Report - A4-0142/1998Report

REPORT on the proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) specifying conditions under which herring may be landed for industrial purposes other than direct human consumption (COM(97)0694 - C4-0041/98 - 97/0353 (CNS))

23 April 1998

Committee on Fisheries
Rapporteur: Mrs Brigitte Langenhagen

By letter of 26 January 1998 the Council consulted Parliament, pursuant to Article 43 of the EC Treaty, on the proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) specifying conditions under which herring may be landed for industrial purposes other than direct human consumption.

At the sitting of 29 January 1998 the President of Parliament announced that he had referred this proposal to the Committee on Fisheries as the committee responsible.

At its meeting of 21 January 1998 the Committee on Fisheries had appointed Mrs Langenhagen rapporteur.

It considered the Commission proposal and the draft report at its meetings of 26 February, 19 March and 14 April 1998.

At the last meeting it adopted the draft legislative resolution by 13 votes with 1 abstention.

The following took part in the vote: Mrs Fraga Estévez, chairman; Mr Kindermann, Mr Macartney, vice-chairmen; Mrs Langenhagen (rapporteur); Mr d'Aboville, Mr Adam, Mr Chichester (for Mr Provan), Mr Girão Pereira (for Mr Gallagher), Mr Görlach (for Mr Baldarelli), Mr Kofoed, Mr McMahon (for Mr Crampton), Mr Sonneveld (for Mr Cunha), Mr Teverson and Mr Varela Suanzes-Carpegna.

The report was tabled on 23 April 1998.

The deadline for tabling amendments will be indicated in the draft agenda for the relevant part-session.


Proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) specifying conditions under which herring may be landed for industrial purposes other than direct human consumption (COM(97)0694 - C4-0041/98 - 97/0353 (CNS))

The proposal is approved with the following amendments:

Text by the Commission[1]

Amendments by Parliament

(Amendment 1)

Article 2.2 (i)

(I) any herring caught within ICES Division IIId except Sub-Division 24 thereof or

(i) any herring caught within ICES Division IIId except to the west of 16Ί00E, provided that the aggregate by-catch of cod, plaice and sole does not exceed 2% by weight of the total combined weight of the herring and other species retained on board or

(Amendment 2)

Article 2.2 (ii)

(ii) any herring caught within ICES Division IIIb,c or Sub-division 24 of ICES Division IIId provided that the herring are landed unsorted with sprats and/or other species or

(ii) any herring caught within ICES Division IIIb,c or Sub-division 24 of ICES Division IIId provided that the herring are landed unsorted with sprats and/or other species and the herring do not comprise more than 20% of such landings or

(Amendment 3)

Article 4

This Regulation shall enter into force on the seventh day after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

This Regulation shall enter into force on the seventh day after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

It shall apply from 1 January 1998.

It shall apply from 1 January 1999.

Before 1 January 2003, Council will decide, on a proposal from the Commission and after prior consultation of the European Parliament, on modifications to this Regulation.

This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable to all Member States.

This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable to all Member States.

Legislative resolution embodying Parliament's opinion on the proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) specifying conditions under which herring may be landed for industrial purposes other than direct human consumption (COM(97)0694 - C4-0041/98 - 97/0353 (CNS))

(Consultation procedure)

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the Commission proposal to the Council COM(97)0694 - 97/0353(CNS)[2],

- having been consulted by the Council pursuant to Article 43 of the EC Treaty (C4-0041/98),

- having regard to Rule 58 of its Rules of Procedure,

- having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries (A40142/98),

1. Approves the Commission proposal, subject to Parliament's amendments;

2. Calls on the Council to notify Parliament should it intend to depart from the text approved by Parliament;

3. Asks to be consulted again should the Council intend to make substantial modifications to the Commission proposal;

4. Instructs its President to forward this opinion to the Council and Commission.

  • [1] () OJ C 25, 24.1.1998, p. 19
  • [2] () OJ C 25, 24.1.1998, p. 19


1. Introduction

Fishing for industrial purposes other than direct human consumption, generally referred to as "industrial fishing", involves the fishing of catches principally intended for industrial processing into fish meal and fish oil. It represents, at around 30 million tonnes, 30% of world catches and at 3 - 4 billion $US, some 10% of value. Worldwide, the countries most involved in this type of fishing are Chile and Peru which together account for 50% of global catches. The most significant EU producer is Denmark, which takes about 6% of the world catch.

The process of industrial fishing is relatively simple. Target species are typically small fish of species for which there is little or no direct market and which are taken on board using appropriately small-meshed nets. Unlike catches of fish for human consumption where the priority is for the fish to reach market in prime condition, fish for industrial processing are taken untreated to the fish-meal factory, often as they have already begun to decompose.

In the processing factory the fish are subjected to a reduction process, which consists mainly of boiling and separation. Depending on the species included in the catch and the season, about 20 kg of fish-meal and 2-10 kg of oil can be produced from 100 kg of fish.

Globally, 55% of fish-meal production is used as a food supplement for poultry, cattle, 20% for pigs and fur animals and 17% is used in aquaculture. With regard to fish oil, 70% is used in human food, while 25% is used in aquaculture. The percentage utilisation in aquaculture is increasing for both products, as the share of this type of activity increases in world fish production.

There has long been a perceived conflict between "table" fishing and fishing for industrial purposes with the inherent assumption that fishing for human consumption must always take priority. The problem has been fuelled in particular by the necessary use of small-meshed nets for industrial fishing which has led traditionally to significant problems of by-catches of sea birds, marine mammals and valuable table fish. However, the impact on the ecosystem has not always been clear-cut and given the interaction of various species, there may indeed be instances where a certain amount of industrial fishing may indeed be beneficial to the marine environment.

It is against this background therefore, that the current Commission proposal must be assessed.

2. Substance of the Commission Proposal

Under Regulation (EEC) No 2115/77[1] the direct fishing for herring for industrial purposes other than human consumption was prohibited within all the maritime waters under the sovereignty of the then Member States. In addition, all landings in the Community of industrially fished herring were also prohibited, no matter what their origin.

The reason for this regulation was the general collapse of Community herring stocks at the time, to the extent that the Atlantic herring spawning stock had become so small that normal reproduction was no longer possible. This resulted in serious supply problems for the EC fish processing and distribution industries (for human consumption), which this regulation sought to address.

However, according to the terms of accession of Finland and Sweden to the Union, an exemption was granted whereby they were allowed to continue the fishing of herring in the Baltic for use as animal fodder for three years until the end of 1997. Without further legislation this practice would thus have to be discontinued.

The present proposal, which takes account of the healthy state of Baltic herring, aims to replace Regulation 2115/77 by new rules which would allow for industrial fishing for herring in the Baltic, but would maintain the ban elsewhere. The main change, therefore, which this proposal would bring about compared with the current situation is the opening up of the possibility of landings of herring for industrial purposes by Denmark and Germany, the two other Member States with quotas in the region.

3. Assessment

The Commission proposal can in essence be divided into two parts; allowing the continuation of fishing for industrial purposes in the Baltic and the maintenance of the prohibition elsewhere.

3.1 With regard to the latter, the position seems clear. Despite the extreme measures taken in 1996 and continued in 1997, the situation of herring stocks in the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat still gives rise to serious concern. These stocks are already subject to high rates of exploitation from fisheries for human consumption and should not be burdened by the addition of industrial fisheries.

The Commission proposal indeed provides useful legal clarification in this regard. Prior to the emergency measures introduced mid-season in 1996, it has been estimated that the by-catch of herring taken in the North Sea industrial sprat fishery was of the order of 100,000t.

Bearing in mind that by the time much of the fish for industrial reduction is landed at the processing factory, it is already in a decomposed state and therefore in any case unsuitable for sale for human consumption, the prohibition on landings of herring contained in Regulation 2115/77 is difficult to enforce. Moreover, the prohibition on direct fishing of herring for industrial ends is equally unenforceable, in that it is impossible to prove the true intentions of a sprat fisherman taking on board a sizeable by-catch of herring.

The concepts of percentage by-catch allowed to be "retained on board" and "landings" are much more readily open to inspection and control and while already legally binding on fishermen under other regulations[2], the specific reference to percentage limits in this proposal, serves nevertheless as a welcome reminder to industrial fishermen of their obligations.

3.2 The second part of the Commission proposal concerns the maintenance of the possibilities for industrial fishing of herring in the Baltic for Finland and Sweden and its extension to other Member States concerned.

Firstly, it should be pointed out that the type of herring involved, the "Baltic Herring", is compared to normal herring a small, slowgrowing and low-fat fish. Indeed, the further north the fish are observed, the smaller and older is the age structure of the stock and the less interest that they present for human consumption.

Thus, for example in the case of Finland, for which nearly the whole catch comes from the northern Baltic (Sub Divisions 29 to 32), 80% is used as fodder for fur providing animals, mainly minks and foxes.

With regard to the state of these stocks, there does not appear to be any contradictory evidence to the Commission's assertion that they are currently not threatened and that restrictions on the industrial purpose for which landings are made is not required. Moreover, there is reason to suggest that this fishing activity in present circumstances has several positive implications on the marine environment in terms of reducing the number of discards and by contributing to cod reproduction through a by-catch of sprat (which would otherwise feed on cod eggs).

In this context, it is worth noting that in 1997, the rate of utilisation of the EU TAC for Baltic herring was only 50%. However, there were wide variations between Member States. While Denmark used over 80% of its quota (for human consumption), Germany used only 13%. Sweden used only 20% of its quota in the northern area of the Baltic. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the overall TAC set for the Baltic, which runs counter to ICES advice, is too high. While this is currently not a problem given current catch rates, any increases in fishing effort must be carefully monitored.

Absolute care must be taken, therefore, to ensure that any benefits accruing from increased uptake of quota are not outweighed by threats to the cod stocks by creating the possibilities of significant bycatches of young cod. For this reason, the Commission has proposed, under Article 2.2 (i) that landings of herring for purposes other than human consumption should not be permitted in Sub Division 24 which is a nursery ground for juvenile cod.

Yet, under Article 2.2 (ii), it is permitted to land any herring for purposes other than human consumption in Sub Division 24 (and ICES Divisions IIIb and c), provided that the herring are landed unsorted with sprats and/or other species. This is clearly contradictory in relation to Article 2.2 (i) and provides no protection for Sub Division 24 whatsoever. Under this it would, in theory, be possible to present an "unsorted" catch of 1 sprat and 1 million herring.

It will therefore be necessary to firmly close this loophole so as to ensure that industrial fishing is not allowed in Sub Division 24. Moreover, there appears to be strong evidence that parts of Sub Division 25 are also abundant with young cod. It would thus seem sensible to additionally include those areas of Sub Division 25 to the west of 16Ί00E in the protection offered to Sub Division 24.

More generally, given the many variables and uncertain quantities involved in assessing the state of fish resources and the fact that the Baltic appears to present particular problems in this regard, it would seem wise to be cautious and at least to foresee the possibility that scientific advice may change in the future. While industrial fishing in the Baltic may pose no threat at present in the areas proposed this situation could alter. At the same time it is reasonable to attempt to provide a degree of certainty for fishermen. For this reason, your rapporteur would propose that the provisions of this regulation be reviewed after three years, in the light of scientific advice and Parliament reconsulted if modifications are thought to be necessary.

Finally, although the derogation for Finland and Sweden referred to above came to an end on 31 December 1997, transitional temporary arrangements to cover the herring industrial fishing activities of these two Member States in the Baltic for 1998 were introduced into the 1998 TAC and Quota Regulation. The new Council Regulation should thus apply from 1 January 1999 and not 1 January 1998 as the Commission originally proposed.


The aim of the current Commission proposal is clearly to find a nondiscriminatory way in which the existing arrangements for the industrial fishing of Baltic herring by Finland and Sweden, granted by the Act of Accession, may be allowed to continue. Given the available scientific evidence on the abundance of stocks, the limited problems related to by-catch and the importance of this fishery to sparsely populated coastal regions, this does not seem unreasonable.

The Commission has quite correctly proposed the maintenance of the ban on industrial fisheries for herring in regions outside the Baltic.

However, in providing for the possibility of increased uptake of the Baltic herring quota by other Member States, it is augmenting the risks to the herring stock and to other species. In this respect, the proposal pays insufficient attention to the need for an on-going appraisal of the situation and for the adequate protection of juvenile cod. This must be rectified.

Finally, the priority of the fisheries sector must be to provide products for human consumption. It would therefore, ideally be preferable, in the longer term, to explore and encourage means by which greater exploitation of the Baltic herring resource could be targeted towards human consumption, rather than at industrial fishing.

  • [1] () OJ L 247, 28.9.77, p.2
  • [2] () Annual TAC and Quota Regulation