheme, but not at the moment for Wales. Can you explain why that is and whether that's something that we should be pushing for?
So, with the discards charging scheme, that's over and above the existing discards legislation, so there still will be a requirement to land captures et cetera across the board in the UK. So, from that perspective, it's slightly different, but, at the same time, as long as those underlying provisions still exist, then anything that's put into place over and above is just beneficial. We're not quite 100 per cent sure how they're going to see the discards charging scheme apply even in England yet, or whether it will. But it's up to Wales whether they would like to put in something additional as well, over and above the existing discards legislation. They could put in something stronger; they could apply something similar. What it might do is create a situation where it might be more beneficial to fish in one area than in another if the discards legislation is slightly different, so that could be a slight concern. But, actually, whether the provisions are needed or not would be up to the Welsh Government—whether they think they can do something better or whether they think that the existing legislation is enough.
The drafting around this is quite interesting because it seems that that charging scheme is voluntarily, so it only applies to people that have decided to sign up anyway. So, I think—you know, I think it's intended to help implementation of the landing obligation, but I think Welsh Government could and they wish to go a lot further. As Debbie mentioned earlier, monitoring would be the absolute key thing if you want to implement the landing obligation properly, and, again, I think it's something that this committee raised in their report last time. So, the charging scheme is an interesting one; it's not clear how it will work in practice but, if it's only voluntarily, I query the effectiveness of it.
Well, it needs to be comprehensive and across the board, obviously, if it's going to be effective.
I'd like to move on to access and enforcement powers. Can you tell us what your view is of the provisions in the Bill relating to access? Whichever order you want to start.
Well, obviously the Bill prevents access for foreign vessels. I think, from an environmental perspective, our biggest concern is that foreign vessels don't come into UK or Welsh waters and undercut standards from local vessels. So, that means making sure that whoever is entering Welsh waters is complying with at least as high environmental standards. And I think Welsh Ministers will now have the power to put certain requirements in licences to enter Welsh waters. So, you could do some interesting things there, I think—you know, thinking about maybe cameras on boats for those kind of vessels or certain gear selectivity. But, yes, our biggest concern is making sure that foreign vessels aren't undercutting local vessels on the environment.
To give an example of where that could be applied, I mentioned earlier the bycatch plan of action. The research currently only covers UK vessels, because the decision was that we cannot enforce bycatch mitigation measures on European vessels under the previous legislation. This would provide the legislative mechanism to say, 'If you want access to our waters, these are standards you need to adhere to.' And, if we have a higher standard than other nations, if we have access to their waters we'll also be compliant. So, there wouldn't be any more onus on our fisherman; it will just allow them to be compliant with UK law, and, hopefully, we'll set a standard that's a higher level outside of UK waters.
Isn't one of the problems that it's only 26 miles from the Llŷn to Wicklow? So, halfway is 13 miles. Doesn't that cause some problems in that, if the European rules were less tight, then somebody could be 13 miles off the Welsh coast and not be in Welsh territorial waters?
And this comes back to depending on which stocks we're talking about, because the measures you require wouldn't apply to every single type of fishery. So, if it was a longline fishery there might be activities there, but they all probably apply to offshore fleets rather than inshore, and that example would probably be more around mitigation for scallop dredging and that kind of thing.
Obviously, we have the opportunity here to set the standards, although we wouldn't be able to impose them upon the EU and its fisheries policy, but ultimately everybody's got the same broad objective, particularly in relation to conservation of fish stocks; nobody benefits from overfishing in the longer term. So, it gives us the opportunity to lead the way and hope others will follow—you know we can't compel it. Can we move on then to enforcement powers as well? To what extent do you think the provisions in the Bill provide Welsh Ministers with the necessary powers to enforce fishing regulations in Welsh seas once the regime is fully implemented? Are you satisfied with the broad scope of the powers? I know, at the moment, this is just a skeleton of what our fishing policy is going to be in the future, and we won't know the details of it maybe, as Jenny says, for 18 months or maybe even longer, but do you think the enforcement regime that the Bill envisages is fit for purpose, sufficient, or does it not go far enough, or—?
I think one of the things with any enforcement scheme is not necessarily even whether or not it's strong enough on paper; it's whether or not it's actually implemented properly, and that's consistently been the problem, as was said previously. There is a significant lack of monitoring, control and enforcement already around UK waters, within EU waters. It's never been a priority implementation. It's never been something that—actually, we need to see what's happening in our waters; we need to make sure that all the monitoring and control legislation is actually being followed. It's a consistent problem. So, I think part of it is actually tackling it head on. Remote electronic monitoring, again, is something that is a relatively cost-effective way to do that. So, I think, even if it was the strongest policy on paper, it still needs to actually be implemented properly. I think that, to me, is the key problem with anything to do with monitoring, control and enforcement.
So, we can't really draw sensible conclusions as yet from—. This merely gives the powers, whether they're exercised or not, and how they're exercised is the key fact. Good. Thank you very much.
Yes. All the organisations have indicated that you believe quotas should be allocated more on environmental and social policies. Do you believe that the way the Bill is drafted at the moment meets your aspirations over the allocations of quota, going forward?
I think it's an interesting one because, again, the Bill has quoted article 17 of the common fisheries policy. Article 17 has been in place for nearly 10 years now and it has resulted in very little change to the way quota is distributed within the UK, and the UK is responsible for how we distribute our own quota—that's completely down to ourselves—and we haven't done that. We've had the opportunity to do it for 10 years and it's not been done. So, I think it's good to see it there. It's great to see that it's still included, but it's a little bit like monitoring, control and enforcement—the legislation is there, the ability to do so is there; it's just not being implemented. Until there is a step taken to do that, it will remain—
But that's a function, isn't it? The fact of the matter is we're looking at this Bill to see whether the facilities exist within the Bill to carry those aspirations out, and I think you're identifying that they do sit within the Bill. It's different then, obviously, if the executive choose to exercise those functions. Everyone agree with that?
Yes. I suppose, as with the EU, there's a power to distribute quota on the basis of environmental and social criteria, but there isn't actually a duty. And so I think that's why we've seen all of these issues. So, something we'd be looking for here—and, again, something I think that was recommended here last time—is to make sure that quota has to be allocated on the basis of environmental and social criteria. I think that's something that's so important to the Welsh fishing industry because, obviously, it has borne the brunt of these issues from the CFP, and it's detrimental not just to coastal communities here but it's also detrimental to the marine environment; the lower-impact vessels from an environmental perspective are disadvantaged here. So, yes, I think the issue here has been that the Bill reflects the CFP position, which is that there is a power to do this but there isn't actually any obligation, and so you just see the status quo continuing.
Okay. Thank you. Are there any other points you'd like to raise that we maybe haven't asked you about?
I think you've covered everything.
Can I raise one thing on maximum sustainable yield, actually?
It's something that's come up since we last spoke on the 2017 Bill. So, since then we have been speaking to UK Government about why there isn't a commitment to MSY in the Bill, and one of their key concerns is that they don't want to tie their hands in international negotiations—so, with coastal states like Norway, for example, that doesn't use MSY as a metric. But I just wanted to flag that the logic doesn't really work because, under the CFP, it already acknowledges the situation. So, under the CFP, you've got article 2, which is that binding commitment to set fishing limits in line with MSY. That's for EU-only stocks. Then you've got article 33, which deals with shared stocks, and it acknowledges that exact situation. So, what article 33 does is oblige the EU to negotiate with third countries like Norway to try to achieve MSY, but it does acknowledge that you can't actually bind them to MSY because Norway isn't subject. So, it is a real omission that there isn't anything in the Bill on MSY, either for UK-only stocks, which should reflect article 2, or even for shared stocks, and that is a real omission. As we said at the start, we are in a climate and ecological emergency and this Bill could be an amazing opportunity to really place Wales and the UK as a leader, and I think this particular provision is a real omission here.
And there's also—there's a requirement to set shared stocks at sustainable levels not just within the common fisheries policy; it's under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as well. So, it's legislation that's not going to disappear, it's something that we're already signed up to; it's much wider than the common fisheries policy. That ability to share stocks will be essential, I think. We've asked several times now how many stocks—or fin fish stocks, I should say—exist only within UK waters that will only be managed by the UK, and there is one. So, every other fin fish stock that we fish in UK waters is shared with either the EU, with Norway, with Iceland, with the Faroes. This is not something that we can manage as an independent coastal state by ourselves; it must be discussed and it must be negotiated in a way that is productive and is going to have the best results for the environment, which then leads to the best results for the fishing industry.
Well, thank you very much. Your evidence has been very helpful and will help us come to conclusions shortly, so thank you very much for coming along.
Can I ask Members to note the following papers: written evidence from Dr Ludivine Petetin, Dr Mary Dobbs, Professor Jo Hunt, Professor Ben Pontin and Dr Huw Pritchard on the LCM in relation to the UK Agriculture Bill; correspondence from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on fuel poverty; and correspondence in relation to the national development framework, in what I think is a positive response to us? Thank you. We'll note those.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Can I move the motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of today's meeting?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:52.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:52.