HC Deb 29 June 1908 vol 191 cc372-4

I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland, as representing the Scottish Fishery Board, whether the oyster fisheries at the Bay of Firth have been the subject of any Order by the Fishery Board.

I beg also to ask the Secretary for Scotland, as representing the Scottish Fishery Board, what action, if any, has been taken by the Board to improve the condition of the oyster beds in the Bay of Firth, Orkney.


I may inform the hon. Member that an Order has been made for the establishment and maintenance of an oyster fishery at the Bay of Firth with a view to an improvement of the beds, and that the Order awaits confirmation by Parliament.


Has any action been previously taken to preserve these fisheries?


Yes, there have been earlier efforts, but this is the first time they have arrived at a definite stage.


I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland, with reference to the rights of oyster fishery over the area of about 4,500 acres of territorial water at the Bay of Firth, in the County of Orkney, which it is proposed by the Oyster and Mussel Fishery (Bay of Firth) Provisional Order Confirmation Bill to constitute as a several oyster fishery for a private fishery syndicate for a period of sixty years, whether the public has hitherto had the right of oyster fishery over that area; what, if any, rent the syndicate is to pay; what, if any, obligations the syndicate is under as to laying down spawn or otherwise incurring expenditure in the improvement of the fishery; what, if any, guarantees the syndicate gives that at the end of the sixty years the fishery will be left in a satisfactory condition; and what, if any, are the precedents for handing over a public right of oyster fishery in Scottish territorial waters to a private syndicate under similar conditions.


(1) The right of taking oysters and mussels is inter regalia, and forms part of the patrimonium principis, or hereditary revenues of the Crown. In other words, the right is personal to the Sovereign, and the fishings are not held by him merely for the benefit and enjoyment of the lieges in the same manner as the other public rights of the people. In practice, it is true that fishermen took oysters from the Bay of Firth for many years to such an extent that the beds were almost entirely depleted, and for the last few years only two or three fishermen have occasionally fished for oysters in the bay. It is with the view of resuscitating the beds and preventing their extinction, and so giving employment to a considerable number of local fishermen, that a syndicate was formed. (2) The rent is progressive, from £5 to £12. (3) and (4) It is obviously in the interests of the syndicate to make every effort to lay down spawn, and otherwise improve the fishery, with the view of obtaining a return for their capital outlay. Further, Section 45 of the Sea Fisheries Act, 1868, provides for the determination of the Order if the beds are not properly cultivated, and the promoters could not leave the beds in a less satisfactory state than they found them. (5) There are a number of instances of the grant of oyster fisheries under an Order. So far as Scotland is concerned, eight have been granted since the passing of the 1868 Act in the Firth of Forth and in various West Coast lochs.