HC Deb 14 July 1914 vol 64 cc1685-8

asked the Secretary for Scotland if he is aware that in the early spring of this year the county council of Zetland drew the attention of the Fishery Board for Scotland to the fact that large shoals of herrings had been located to the north and west of Shetland and asked the Board to note the effect on these shoals when the whaling operations started, and that in their reply the Fishery Board immediately took up an un sympathetic attitude in regard to the depredations of the foreign whalers by stating that though these shoals might move from the grounds it would not necessarily follow that such movement was due to whaling operations; and whether, in view of the fact that immediately whaling operations started the said shoals of herrings did disappear from the fishing grounds referred to, he will draw the attention of the Fishery Board to the need for giving better attention to the injury being done to the great British herring fishery by foreign whaling companies?


I am aware of the communication from the county council of Zetland to which my hon. Friend refers, but I am unable to accept as accurate his description of the Fishery Board's attitude or his suggestion that depredations are being committed and injury being done to the herring fishery. I am informed that the herrings did not disappear from the grounds referred to on the commencement of the whaling operations, but that several substantial catches have been obtained on the western grounds during the whaling season.


asked the Secretary for Scotland if he is aware that, owing to the depletion of the herrings and cod fishing grounds off Norway, caused by whale fishing, the Norwegian fishermen burned down the whaling stations in the country, and that whaling in the northern parts of Norway was subsequently prohibited by law, that as a result several Norwegian whaling companies erected whaling stations in Shetland in 1903 and 1904, that since whaling operations began and extended in Shetland the herring fishing on the west and north of Shetland, on which many fishermen and their families depend for a livelihood, has rapidly declined, and that this decrease is due to the depredations of the foreign whalers; and whether he is prepared to introduce legislation prohibiting the landing of whales in any part of Scotland, in the interests of the herring industry, and in order to prevent further depopulation of the fishermen crofter class in the Shetland Islands?


The matters to which my hon. Friend refers are highly controversial, and I am not prepared to accept the inferences which he draws. With regard to legislation, I see no reason to suppose that a measure on the lines suggested is necessary or desirable.


asked the Secretary for Scotland whether he is aware that under the Whaling Act of 1908, a sum of about £6,000 has bean collected by the Fishery Board in the form of whaling licence fees from whaling companies operating in Shetland; that this money has accrued to the Treasury; and whether the Government is prepared to refund from this money to the Fishery Board a sum sufficient to enable the Board to place a vessel or vessels in Shetland waters for the purposes of investigation as to the movements or presence of shoals of herrings in the area of waters alleged to be depleted of herrings by the operations of foreign whalers, in order that the facts as to the effects of whaling on the herring fishing may be more clearly demonstrated?


The facts with regard to the amount and the accrual of the whaling licence fees are as stated by my hon. Friend. The statements which have been made in support of the allegations to which he refers do not appear to afford primâ facie ground for a special inquiry such as he suggests, but the Fishery Board will be prepared to consider any information bearing on the subject which may be submitted to them.


May I ask how far this matter is receiving the attention of the authorities interested?


Of course, the whole matter was considered by a Committee some years ago, and it was on the Report of that Committee that legislation was carried.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great consensus of opinion that whaling does interfere with the herring fishing industry?


I believe that a great many herring fishermen are of that opinion, but the reasons they give are very contradictory.

17. Captain WARING

asked whether the investigations of the Scottish Departmental Committee on North Sea Fisheries covered the whole of Scotland; and, if so, what object the Fishery Board seems to attain by the appointment of a Departmental Committee to investigate the conditions on the west and north coasts?


The Departmental Committee to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers in the first portion of his question covered the whole of Scotland so far as certain general questions were concerned: the Fishery Board's investigation relates particularly to certain special questions such as transport facilities and the marketing of certain classes of fish in regard to which the inshore fisheries of the west and north coasts are conducted under special disadvantages.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that what the fishermen want is the carrying into effect of the recommendations already made by the Committee?


I am aware of that.

Captain WARING

May I ask if this inquiry will extend to the south coast of the Moray Firth?


I have already explained in my answer that the inquiry is to deal with certain difficulties as to transport and sale. These do not affect that part of the coast.