Economic Impact Assessment and Alternative Options Appraisal of European Commission Proposals for Specific Conditions to Fishing for Deep Sea Fish Stocks

Lucy Towers
06 October 2014, at 1:00am

The European Commission has published proposals for a regulation of the EuropeanParliament and the Council establishing specific conditions relating to fishing for deep-sea stocks in the North-East Atlantic and provisions for fishing in international waters of the North-East Atlantic and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2347/2002.

The key aspects of the EC proposal is the introduction of permits or ‘authorisations’ so as to restrict the number of vessels allowed to catch deep sea species, and the prohibition of bottom trawling and fishing by bottom set gillnets on deep sea stocks two years after the new Regulation enters into force.

Several species (including ling, tusk and conger eel) that are found in the catch composition of many UK vessels, some of which fish in shallow waters, are listed as deep sea species in the Commission proposal.

We have conducted an economic impact assessment and an assessment of alternative options to inform the on-going debate to develop the EC proposal, and to assist the UK fishing industry and Government in making best decisions on how to manage deep sea fish stocks in the interests of the UK.

Results (rounded off to the nearest 5) indicate that enforcing the EC proposal as originally drafted results in a number of implications for the UK fleet including:

  • Under the proposal, a significant number of UK vessels would be adversely affected. Because of the proposed changes to the list of species defined as being ‘deep sea’ species, and new definition for what constitutes a vessel targeting deep sea species, a total of around 695 UK fishing vessels would need an authorisation or permit to fish for deep sea species, but would be unable to get one because it would exceed the capacity limit.

  • The EIA of these changes from the status quo reveals that in the short term, landings would decrease by around 6,540 tonnes (4,985 tonnes from the Scottish fleet), reducing gross value added by around £3.3 million. To illustrate the scale of this impact, these 695 vessels would generate lower revenues which in turn would likely reduce crew wages. On average this could mean a wage reduction of around 13% or £3,458 per crew member, with average annual wages decreasing from £27,399 to £23,941. Alternatively, if average earnings per crew member were to be maintained, around 160 crew members would need to exit the fleet.

  • The reductions in UK fleet landings, employment and gross value added due to the implementation of the EC proposal would also directly affect onshore jobs and Project Seafish Page 2 income especially at the landing ports where a large proportion of the catch of deep sea species is landed such as Kinlochbervie, Peterhead and Lerwick.

  • If catches of ling and conger eel are excluded from the proposed species list however, the number of vessels meeting the restriction criteria is similar to those meeting the restriction criteria under the existing regulation. Under this scenario, 85 UK vessels would be affected in the short term, leading to a reduction of about 1,530 tonnes of landings and a decrease in gross value added of around £0.5 million. Assuming average earnings per crew member were to be maintained; around 26 crew members would need to exit the fleet.

  • Another aspect of the Commission proposals was to ban bottom trawling and bottom set gillnets. The economic impact assessment of the gear ban only (without permit limitation) revealed that around 585 (180 from Scottish fleet) vessels from the UK fleet would be affected. In the short term, there would be a reduction of 4,837 tonnes or 10% of total landings; affecting 277 crew jobs and reducing gross value added by £3.4 million. On average this would mean a wage reduction for each crew of £2,829 with average annual wages falling from £27,930 to £25,101.

The alternative options assessment provides mitigation measures to offset the impacts of the EC proposal whilst at the same time providing more effective protection of deep sea Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs). The main results indicate that:

  • At depths of 400 metres and greater there is a significant increase in the proportion of deep sea species caught per trawl. Such a depth limit when applied to the North East Atlantic region could be used to define when a fishery is potentially targeting deep sea species. This would essentially define a spatial limit where the proposal may be applied and enforced.

  • Setting a 400 metre depth rule for fishing for deep sea species would be very similar to amending the regulation by excluding ling and conger eel from the list of deep sea species. This is because the majority of catches of these two species are at depths of less than 400 m.

  • From an economic perspective, setting a depth rule at 400 metres would result in 40 UK vessels being affected by the EC proposal (i.e. this number of vessels would fall out-with the capacity limit based on the available 2011 catch and landing statistics) and thereby reducing landings by about 380 tonnes per year. This would lead to a reduction in gross value added by around £0.3 million. Assuming average earnings per crew member were to be maintained; around 9 crew members would need to exit the fleet. Project Seafish Page 3

  • Designating ‘core’ areas for deep sea fishing (corresponding to 90% of the fishing effort) at depths >400 metres minimises the risk of further impacts of bottom fishing on deep sea VMEs, whilst at the same time maintaining access to deep sea stocks.

  • Under the proposed depth and ‘core’ fishing area approach, the impact of the EC proposal would essentially be zero, that is, on average no vessels (using the status quo capacity baseline) would be impacted by the proposal as a result of applying these two mitigation criteria.

In summary, the key impacts of the EC proposal are:

We have based our analyses on the original EC text provided in the EC COM (2012) 371 Final. However, we understand that several discussions / meetings have been held since this study was first commissioned to refine the EC proposal (above) to minimise its impact on fishing vessels not targeting deep sea species.

For example, the European Parliament’s1st reading plenary vote on 10 December 2013 on this proposal included the removal of ling,conger eel and tusk from the species list. Whilst we included a scenario which excludes ling and conger eel in anticipation of such a proposal amendment, we did not extend this to tusk as this was not known at the time of our analysis. However, the analysis suggests that the inclusion of tusk in this analysis is not likely to significantly alter the results.

October 2014

Further Reading

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