HC Deb 05 February 1962 vol 653 cc15-6
18. Sir D. Robertson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if in conjunction with the Secretary of State for Scotland, he will apply at an early date to the Hague Court to extend Great Britain's fishery limits to 12 miles, and to close the Moray Firth, the Minch and the Firth of Clyde to foreign fishing craft.

Mr. Soames

The breadth of the fishery limits round the United Kingdom is a matter for Her Majesty's Government, acting in accordance with the rules of international law, and does not require an application to the Hague Court. As I have said before, this whole question must be closely watched against the background of changing circumstances.

Sir D. Robertson

Is it not a fact that all the waters round our coasts are seriously over-fished and that the fishing industry is getting into a very difficult financial situation? Is my right hon. Friend aware that an entire trawler fleet from Aberdeen is now being hawked around for sale? Since the effects of over-fishing have been raised for years past, should not action be taken now?

Mr. Soames

Unless I am mistaken, the trawler fleet to which my hon. Friend refers is a fleet which fishes not in home waters but in more distant waters. A balance of interests has to be kept here. My hon. Friend will, of course, with his great knowledge of the fishing industry, realise that only about 10 per cent. of all the fish consumed in this country is caught in home waters and the rest is caught in more distant waters. Many of the countries off whose shores we fish still have a three-mile limit, and it is a question of balancing interests where this country is concerned in considering what limits should be.

Mr. John MacLeod

Apart from the question of extending limits, is it not intolerable that foreign trawlers may come into areas where our own fishermen may not fish? When is this to be stopped?

Mr. Soames

This is a question of base lines which, as my hon. Friend knows, is very closely linked with the whole question of limits. The two are as one, so to speak. Base lines would, of course, be reconsidered in any changing of limits.

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