§ Order for Committee read.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Short title).
§ DR. WEBSTER
did not know whether the Amendment he had given Notice of could properly be inserted in this part of the Bill; but he had understood from the authorities he consulted that it should be taken before the 1st Clause was passed, otherwise he might be prevented from proposing it in a subsequent part of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 5, after the words "sea fisheries," to insert the words "fishing banks and."—(Dr. Webster.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I think the Amendment of my hon. Friend is one of a series of Amendments which, if carried, would have the effect of very largely extending the scope of the Bill, to which, I am sorry to say, I am entirely unable to agree. Before dealing with the Amendment of my hon. Friend, I must trouble the Committee with one or two general observations. The fact is, this Amendment arises out of a contest between two classes of fisheries—between the hook and line and the drift net fishery, as it is called, on the one hand, and the trawlers on the other. Trawl fishing is the more modern of the two kinds of fishing. I believe that, in some form or other, it has been practised for 80 or 90 years; but it has received considerable development within the last 30 or 40 years. It is by far the most successful method of fishing, and it may be said to be a mechanical method. The largest amount of fish brought into the market, which forms a considerable item of the food of the country, is procured by trawling, and, not unnaturally, the other fishery, finding its business considerably injured by this successful competition, readily believes all the accusations that are brought against it. The general question for the House in reference to this matter would be whe- 1008 ther they ought by legislation to protect one class of tradesmen against another, and especially whether they ought to protect the most successful and most scientific class of tradesmen against the less successful and scientific. It is something like calling on the House to interfere by legislation to protect the hand loom weaver against the spinning jenny, or protect the omnibus against the tramcar. The only ground for interference would be, that the trawlers, in the exercise of their trade, either intentionally or unnecessarily damage the business of the hook and line or drift net fishery. As to this matter, there have been several thorough investigations. There was a Commission appointed some time ago, which consisted, I think, of Mr. Maxwell, Professor Huxley, and you, Sir, the present Chairman of Committees (Mr. Lyon Playfair). Later, in 1866, a Royal Commission was appointed, on which the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) and Professor Huxley sat. There was also a Sea Fisheries Commission appointed in 1878, which consisted of Mr. Buckland and Mr. Walpole, to deal with the same subject. I must trouble the Committee with some extracts from the Reports of the Commissioners. I find that, in the Report of the Commission of 1866, which was signed by Professor Huxley and the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works, these Gentlemen said—1. That fishing by the use of the beam-trawl is the source of by far the greatest and most progressive supply of fish, other than herring, to the principal markets of this country; that certain descriptions of fish, such as soles and plaice, could not be largely supplied by any other mode of fishing; that it engages the largest capital, employs the most numerous body of hardy fishermen, is the least under the control of the weather, and obtains the greatest returns of fish for the labour and capital employed.Now, it seems to me that clearly it would not be right for Parliament to interfere to put down one form of enter-prize because it interferes with another and less important form of trade. I am informed by Professor Huxley and others who have given great attention to the subject that if anything were done to interfere with the trawling enterprize the effect on the great markets would be something extraordinary. The supply of flat fish, soles and plaice, now 1009 so largely consumed by the working classes, would be at once enormously reduced. On the same subject, the Commission I have already quoted has said—The prohibition of one method of fishing on account of its interference with another could only be justified on the ground that the latter method yielded a far more valuable supply of fish to the community than the former, which is not shown to be the case in any of the complaints which have come before us.And then, in regard to the various allegations made as to the damage done by trawlers to other fishing, the Report goes on to say—It has not been proved to our satisfaction that to prohibit, even partially, any of the modes of fishing complained of would result in a greater take of fish of all sorts in other ways. We are, therefore, of opinion that even granting a certain loss to drift, line, trammel, and other fishermen, it would not be advisable to make such prohibitions, even for certain times or in certain limited places.Well, in the same Report there are, further, very strong conclusions with regard to the evidence—the want of conclusive evidence of any damage really done by the trawlers to the other kinds of fishing. I should say, however, that the complaints of the other fishermen are of three or four kinds. They complain, in the first place, that the trawlers injure their nets and gear—that they cut and damage them deliberately whilst pursuing their own employment. That is a complaint made with equal force by the trawlers against their competitors, and it is really a matter of police, having been dealt with by the Sea Fisheries Act 1878, which imposes a heavy penalty and declares that no trawlers are entitled to come within three miles of drift-net fishermen when at work; and the trawlers complain, and, I believe, with great reason—and we are taking steps to put an end to the ground for the complaint—that the drift-net fishermen, when working, do not use proper lights, and the trawlers really do not know where they are. The second complaint is that these trawls injure the spawn of fish. It is alleged that the trawl—which, I should explain to the Committee, most of whom are probably not acquainted with them, is a net attached to a beam and dragged along the bottom of the sea—is carried over beds where there is herring spawn, that it takes up the 1010 spawn and destroys it, preventing it from being subsequently vivified. The evidence as to that is of the most complete character. In the first place, experiments have been made which conclusively prove that the spawn, after having been removed in this way—after having been taken away—if returned to the water is not injured, but is still capable of being vivified. It is clear that the trawlers, when they accidentally take up spawn in their nets, make a practice of returning it again to the sea. In the second place, it is proved that in the places in which the trawlers work, and are alleged to destroy the spawn, the drift-net fishermen also work and take the herrings whilst they are spawning; so that, in fact, these persons actually desire legislation to protect the spawn, whilst they themselves are engaged in destroying the spawning fish. But there is a still more conclusive argument than either of those I have used, and it is rather an interesting illustration of the danger of unnecessary legislation on these subjects. The great case which is made out for interference is in connection with the Pittenweem beds, off the coast of Scotland. In this place, which is three or four miles in extent, the herrings have been accustomed to spawn, and it is proved that at the spawning time there is an enormous accumulation there of white fish of all kinds. These white fish come and eat the spawn, and before the Commission, upon which Professor Huxley sat, the fishermen gave evidence that they had removed as much as two or three handfulls of spawn from the stomach of a single turbot. The fishermen, therefore, who go to these beds to catch the turbot are really catching the animals which interfere a great deal more with the spawn than any human being possibly can do. Proof was given that one cod fish would consume in the course of a single year 420 herrings, and that the total catch of cod fish off the coast of Scotland prevented the destruction of a number of herrings equal to the total catch of herrings caught by the whole of the fishermen in Scotland, and 6,000 to boot. The effect of our interfering with the trawlers would be to give full play to the flat fish, the cod fish, and ling, which are more destructive to the spawn of herrings than any trawl can be. Another contention has been that the trawls 1011 can injure the white fish, and caught immature fish. This question, however, is simply one as to the size of the mesh, and legislation has been put into force that has prevented any but large fish being caught. It is contended by the drift-net fishermen that the spawn of white fish has been destroyed by the trawl; but it has been recently proved that the spawn of the white fish does not, as the fishermen suppose, go to the bottom of the sea, but floats on the surface, consequently the operations of the trawl are innocuous as to the spawn of the white fish. Lastly, it was contended by these same men that in certain cases the trawl injured the clam beds, the clams being a description of bait they use together with cockles, mussels, and some other bivalves. Evidence was given before Mr. Buckland and Mr. Walpole that, in some cases, this damage was wilfully done; and it seemed to the Government that this was a case in which the interference of the Legislature was necessary—that though we should not do anything to prevent legitimate enterprize, we should take the necessary steps to prevent anything like unnecessary damage. The Bill is directed to that one point alone, and I cannot say I see that any case has been made out for any extended interference. The only ground at all I can find for such a thing is in the recent Report of Mr. Buckland and Mr. Walpole, and in that the recommendation appears to be inconclusive. They say, on the one hand, that they have not been able to discover that anything which has yet been done by man has in any way interfered with the supply of herrings in the sea; they say that legislation hitherto has not had the slightest effect in increasing the supply of herrings; they say that it is not proved to their satisfaction that trawling has interfered with the supply of herrings or damaged the spawn; and then they go on to say that notwithstanding all that, inasmuch as it may be possible that some cases may arise, they think it desirable that the Government should take power to prohibit them. For my part, I think it would be much better for the Department to wait until some case has been made out for their interference before they meddle in the matter. Applications would come from all parts of the Kingdom from hook and line, 1012 or drift-net fishermen, for protection against the trawlers, which the Department would be placed in the invidious position of having to refuse, and great dissatisfaction would be the result. We have now the Amendment of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Webster) before us; but there are several others, and I must, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, oppose them.
§ DR. WEBSTER
thought if his right hon. Friend had been good enough to wait until he saw what the case for the Amendment was, he would have been spared a considerable part of his argument he (Dr. Webster) was going to touch upon hardly any of those questions which the right hon. Gentleman supposed he was going to bring before the Committee. He wished it distinctly to be understood that he did not come there as an advocate of one class of fishermen more than another, and he did not wish to say or advocate anything with regard to spawn. He did not pretend in the least to come forward to contest any question on behalf of the hook and line fishers, commonly called "white fishers," as against the trawlers. He came here acknowledging the principle of the Bill to be a right one; and, having full confidence in the Board of Trade, he wished to extend the advantages of the Bill by giving the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) power in a wider direction than he himself claimed. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in one thing, and that was, that the great authority on this subject was to be found in the three Royal Commissions which had reported as to the effect of trawling in the seas surrounding our shores. He wished to say—and he should be as brief as possible—that of the three Commissions, the first into which it was desirable to enter, was the one composed of Professor Huxley, Mr. Caird, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works. That Commission reported in 1866. Its province extended not merely to in-shore fishing, to which the Bill applied—to fishing within our own territorial waters—but it extended to deep-sea fishing. The scope of the Inquiry was to consider the effect then, and in the future, of trawl-fishing on the supply of fish, and its effect upon other kinds of fishing. The right hon. Gentle- 1013 man the President of the Board of Trade had not pointed this out—that there was a great and deep distinction drawn in Professor Huxley's Report between deep-sea fishing and in-shore fishing. With regard to deep-sea fishing, it was quite true that the Commission reported that, in their opinion, no substantial case of injury to fishing existed from the operation of trawling; but as to in-shore fishing the case was different. The Commission of 1866 reported that, with regard to the trawl fishing in territorial waters, great complaints had been made of the injury caused to these fishings by trawlers. As to the whole question of the destruction of fish, he would wish the Committee to observe what that Commission—the most important and influential that had ever sat—said on the subject. They reported that the evidence satisfied them that great injury and great destruction had been caused to fishing by the operation of trawling. They granted that injury was done to immature and young fish, but did not consider that the destruction which was occasioned was a "wasteful" one, because the loss occasioned by trawling bore no proportion to the loss through natural causes. The Commission reported, not that destruction had not been done to immature fish, even in deep waters, but that the destruction was not a wasteful one. Why was it not a wasteful destruction? Because, in their opinion, the ratio of injury done to immature fish by trawling bore no proportion to the loss and injury to immature fish by natural enemies. He wished to put this fairly, and would therefore repeat the view of the Commission in their very words. They said—We think that there is no evidence that the use of the trawl net or beam trawl, or any other mode of fishing, involves the wasteful destruction of fish or spawn.He would ask the Committee to observe, in the whole of the Reports of these Commissions, this word "wasteful;" and they would, he thought, come to the conclusion that the whole thing was a mere dispute about words. The "destruction" was admitted; but the "wastefulness" was not admitted. The right hon. Gentleman had said that Professor Huxley's Report negatived the idea of there being any injury to in-shore fishing by the use of trawls; but, with all sub- 1014 mission, that was not so. Professor Huxley, in that sense, spoke only of deep sea fishing, with. which he (Mr. Webster) had nothing at all to do, his appeal to Her Majesty's Government and the Committee being confined entirely, as was the present Bill, to in-shore fishing. This was what Professor Huxley said with regard to in-shore fishing—With respect to it, though the evidence, so far as it is conclusive, appears to us to prove that the taking of small and immature fish has not yet produced any injurious effect upon fisheries, it is undoubtedly possible that by the use of improved engines the destruction of fry might reach such a pitch as to bear a large instead of, as at present, an insignificant ratio to the destruction effected by natural enemies of fish and by conditions unfavourable to their existence.And Professor Huxley's warning had been borne out, because they knew, according to the Report of the Commission of 1879, that within the few months immediately preceding that Report trawling had very considerably extended into territorial waters. The Commission of 1879 did not deny that there had been a destruction of fish, but reported, like their predecessors, that there had not been a wasteful destruction; yet such was the force of the evidence brought to bear upon them that they reported—That the Secretary of State should have power, after inquiry by some competent person, to issue a Provisional Order prohibiting the use of the trawl net or beam trawl in any of the territorial seas, such Order to come into force only after its approval by Parliament.It was on such a recommendation as that that the Government were justified in bringing in the present Bill; but he did not know any part of the Report which recommended that such a power by Provisional Order should be confined to clam or bait beds. The Commission distinctly reported that, in their opinion, the Secretary of State should be allowed the power of issuing a Provisional Order, after due inquiry, to prevent the use of the trawl in-shore. The other Commission of 1878, to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, had reported to the same effect. Speaking with regard to certain cases of injury to line fishing, they had said—We cannot take on ourselves the responsibility of saying that it may not be necessary to interfere with beam trawling in-shore. No such necessity, indeed, has been proved to our satisfaction. But so strong a case primâ facie has been made out that the Legislature, we think, should give the Secretary of State power to stop in-shore trawling, if necessary to do so.1015 The Commission of 1878 said that no such necessity had been proved to their satisfaction; but no such case could have been proved with regard to white-fishing, because that Commission was confined in its scope and powers exclusively to herring-fishing. The abuses which came before that Commission with regard to white-fishing were brought under their notice incidentally, and there was no opportunity for the white-fisherman to give evidence. The Commission, then, of 1879, and also that of 1878, distinctly recommended, not power to forbid clam and bait-fishing by trawlers, but that the Board of Trade should have a power of inquiry, and upon cause shown, and with other safeguards, to issue a Provisional Order for the protection of the fishing by forbidding trawling within a reasonable area, and with certain restrictions as to time. He did not speak as the advocate of protection for any one class of fishing more than another; but there was an undoubted and real risk within the shallow waters in-shore—where the banks were so shallow that they did not exceed 10 fathoms—of such a quantity of immatured fish being brought up by the trawling nets as might destroy the fishing. The proposal would not be at all disagreeable to the trawlers themselves; and the most influential of the Commissions, that of Mr. Huxley, said the trawlers themselves had become sensible and alive to the danger of in-shore trawling, and the destruction of immatured fish. So strong was the impression made upon that Commission that they reported that even many of the trawlers themselves were not indisposed to some restrictions with a view to the advantages which they knew would ensue. They had become satisfied that the banks were being rapidly destroyed, and felt that the fish there should not be trawled for in the summer and spring, the proper time for their protection. He had had many applications made to him, and much information given directly to him; but he would not trouble the Committee with that, because he thought the recommendations of the three Commissions should be sufficient. But he wished to impres upon the Committee the serious risk that would be run of the destruction of immatured fish. He had received a letter from a gentleman who was not 1016 engaged in white-fishing, Mr. Adam, of Aberdeen, who was known in connection with salmon-fishing; and that gentleman said he felt bound to add his testimony as to the great destruction of fish. He said that he had seen several hundred weight of immatured fish thrown out from the nets of the trawlers.
§ MR. BIRKBECK
hoped the Committee would not agree to the Amendment. He had trawled a good deal in the North Sea, and he could assure the Committee that if the Amendment was agreed to, the whole trawl-fishing along the coast would be utterly destroyed. The whole question of the close-time would be an International matter, and he was sure it was not desirable to agree to the Amendment, or any of the Amendments proposed. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) upon the very clear way in which he had placed the matter from the Front Bench.
observed that the Amendment under notice was of the same character as all the rest, and one division would settle the whole of them. He must join issue with the right hon. Gentleman when he announced his attitude of utter inflexibility. This was not a question between line and drift-net fishermen on the one hand, and trawlers on the other. A part of all fishery was carried on within the three miles' limit; but the amount of line and drift-net fishing within that limit was very small, as was also the trawling. The Amendment was intended to comprehend the whole of Messrs. Buckland and Walpole's recommendation that the Secretary of State should have power, after inquiry, to issue a Provisional Order prohibiting the use of trawling nets in territorial seas, such Order to come into force only after the approval of Parliament. He did not wish trawling to be prohibited within the territorial seas altogether, but only where it was shown to be doing definite harm to fish or fisheries. Everybody who knew anything about fishing would know that it was in the shallow waters that the fish spawned, and where they first lived; and that consequently it was in the shallow waters that so much harm was done by trawl-fishing. The right hon. Gentleman had described trawl-fishing as fishing with iron hoops trawled along the bottom of the sea.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, it was very difficult to describe a machine of that kind; but what he had said was that it was a net carried on a beam supported on iron hoops and trawled along the bottom of the sea.
said, a trawl net was a long, purse-shaped net attached to a heavy wooden beam, varying in length from 20 to 60 feet. That beam was kept away from the bottom of the sea by the trawl heads, and the net was dropped down and dragged along by the trawler; the ground rope in front of it stirring up the fish, which rose up and fell into the long net. That machine being dragged along the bottom of the sea, by the admission of the Bill which the Government had introduced, crushed the shells of, and brought up the shell-fish. It also brought up and killed in these shallow waters a vast qnantity of small, immature fish and fry. The Bill did not even include oysters, though he thought it might have included them, as well as bait and clams. Then, another reason why he thought some restriction might be put on trawlers was that trawlers had the power of lifting up their nets at any moment they chose. If they were steam trawlers, they were, besides, so far independent of wind and tide that they could go where they liked, and raise their nets when and where they chose. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give way a little in the direction asked, and not be afraid of a little more trouble being thrown on his Department.
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
had no objection to include fishing banks, if he understood what fishing banks meant; but he thought that in the Interpretation Clause there ought to be something showing what was meant by fishing banks, because we had no jurisdiction over foreign countries beyond three miles from the shore, and consequently foreign boats could fish in these banks within three miles, while our fishermen could not. If the fishing banks were to be defined as meaning three miles from the shore he would support the Amendment; but if the limit was to be general, that, he thought, would defeat the object in view. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had said that trawl fishing was by far the 1018 most important of the English fishing. He (Mr. R. W. Duff) had no doubt it was, with regard to English coast fishing; but it was not true with regard to Scotch coast fishing. The most valuable fishing they had in Scotland was herring fishing by drift-nets. He bad no objection to trawl fishing; but he believed that within three miles of the shore it often did a good deal of harm. Something ought to be put into the Interpretation Clause to say what fishing banks meant; and the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Webster) should supply the words. If the words had any meaning at all, they must mean fishing banks within three miles of the shore; but if they extended to the whole of the ocean they could have no meaning whatever.
said, it appeared to him that to leave fishing banks unrestricted was going too far. Those who had read the evidence before the Commissioners knew that it went only to the length of three miles, or five miles at the outside. He wished to draw attention to the wanton damages which the Commission was informed had been done on the East Coast of Northumberland by the numerous steam trawlers from Shields and Tynemouth. Owing to the slackness of trade, those steamers had nothing to do, and so they went out to the fishing ground and spoilt the fishermen's trade. He was bound to say, however, that the fishermen who gave that evidence stated that when they got to Yarmouth they had nothing to complain of, for the steam trawlers kept off, and did not interfere with them; whereas off the Northumberland coast they ran into the vessels and destroyed the nets. If the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Webster) went to a division he should support him, on the understanding that fishing banks only extended to three miles from the shore.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Webster) was well acquainted with the views of the industrious fishermen on the Scotch North-East Coast; and he (Sir George Balfour) himself had received several representations with regard to the injury done to these fisheries by the trawlers. He must complain of the way in which the hon. Member for Aberdeen was met by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, when he asked for that protection of the 1019 business of innocent men engaged in the line fishings. He was certain that if the hon. Member for Aberdeen appealed to the vote of the Committee he would get better treatment than from the President of the Board of Trade. It was useless appealing to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
pointed out that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Webster) and his own Amendment followed the words "within territorial waters," and, therefore, did not touch deep sea trawling.
§ LORD HENRY SCOTT
thought the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman went so far as he could be expected to go. The object of the Bill was to protect clams and bait beds from injury; and the object of the right hon. Gentleman, as he understood it, was not to set up one class of fisheries against another. It would be an unfortunate thing if they were to contest a matter of this kind, and set up one class of fishing against another; but he was sure that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Webster) were to be carried, and the subsequent Amendment following upon it was carried, that would be fatal to the trawl fishing in this country, especially in shallow waters, and to a very profitable industry which did no harm itself to other fishing. As he understood it, the Board of Trade took power to protect clams and bait beds when they thought it necessary, and the Bill, in his opinion, went far enough in that respect; and he hoped the Government would resist the proposal to extend the Bill in directions which would be fatal by setting up one class of fishery against another.
§ EARL PERCY
said, the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick (Captain Milne Home) had forestalled him with respect to the harm done by trawl fishing on the North-East Coast. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had stated that the trawlers did very little harm to the spawn of herrings, because when the spawn was returned to the water it was always capable of being developed. He (Earl Percy) did not doubt that in some instances that might be the case; but anyone who knew anything about fishing knew that a great deal of the spawn was spoilt by the machinery used in trawling.
§ DR. WEBSTER
wished it to be understood that the object of his Amendment was merely to extend the scope of the Bill, and the powers of the Board of Trade within territorial waters. With that exception, every provision of the Bill would remain as it was.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, as he understood, the hon. Member (Dr. Webster) based his contention almost entirely on what he considered the recommendations of the various Commissions. He (Mr. Chamberlain) did not know whether the hon. Member was aware of a Report which formed the basis of the knowledge of the Government with regard to Scotch fisheries, prepared by Professor Huxley in 1863. On page 31 of that Report the Commissioners said they were bound to state that the repressive Acts of 1860 and 1861 restricting trawling were altogether unnecessary, being especially for the protection of class interests, and interfering with a new and more productive mode of industry. They also said that that demand for restrictive legislation was only another instance of what happened always when a new industry arose and interfered with an old one. He did not think it was possible to state the case more clearly than Professor Huxley had, and that if his hon. Friend relied upon Professor Huxley, he would find the evidence of that gentleman directly in opposition to his conclusions. Referring to the Report of Messrs. Buckland and Walpole, the hon. Member had laid stress on their statement as to the destruction of fish; but what those Gentlemen meant was that it was impossible to carry on that fishery without interfering with other fisheries. It was absolutely impossible to prosecute one of these methods of fishing without some slight interference with the other; but all the allegations of the wonderful injury done by trawling were without foundation. He (Mr. Chamberlain) had recently consulted Professor Huxley, in order to ascertain if he had received any recent information which induced him, in the slightest degree, to alter his opinions; and he had received a letter from him, the most important paragraph of which was to the following effect Professor Huxley wrote—Under the Circumstances I have no hesitation in expressing the opinion that all legislation tending to restrict the operation of the trawlers on this ground is an interference with the freedom of trade.1021 Professor Huxley went on to say that he did not see any contradiction between the conclusion thus arrived at and the conclusion expressed by Mr. Buckland and Mr. Walpole. Wherever it could be shown that the trawlers did wanton damage there should be power to restrain them. Professor Huxley further said that he had submitted his observations to Mr. Walpole, the sole surviving Commissioner of the two who hail given in these Reports, and Mr. Walpole authorized him to say that he agreed with the opinion expressed in them. If, therefore, his hon. Friend the Member for Aberbeen (Dr. Webster) was content to be bound by the opinions of the Commissioners, he would see that there was not the slightest ground for the Amendment. There was a further proposition to restrain the use of the trawl in territorial waters. If they did that, he was afraid they would materially interfere with the business of the trawlers, as they wore compelled to work in-shore in rough weather, and would have to be laid up unless they were so allowed to work. He did not think that it was expedient to hamper or trammel them by any such restriction. Before they attempted to impose serious restrictions upon one of the most important industries of the country, there ought to be some clear evidence to show that the take of fish had been injured by the practices complained of. At present, as far as he was able to see, there was no evidence that the take of fish had been in the slightest degree injured.
§ DR. WEBSTER
remarked, that new evidence from his distinguished friend, Professor Huxley, had been brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman. He (Dr. Webster) had already quoted the statements of Professor Huxley in 1866. At page 26 of the Report of the Sea Fisheries Commission, presented in 1866, there was this passage, which he (Dr. Webster) thought was conclusive testimony in his favour. Professor Huxley said—We do not know enough of the number, or the mode of multiplication, or of the condition of existence in any locality, of any given kind of fish, to be able to form the slightest estimate as to the effect which will be produced upon the number of that fish by a given amount of destruction of its young.He (Dr. Webster) asked for no restriction, but only that the Board of Trade 1022 should make an examination into the matter.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 41; Noes 83: Majority 42.—(Div. List, No. 157.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."
§ MAJOR NOLAN
asked the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade why the provisions of the Bill had not been extended to Ireland?
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, he had applied from the Board of Trade to the Irish Office, to know if he should make the provisions of the Act extend to Ireland; but he was told not, because they had already, under the Irish Act, even greater powers than this Bill gave.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Power of Board of Trade by Provisional Order to protect bait beds from injury by beam trawls).
§ MR. WILLIAMSON moved, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 3, after the word "bed," to insert the words "or bed where herrings are known to spawn." He had been afraid that the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Webster) would meet the fate it had received; and therefore he had drafted his Amendment more in harmony with the spirit of the Bill itself. The object of the Bill was to prevent specific injury to shell-fish and to increase the supply of food. He had kept that idea strictly in view in drafting the Amendment; and the object of the Amendment and that of the Bill were, he believed, identical. He did not intend to enter into the wide question of trawling versus net fishing; but he believed that specific injuries were inflicted on certain grounds on the East Coast of Scotland on which herrings were known to spawn by the operations of the trawlers. He had presented various Petitions in favour of the Amendment from various parts of Scotland, and one from the Convention of Royal Burghs. It was alleged, and the fishermen all bore corroborative testimony, that at Pittenween a valuable fishery had been destroyed by trawling within territorial waters. There were 700 fishing boats belonging to the district he represented, more than 500 1023 of which were of the first class, and the fishermen had been compelled to go to distant fishing grounds away in the North of Scotland and the Hebrides; whereas, if this injury had not been inflicted by trawling, they would have been able to pursue their ordinary avocation at their own doors. In this case he complained of a specific injury, and on that ground he appealed to his right lion. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to accept the Amendment. He thought that the complaints of the fishermen ought to be listened to without regard to the merits of the question of trawling versus line or net fishing, especially as the Bill itself contained a clause providing that nothing should be done until there had been a legal inquiry by the Board of Trade and a recommendation made. He could not understand why the Board of Trade should object to so reasonable an Amendment.
In page 1, line 13, after the word "bed," to insert the words "or bed where herrings are known to spawn."—(Mr. Williamson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, he had already dealt with this question, to some extent, in speaking upon the previous Amendment. His hon. Friend proposed that they should take power to protect the beds where herrings were supposed to spawn. Now, these were precisely the places where other fish, attracted by the spawn of the herrings, were to be found, and in killing these fish the trawlers were really killing the greatest enemies of the herring; and he therefore doubted whether they would not be doing more harm than good if, under such circumstances, they were to interfere with the trawling. It was alleged that the herrings had disappeared in consequence of trawling. He could only add to what he had already said that the facts were these. Trawling was first practised at Pittenween about 25 or 30 years ago, and for some time the take of herrings constantly increased; but after some years of great prosperity it was true that the herrings seemed to have deserted the beds. But on inquiry he found that the history of the place showed that exactly the same occurrence took place 60 years ago, before the 1024 trawlers had visited the place; and if they fully investigated the subject they would find that the herring was the most capricious of fish. Under these circumstances, he very much regretted that, after having given to the matter the most careful consideration, the question having been for a considerable time before his Advisers, he was obliged to come to the conclusion that it was impossible to accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. R. P. BRUCE
remarked, that the herring generally spawned in rough places where it was impossible to work a trawl; but it so happened that there were on the East Coast of Scotland a certain number of level places where the herrings did spawn and where trawling was practised. It was with a view to protect these few well-known spots that this Amendment had been proposed. There was one other remark that he should like to make in reference to the matter. At the time when Professor Huxley made the Inquiry which had been alluded to, in 1863, the fishermen of the locality were divided upon the question of trawling. While the fishermen of the other villages in the neighbourhood were opposed to trawling, those belonging to the village of St. Monance were then supporters of the system of trawling, on the ground that its interference with the herring fishery was hardly worthy of notice. But since that time the opinion of the fishermen in that village had entirely altered; and a Petition had been sent up to him by the fishermen of St. Monance strongly in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Andrew's (Mr. Williamson).
§ MR. A. GRANT
thought that the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Williamson) was a most reasonable one. It was a smaller, and perhaps, on that account, a more manageable proposal than that of his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Dr. Webster). It proposed that a limited number of places—there were probably not more than three or four of them around the coasts of these Islands—to which the herrings were known to resort for the purpose of spawning, should be included in the action of the Bill. Although the right hon. Gentleman appeared to flout the idea that the Bill was intended to protect the hook-and-line fishermen, it was 1025 evident that the measure would give protection from a portion, at least, of the damage done to the hook-and-line fishermen by the operations of the trawlers. The Bill admitted, and the right hon. Gentleman also admitted, that actual damage was done by trawling in the case of the bait beds; and he (Mr. Grant) could not see that there was any valid reason for not extending the restraining powers proposed by the Bill to be imposed on fishing in respect to the bait beds, to those other places mentioned by his hon. Friend, if it could be conclusively proved that those other places were damaged also. The fishermen in the neighbourhood said that it was so—that the places which the herrings were known to frequent for the purpose of spawning were really damaged; and they spoke with the light of practical experience. Their contention was that the dragging of a heavy beam along the bottom disturbed and harrowed up the herring spawn; and in saying so they confirmed the evidence given on more than one occasion before the Commission appointed to inquire into the matter. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that the stirring up of this spawn, and its constant churning up and down, had rather a tendency to improve the chances of its vitality; but that was contrary to the generally received idea that fish spawn required rest for the development of the hatching process. If that were so, it seemed to follow that the disturbance of the spawn must tend to a diminution of the number of fish that were produced. But that was not all, as they had heard in the discussion that night. It was well known that the places where the herring spawned were visited by a large number of other fish; but if the supply of food was interfered with, the natural consequence would be that they would be driven away. Thus a double injury was produced by trawling; and there was no corresponding advantage either to the trawlers themselves, or to the public, in an increased supply of fish. He might say this—that the local fishermen, in making this moderate demand, did not ask that the general system of trawling should be interfered with in any way. They did not ask that trawling should be prohibited in narrow seas like the Firth of Forth, though he must say that a good deal might be said in 1026 favour of such a demand. All they asked was that protection should be given to places like that under discussion from operations which were found to be most injurious to them in the pursuit of their legitimate calling. They did not ask that trawling should be peremptorily forbidden even in these places, but that if, after a careful and thorough inquiry by competent persons, it should appear to the Board of Trade that their complaints were well-founded, trawling should then be prohibited, but only then. He might notice a circumstance which had already been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Fifeshire (Mr. R. P. Bruce) as a striking proof of the bonâ fide character of the complaints of the fishermen, and it was this—that whereas they had formerly been accustomed to trawl over these very beds, their experience satisfied them that trawling was injurious to the general fishing, and therefore they gave it up. It was certainly somewhat hard, under these circumstances, that they should have to stand by and see strangers coming in with machinery much heavier and more destructive than had ever been used by themselves—the heavy beam trawls with which the steam trawlers work, and wantonly destroying their means of livelihood.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 45; Noes 65: Majority 20.—(Div. List, No. 158.)
§ MR. WARTON
begged, with the permission of the Committee, to move the Amendment which stood in his name. It was to insert in page 1, line 13, after "area" the words—Or causes the destruction of any marine animal, or of any sea fish, or of the spawn of sea fish, or of the fry of sea fish.[Laughter.] He was encouraged to move the Amendment because the divisions were getting rather more against the Government than at the outset. He would very much prefer the Committee to be discussing, instead of this Bill, some of the Votes in Supply, which were considered so urgent, and which might have been taken had the Government only put them down. He was rather surprised at the merriment of some hon. Gentlemen at the expression "marine animal." He would hardly 1027 have thought it necessary to inform the Committee that there were inhabitants of the sea that were not fishes—["Mermaids!"]—and these inhabitants of the sea ought to be included in the Bill. As far as he could understand the matter, these trawl nets were destructive of many fish; and it was in the interest of that part of the public who fed on fish, and in the interest of the much larger part of the population who did not, but who ought to eat fish, that he introduced the present Amendment.
In page 1, line 13, after the word "area," to insert the words "or causes the destruction of any marine animal, or of any sea fish, or of the spawn of sea fish, or of the fry of sea fish."—(Mr. Warton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, if he did not know that the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) was always serious, he would have thought he had put his Amendments down as a joke, because he (Mr. Chamberlain) found that by one of them he proposed to make it unlawful to fish with a beam trawl, if it caused the destruction of any sea fish. The sole object of beam trawling was to destroy the fish, and the Amendment would he fatal to trawling altogether. In the second place, the hon. and learned Member proposed that the prohibition should take place wherever there was any destruction of any marine animal or of any sea fish. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman consider that a fish was not a marine animal? The hon. and learned Gentleman evidently desired to protect marine animals which were not fish, such as jelly fish, squid, and similar creatures. He could not conceive what good purpose would be served if a division were taken upon this Amendment.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
was sorry he could not give a precise answer. Territorial waters certainly included all within three miles of the shore, and it also included a greater extent in estuaries.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.1028
§ Clause 7 (Extent of Act).
§ MR. WARTON
said, after the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman, he would not move the Amendments upon this clause which stood in his name.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 8 (Recovery of Fines).
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
wished to insert an Amendment which had been suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), and which would be a great improvement. He proposed in page 3, line 11, to leave out the word "summarily" and insert other words, so as to bring the Bill in accord with preceding Acts.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 9 (Interpretation).
§ MR. R. W. DUFF
trusted the right hon. Gentleman would be willing to add a clause which would strictly define what territorial waters were.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
observed, that territorial waters under this Bill would be the same as those contemplated by the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction Act of 1878. He had not that Act with him; but he would bring one upon the next stage of the Bill.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
replied, that trawls were defined in the Bill as—A net commonly known as a beam trawl net, and any other engine or instrument (not being a dredge for oysters) which is used or capable of being used for dragging along the bottom of the sea for the purpose of taking fish.
§ Clause agreed to.
MR. WARTON moved the insertion of the following new Clause:—
It shall not be lawful at any time to fish with a beam trawl in any estuary, tidal river, tidal bay, or Scotch or Irish tidal loch or lake, and any person so fishing shall be liable to the penalties and punishments provided by section two of this Act.
The question had been put to him by the right hon. Gentleman whether he objected to trawling altogether. He did object to it; but he would now leave the Amendment to stand on its merits.
Amendment proposed, after Clause 2, insert the following Clause:—
It shall not be lawful at any time to fish with a beam trawl in any estuary, tidal river, tidal bay, or Scotch or Irish tidal loch or lake, and any person so fishing shall be liable to the penalties and punishments provided by section two of this Act."—(Mr. Wanton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the said Clause be there inserted."
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, the hon. and learned Member had very frankly admitted that his object in proposing this clause was to destroy trawling altogether. The Committee had already affirmed the impropriety of any such interference with a very important enterprize; and, under those circumstances, he (Mr. Chamberlain) hoped they would not accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
did not object to all trawling, but to trawling in inshore waters. In July, 1879, he put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman who was then Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir R. Assheton Cross) on behalf of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho). The Question was—Whether, having regard to the losses the fishermen in the Firth of Forth are suffering through injury to their lines and the destruction of the clam and mussel beds by the action of steam trawling vessels, he would take steps for their protection?The right hon. Gentleman replied that—Great injury has certainly been done in the way pointed out in the Question, and he would see that whatever was possible would be done to prevent anything of the kind in future.The right hon. Gentleman also said that—The Fishery Commission had agreed to make certain recommendations."—[3 Hansard, ccxlviii. 965.]He (Captain Milne-Home) would now be glad to hear from the present President of the Board of Trade what recommendations the Commissioners made with reference to the injury done in the Firth of Forth. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was prepared to come to Parliament for powers to take the necessary steps; and this he said he would do at the earliest possible moment. They all knew what occurred in 1880. The right hon. Gentleman had no power to do anything; and it now 1030 only remained with the Home Office or the Board of Trade to carry out the promise the Home Secretary of that day made in respect to this matter.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Milne-Home) was no bogus one. It was entertained by the late Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had promised the House that if he obtained the power he would remedy the evil complained of. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) would, at a later stage of the Bill, take up that and other similar matters.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, it was suggested that the late Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, unfortunately, was not now in his place, promised to adopt something like the clause now before the Committee. He (Mr. Chamberlain) was certainly under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Assheton Cross) never intended to do that; and he could not give any assurance that in that Bill he would introduce a clause similar to that of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton). No trawler was permitted within three miles of the drift nets, and, therefore, no wanton mischief was possible.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Thursday.