By letter of 11 July 1997 the Commission forwarded to Parliament the annual report to the Council and to the European Parliament on the results of the multiannual guidance programmes for the fishing fleets at the end of 1996.
At the sitting of 15 September 1997 the President of Parliament announced that he had referred the report to the Committee on Fisheries as the committee responsible.
At its meeting of 4 September 1997 the Committee on Fisheries had appointed Mr Cunha rapporteur.
It considered the Commission report and the draft report at its meetings of 2 December 1997 and 20 January and 3 February 1998.
At the last meeting it adopted the motion for a resolution by 17 votes to 1.
The following took part in the vote: Fraga Estévez, chairman; Kindermann, Macartney and Souchet, vicechairmen; Cunha, rapporteur; d"Aboville, Gallagher, Girão Pereira (for Tajani), Hardstaff (for Baldarelli), Kofoed, Langenhagen, McCartin (for Burtone), McMahon (for Crampton), Medina Ortega, Novo, Pérez Royo (for Dührkop Dührkop), Provan and Varela Suanzes-Carpegna.
The report was tabled on 5 February 1998.
The deadline for tabling amendments will be indicated in the draft agenda for the relevant part-session.
A MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION
Resolution on the annual report to the Council and to the European Parliament on the results of the multiannual guidance programmes for the fishing fleets at the end of 1996 (COM(97)0352 - (C40393/97)
The European Parliament,
- having regard to the annual report to the Council and to the European Parliament on the results of the multiannual guidance programmes for the fishing fleets at the end of 1996 (COM(97)0352 (C4-0393/97),
- having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries (A4-0046/97),
A. pointing out that an appropriate resource conservation policy is an essential requirement in order to guarantee the future of a profitable and competitive Community fisheries sector,
B. whereas the priority aim of the multiannual guidance programmes is to establish a balance between the available resources and the fishing effort by the existing Community fleet,
C. stressing that achievement of the objectives of the MGPs, which provide for a reasonable reduction in the fishing capacity of the Member State fleets applying to the various fleet segments, is necessary in order to ensure the sustainable development of the sector,
D. whereas this reduction in the capacity of the fleet entails a social and economic sacrifice and must be made in a balanced way in all the Member States if it is to be understood and accepted by the fisheries sector,
E. noting that, if the reduction in capacity is not made in a balanced way, there will be a risk that countries complying with the objectives set might question the desirability of continuing to apply a policy involving social costs whose effectiveness is open to doubt due to the non-compliance of other Member States,
F. whereas the failure to achieve the objectives laid down in the MGPs for certain segments of the fleet in some Member States may have the effect of distorting competition, which will cause serious damage to those professionally engaged in fisheries sectors operating in states which have implemented the reduction in fishing effort envisaged in the MGPs,
G. recognizing that, even though considerable progress has been made on harmonizing the measurement of capacity and fishing effort applicable to Member State vessels during the period covered by MGP III (1992-1996), the conversion of tonnages to gross registered tonnes has still not been completed,
H. confident that in the current year, at the start of the period corresponding to MGP IV (1997-2001), it will be possible to achieve full standardization of measurement units for the vessels of all the Member States,
I. concerned at the absence of standard methods for measuring the power of vessels, which vary between Member States, where there are different rules regarding the way in which the power of the main engine, additional engines and other technical instruments having an influence on power are taken into account, which means that the existing data for the various Member States are not comparable,
J. whereas in calculating fishing effort account must be taken of productivity as an integral factor of fleet capacity,
K. regretting that some Member States are not taking the necessary measures to ensure that some segments of their fleet which are obtaining high profits from the over-exploitation of fisheries resources and repeatedly failing to meet the objectives laid down in the MGPs implement the capacity reduction required in those programmes,
L. recognizing that the coercive measures hitherto in existence to ensure compliance with the objectives of the MGPs, such as the opening of infringement proceedings or the refusal to grant aid for the renewal and modernization of the fleet, do not appear to have proved effective, in that they have not encouraged the Member State fleets to meet the objectives set,
M. repeating Parliament"s position, set out in its resolution of 25 October 1996(1) on monitoring the common fisheries policy, on the need to impose properly deterrent penalties, such as the reduction of quotas, to induce the Member States to comply effectively with CFP rules,
N. whereas, further, the suspension of aids for shipbuilding and modernization, for whatever reason, is a discriminatory act and counterproductive to the aims of vessel quality and safe working conditions, the effects of which are being felt exclusively by fishermen,
O. concerned at the conduct of some Member States, which have been negligent in supplying reliable data on the state of their fleets and show scant interest in taking suitable measures to reduce capacity in line with the objectives envisaged in the MGPs,
1. Calls on the Member States, as a matter of urgency, to undertake a measurement of the capacity of the fleet in accordance with the criteria laid down in Council Regulation (EC) No 3259/94 and Commission Decision 9⅝4/EEC, a procedure which should have been implemented in 1995, and considers that it would be commendable for the procedure to be completed in the course of the current year, at the start of MGP IV;
2. Urges the Commission to submit proposals without delay on harmonizing provisions on the power of vessels so as to ensure that the situation of all the fleets can be compared on the basis of homogeneous criteria;
3. Urges the Council to review the system of penalties in force in the event of failure to comply with the objectives of MGPs so as to provide effective sanctions, such as an automatic reduction in the quotas for a Member State found to be in breach of those objectives;
4. Calls on those Member States which have not yet achieved the objectives of MGP III, after listening to professionals engaged in the sector, to take the relevant measures to accomplish those objectives so that the efforts made to reduce capacity are balanced between all the European Union"s fishing fleets;
5. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission and Council, and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States.
The communication under review constitutes the annual report which the Commission has a legal obligation to forward to the Council and Parliament under Article 6 of Council Regulation (EC) No 3699/93 laying down the criteria and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance in the fisheries and agriculture sector and the processing and marketing of its products, the aim being to analyse Member States" compliance with national multiannual guidance programmes (MGPs) designed to reduce the fishing effort.
The present report, which is the fifth annual report, is particularly important because it is the final report corresponding to MGP III, the third programme aimed at bringing the fleet into line with the available resources, covering the period 1992-96. This annual report thus enables an overall assessment to be made of the extent to which the objectives for the whole period have been achieved, and for this reason Parliament considers it of particular interest to deliver an opinion on the report, at the beginning of the new period corresponding to MGP IV, i.e. 1997-2001.
At the beginning of the 1980s it started to become increasingly clear that the available resources were being overfished by an oversized Community fleet.
In 1983, in view of the seriousness of the situation, the Commission submitted a first guidance programme designed to reduce the fishing effort - MGP I - taking as its parameters the tonnage and power of vessels. That programme, which was introduced for the period 1983-86, was followed by MGP II, covering the period 1987-91.
As the Commission itself was forced to recognize, these two attempts to reduce the capacity of the fleet and rationalize the fishing effort fell far short of the objectives set, with capacity even increasing in some Member States where the sector benefited from generous Community incentives which had been provided for the modernization of vessels. It must be pointed out that the lack of cooperation on the part of the Member States was a key factor in the failure of the initial programmes.
MGP III covering the period 1992-96 was based on a scientific study to evaluate marine resources, the Galante report, which was especially valuable with regard to the Atlantic and North Sea. That report recommended a reduction in the fishing effort of at least 40% in order to allow resources to recover to a satisfactory level.
After a tough debate in the Council, which had to consider the social and economic consequences of such a reduction in activity, the scientific proposals were modified considerably.
The Council decision in fact set the following objectives for reducing fleet capacity: 20% for the segment targeting demersal species (fish found near the sea bed), 15% for benthic species (flat fish, crustacea) and 0% for pelagic species (fish found near the surface). The overall reduction in the fleets depends on their structure, the species targeted and the gear used, with account being taken of the achievement of the objectives set by the previous MGP.
Under this Council decision each Member State has been set a programme of objectives, which includes annual intermediate objectives, applying to the various segments of its fleet.
Those reduction targets were subject to a partial review in 1995, and should have been fully complied with by the end of 1996.
Even though the MGPs permit the reduction in fishing effort to be achieved through reductions in capacity (scrapping, transfer of vessels to third countries) and through reductions in the activity of the fleet (reduction in the number of days spent at sea, in position of close seasons, etc.), no Member State has submitted proposals for reducing fishing activity.
Reduction in fishing effort: tonnage and power
With regard to tonnage as a parameter for measuring fleet capacity, it should be pointed out that, when the current MGP came into force, the units used in the Member States to measure their fleet had not been standardized. The variety of measurement units used - some being expressed in gross registered tonnes (GRT), others in gross tonnes (GT) and others in accordance with purely national systems - means that it is questionable whether the data from the various EU Member States can be compared.
Council Regulation No 3259/94 and Commission Decision 9⅝4/EC were designed to harmonize measurements with capacity being expressed in terms of gross tonnes, with special measures being applied for vessels less than 15 metres in length and the measurement system for vessels between 15 and 24 metres in length being simplified.
Despite the goodwill of the Commission and compliance with the deadlines originally fixed, the Member States, which were to have adapted their systems in 1995, have still not succeeded in implementing the harmonized measurement system, and the only solution was therefore to postpone the system"s entry into force until the beginning of MGP IV.
A further problem involves calculating the tonnage of vessels of more than 24 metres in length, a segment for which the Member States are obliged to provide the exact gross tonnage, due to differences between the measurement systems used by various states.
It should also be pointed out that some states have failed to provide data on a significant number of vessels whose existence is recorded in the Commission"s files. This illustrates the difficulties involved in obtaining a reliable picture of the Community fleet and its capacity.
If there is a lack of harmonization as regards the tonnage of vessels, this situation becomes even more serious in the area of engine power. There are no uniform rules applicable to all countries concerning the way in which additional engines and some technical instruments which have an influence on the overall power of a vessel are taken into account, with the result that, as the Commission report recognizes, the measurement parameters are probably not comparable between the Member States.
Community register of vessels
The multiannual guidance programmes are monitored using the Community fishing vessel register, which records all the physical characteristics of marine fishing vessels according to the data gathered and forwarded by the Member States. The register is fully computerized and operates on the basis of weekly declarations concerning new constructions, withdrawals, modifications or changes in activity.
The problem which arises is the fact that some data on the fleet are not supplied by the Member States, which means the register is incomplete, or the data provided do not conform to the system used in the register, for example as regards the segments covered, which gives rise to discrepancies as regards achievement of the objectives of the MGPs.
Overall assessment of MGP III
Progress has been made over the period 1992-96 as regards adapting the fleet to the level of resources available, with tonnage being cut by approximately 300 000 GRT and power being reduced by around 790 000 kW, which represents a reduction of 15% and 9.25% respectively. The results for each country are shown in the following table:
% global situation/global objectives
Number of segments in which the objectives were achieved/Total number of segments
* based on data supplied by Italy
As can be seen, the overall achievement of the objectives set has not been homogeneous, and the performance of countries such as Denmark and, in particular, Spain and Portugal, which have reduced fleet capacity and power far beyond the segment objectives laid down in their national programmes, has compensated for the scant progress or even in some cases the increase in capacity in other states.
Gross tonnage (GT) calculations are available for 99% of the Belgian fleet. Belgium has not provided any data on fishing effort.
The objectives set for the demersal trawler segment are far from being achieved, with tonnage 44% and power 8% above the 1996 objective.
The GT calculations cover only 54% of the fleet. There are 30 vessels which have not yet been allocated to any particular segment, and power and tonnage have been declared for only one of them, with clarification being expected from the Danish authorities. Denmark has provided data on fishing effort for each year.
Even though there are some discrepancies with regard to the information supplied by the authorities and arrangements for registering vessels, which means that measurements have been made in a mixture of GT and GRT units, the overall objectives have been fully achieved. The objectives are to be adjusted in order to harmonize the two measurement systems.
GT measures are available for the whole of the fleet, and fishing effort data have also been provided for the entire period covered by MGP III. It should be pointed out that there are currently 18 vessels which have not been allocated to any segment.
Germany has met the objectives set, comfortably in the case of pelagic trawlers (cutters) and freezer vessels and wet fish trawlers, with some improvement being required only regarding the beam trawler (crustacean) segment, where there has been some increase in capacity over the period under review, resulting in a 10% excess of tonnage over the objective for 1996.
GT values are available for only 19% of the fleet, 154 vessels have not been allocated to any particular segment and no tonnage has been notified for 462 vessels. With regard to fishing effort, the data forwarded correspond to the years 1991-94 and the last quarter of 1995.
Greece has met the overall objectives of MGP III with the exception of the bottom trawler segment, where there is a 9% excess in tonnage and 16% excess in power.
The Spanish fleet is measured in GT, except for 71 vessels of which four are over 24 metres in length. Fishing effort data have been provided for each year of the programme. Spain is well within its objectives for all segments of the fleet.
GT measures are available for only 85 vessels, which represent 2% of the fleet. No data have been declared for fishing effort or for vessels from the French Overseas Departments.
France has not met its global objectives in terms of power, nor its tonnage objectives in the polyvalent, static gears + canners and polyvalent (trawlers) segments.
The data for 1996 are considered to be correct, but the Commission considers the data for previous years to be less reliable, since capacity measurement was based on vessel activity and was sometimes partitioned between various segments, which means that the data in the register need to be improved to make it reliable. GT measurements have been provided for around 89% of the fleet.
Ireland has supplied fishing effort data for each of the years covered by MGP III. The global reduction objectives have been achieved, but a slight excess in tonnage and power means that the polyvalent segment remains outside the targets.
As we have already mentioned, some adjustments need to be made to the register to harmonize the measurement systems hitherto used with the vessel registration system. It is hoped that this process will have been completed by the start of MGP IV.
According to the Commission report, the data available on the Italian fleet do not correspond to the vessel registration system as the definition of segments is not comparable, and the data are also fragmentary, since no new data have been forwarded since August 1995.
GT measurements are available for 92% of the total fleet but for only 38% of vessels more than 24 metres in length. Fishing effort data have been supplied up to 1994.
The data provided by the Italian authorities do not make it possible to verify whether the global objectives have been met. On the basis of indirect sources, the Commission considers it likely that the objectives for both tonnage and power have not been achieved.
GT measurements are available for only 57% of the Dutch fleet, although this includes 78% of vessels more than 24 metres in length. The Dutch definitions of time at sea do not correspond to those laid down in the MGP, which means that it is not possible to assess fishing effort.
The Netherlands has not met the overall objectives of the MGP for any segment of the fleet. In the case of the pelagic trawler and cutter fleet, with the exception of molluscs and crustacea, the tonnage set at the end of the MGP has been exceeded by 50%.
GT measurements are available for 99% of the Portuguese fleet, including all vessels over 24 metres in length. Information has been provided on the corresponding fishing effort for each year of the programme. Portugal is comfortably within all the objectives set for MGP III.
In 1996 the system of data gathered by the national administration and that used for the Community register of vessels were coordinated. GT measurements are available for 90% of the British fleet, but for only 50% of vessels over 24 metres in length. The data provided do not include vessels from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Corresponding data on fishing effort are available for each year of the period covered by MGP III.
The United Kingdom has not achieved the objectives set either for tonnage or power for six of the ten segments of its fleet. It appears that fishing effort has increased over this period.
GT measurements are available for 90% of the Finnish fleet, and the data in the register of vessels are up to date and complete except for the trawler (Baltic herring) segment. No data are available on fishing effort. The global objectives of the MGP have been achieved for all segments with the exception of drift netters/longliners from the Aaland islands, where there is a 2% excess in power (100 kW).
GT figures are available for 93% of the fleet. As in the case of Finland, no data are available on fishing effort and the situation at 1 January 1995 has been used as the baseline for calculating the objectives for 31 December 1996, the end of MGP III.
Given that the situation at 1 January 1995 has been used to define the objectives for the end of the programme, the interpretation of the results to ascertain whether the objectives have been met has proved complicated. According to the information available, Sweden can be considered to have achieved the objectives on both tonnage and power in all the segments.
The information gathered in the Commission communication shows that technical difficulties have been experienced in virtually all the Member States in meeting
the deadlines set for harmonizing the units used to measure the tonnage of vessels. It is to be hoped that these technical problems will have been resolved in the first year of MGP IV.
The situation is more worrying as regards power, since each Member State has a different calculation system, with a range of different criteria for taking account of additional engines and fishing instruments which affect engine power. The Commission should submit proposals as a matter of urgency to facilitate the standardization of criteria on the calculation of engine power, since only such standardization will make it possible to carry out comparative analyses in the various states and evaluate compliance with the objectives set.
Still more serious is the impression gained from the Commission report that some member state administrations are reluctant to forward reliable data on the state of their fleets to the Commission and appear to show little interest in adopting suitable measures to reduce capacity in line with the objectives set in the MGP"s, with the result that failures to achieve the objectives of previous programmes are successively postponed to the next programmes.
Given this situation, the effectiveness of the arrangement whereby previous delays in meeting objectives are always taken into account in later programmes is highly doubtful. With regard to MGP IV, of what use can it be for states failing to meet their objectives to be penalized in proportion to the percentage by which they have remained outside the objectives if there are no effective sanctions forcing them to take the necessary measures to reduce capacity?
It is a cause for concern that the objectives set in the multiannual guidance programmes - which, let it be recalled, are indispensable measures to guarantee the conservation of resources at sufficient levels to prevent fish stocks from collapsing - are in fact left to the goodwill of the Member States
The instrments available to the Commission to encourage compliance with the objectives, such as the possibility of opening infringment proceedings, whose outcome - once infringment has been established - does not provide for any sanctions which would genuinely act as a deterrent to non-compliance, are questionable in their effectiveness and do not provide an incentive for Member States to take appropriate steps to ensure that their fleet reduces fishing effort to the limits established in the programme.
Similarly, the ban on the granting of structural fund subsidies for the renewal and modernization of the fleet has proved inadequate. Even though these funds are desirable, they are not indispensable for shipowners in some high-yield segments of the fleet who receive a much higher profit from over- exploiting fishing resources than they could expect from FIFG aid.
The continuance of the present situation, which is characterized by an attitude of "laissez faire, laissez passer" on the part of some Member States, without the necessary measures being taken to ensure that the Member States concerned oblige their fisheries sectors to comply strictly with the programme"s objectives, is leading those states which do comply to question whether they should continue to meet the objectives and implement a policy of reducing fleet capacity, which entails an economic and social cost for their fisheries sector, if other Member States do not do their share.
Given this situation, and given that the balanced restructuring of national fleets is vital in order to ensure resource conservation and the future of a profitable and competitive Community fishing industry, it is vital that the Council and, consequently, the Member States should shoulder their responsibilities and make provision for genuinely effective sanctions in the event that the objectives set in the multiannual programmes are not met; objectives which, it might be pointed out, are actually very modest, since the cuts recommended by scientific opinion have to be balanced with the factors which shape the social and economic situation in regions highly dependent on fishing activity.
Among these measures, it would be appropriate in the current situation to look into the possibility of establishing quasi-automatic reductions in Member State quotas in the event that the objectives fixed in the MGPs are not achieved.
In conclusion, your rapporteur congratulates the Commission on the quality of the annual report to the Council and to the European Parliament on the results of the multiannual guidance programmes for the fishing fleets at the end of 1996 and on the efforts made over the past years to harmonize and perfect the units of tonnage measurement and data recorded in the Community register of vessels, and urges that institution to submit proposals aimed at harmonizing the units used for measuring power.
Your rapporteur regrets the attitude of some Member States whose obstructionist behaviour or clear failure to comply with the objectives are endangering the implementation of measures which are unpopular and costly but absolutely vital in order to guarantee the future of a profitable economic sector, and which must have a balanced impact on all the Member States if they are to be accepted by the Community fishing industry.
Your rapporteur would urge the Council to shoulder its responsibilities and adopt a system of penalties comprising effective measures such as a reduction in annual quotas in the event of deliberate failure to meet the objectives set.