HC Deb 30 October 1884 vol 293 cc531-3

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Whether he is aware that, since the commencement of September last, serious complaints have been made on behalf of the fishing interest of the East Coast of England, to the Admiralty authorities, on account of the insufficient protection given to the English drift net fisheries in the North Sea, whereby most serious losses have been incurred, from the destruction and loss of nets, &c. by Foreign trawlers; whether his attention has been called to a paragraph, in The Daily News of Tuesday last, under the head of Lowestoft, to the following effect:— Very great destruction of nets took place during the night, caused by Foreign trawlers towing their trawls through the fleet of herring nets. Eight boats report having sustained considerable damage by these trawlers, who take advantage of the absence of Government cruisers, so necessary during this time of the year, and in the most wilful manner destroy hundreds of pounds' worth of gear during the year. A very strong feeling exists on the subject among the fishermen; and, whether, taking into consideration the fact that considerably over 1,000 sail of English vessels are at the present time engaged in the drift net fisheries betweeen the "Outer Dowsing" and "Galloper" Light Vessels; that the North Sea Fisheries Convention, as far as England is concerned, is becoming a dead letter from want of sufficient cruisers to enforce its provisions; and that both owners and fishermen are daily incurring heavy losses on account of Foreign depredations, he will forthwith order an adequate number of cruisers to be stationed on the grounds, and that the commanders of the vessels in question be instructed to call at the principal fishing ports for information from the Board of Trade and Custom House Authorities as to the latest reports of depredations? Before putting this Question I desire, with the permission of the House, to read two telegrams which I have received. One, which arrived last night, says— The outrages by Foreign trawlers to our fishermen have been, these last few nights, something fearful. Boats constantly arrive with great damage to the gear cut away—damage amounting to many thousand pounds. Trade paralysed. If these outrages by Foreign fishermen continue, fishing this season will be entirely ruined. Surely Government can find some means of protecting this great industry. That morning he received another telegram as follows:— Further arrival of our vessels with great loss of gear caused by Foreign trawlers. Have every reason to believe one Belgian trawler of Ostend has done £500 worth of damage alone. Some fishermen laying their vessels up, having lost all their gear.


I am informed by the Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves that the cruisers detached for the protection of the Fisheries have been actively employed on that duty. Rear Admiral Douglas and Mr. Malan, of the Board of Trade, are specially engaged in drawing up a Report on the Fisheries, which will enable the Admiralty to determine what number of vessels may be permanently required for the protection of the Fisheries. In the meanwhile, two gunboats, the Sea Mew and Cherub, have been ordered on this service, in addition to the two cruisers already on the station.