HC Deb 12 December 1955 vol 547 cc807-9
18. Major Anstruther-Gray

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take to keep the population of seals breeding on the Farne Islands within reasonable limits in view of the damage done by these animals to fishing interests, in particular to salmon, at the mouth of the Tweed.

Mr. Amory

The Nature Conservancy has recently investigated this matter at my request, and I am expecting its report early in the New Year.

Major Anstruther-Gray

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on one considerable stretch of the Tweed no less than 14 per cent. of the salmon caught were suffering from seal bites, and that this takes no account of the numbers destroyed or eaten by these seals? In view of the fact

Mr. Collins

Is the Minister aware that in Suffolk at present farmers are selling feeding barley for £20 per ton and are being asked from £33 to £37 per ton for proprietary brands of feeding meal? Does he not regard this as a public scandal, and does he not also appreciate that the present system of support prices makes a good harvest a disaster to the taxpayer?

Mr. Amory

Once again, I am afraid I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. I must ask him to wait and read the figures which I am circulating and, if he is not satisfied, perhaps he will put down another Question.

Following is the reply:

that the seals have increased in number eight times from the seal population of twenty years ago, will he not consider taking urgent steps to deal with the matter?

Mr. Amory

I must admit to my hon. and gallant Friend that I am not as erudite on seals as I hope to be, but I hope to devote part of the Parliamentary Recess to becoming expert in their habits. As regards the Tweed, the information I have is that, in spite of the increase in numbers, the results of the salmon fishing have been above the average recently rather than below, but I am having the matter investigated.

Mr. Popplewell

Will the Minister also look into the position on the North-East coast, where we get this self-same type of nuisance, because of seals coming from the Farne Islands and taking huge bites out of the salmon? Will he have a close investigation made into the damage which the seals are doing among the salmon fisheries?

Mr. Amery

I do not want to dispute the fact that serious damage may be being caused. I just want to assess what it amounts to and the best way of dealing with it, but I can certainly give the assurance that I will look into the matter.

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