HC Deb 23 May 1939 vol 347 cc2087-9
75 and 76. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) whether he is aware that big shoals of basking sharks have, during the last few days, entered the Firth of Clyde and large sharks have been seen in Kildalloig Bay, Ardnacross Bay and Campbeltown Loch; as the shark-hunting cruiser from Carradale does not carry wireless, the local fishermen have not been able to secure her help and are afraid to put to sea; and will he consider sending a fishery cruiser, or other suitable vessel, to assist in the destruction of these sharks;

(2) whether he will take special steps to stop the depredations of sharks on the herring shoals in the Firth of Clyde; is he aware that last year after the sharks had left the Firth the herring season proved a record one both for the size of the shoals and the time that the herring remained in the Firth; and will he therefore immediately safeguard the fishermen from the interruption to their livelihood and the damage to their nets and gear caused by these sharks?

The Lord Advocate

My right hon. Friend is informed that basking sharks have been observed in the Firth of Clyde, and he has seen Press reports of their appearances. No complaints of damage to gear have however been reported to local fishery officers, and there are no indications of reluctance on the part of fishermen to engage in fishing. As the hon. Member is aware, herring fishing in all areas is subject to wide fluctuations owing to numerous causes, and while herring fishing in the Clyde was more successful last year than in 1936 or 1937, my right hon. Friend is informed that it did not constitute a record either for the extent of the shoals or the period of operations. The operations of the commercial vessel engaged in shark hunting probably offer the best method of dealing with the problem, but the Fishery Board's cruisers have instructions to keep the matter under observation and to take every opportunity of destroying basking sharks by the methods which have proved successful in the past.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that only last week, just outside the bay of Campbeltown, fishermen had their boats thrown into the air, and that at the week-end bathers off the coast at Girvan were chased out of the sea?

Mr. Colville

I have asked the fishery cruisers to pay particular attention to this question. Last year they destroyed no fewer than 50 of these sharks.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is it not a fact that the "Maid of the Mist" has no wireless? Surely it is imperative that these vessels should have wireless in order that they can get into contact with other vessels?

Mr. Colville

The vessels of the fishery patrol all have wireless. The other is a commercial vessel and is not under my control.

Mr. R. Gibson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Clyde Fishermens' Association consider this menace so serious, that the President yesterday intimated that a meeting of the association would be held in the next two or three days to consider it; and will the right hon. Gentleman look into the position and get into touch with the association and take into very careful consideration their views on the subject?

Mr. Colville

My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate has already intimated that no complaint of damage to gear has yet been received.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister aware that this is a very serious menace to visitors to holiday resorts on the Clyde, and will he take steps to ensure that the danger is eliminated, because the basking sharks in the Clyde are as dangerous as the financial sharks elsewhere?