HC Deb 23 June 1971 vol 819 cc1410-1
16. Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied that, as a result of the recent meeting of the International Commission for the North-West Atlantic Fisheries, the future of the salmon which are native to Scottish rivers has been adequately protected from both the commercial and sporting viewpoint; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The Commission has proposed that the restrictions in 1971 on sea fishing for salmon in the Commission's area should Continue in 1972 and 1973, subject to review during that period if substantial changes occur. I am satisfied that this was the best agreement that could be reached in the circumstances.

Lieut.-Colonel Mitchell

Does my hon. Friend believe that the salmon stocks in the Atlantic can stand catches of about 2,000 metric tons and more by Danish fishermen off Greenland? Would he not agree that by 1973 the Scottish salmon is very likely to be extinct?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I do not share my hon. and gallant Friend's fears for the future. We have made absolutely clear that we favour greater restrictions, but there is no point in supporting proposals which clearly would be unacceptable to those countries which do the fishing. That could result in no obligation on the part of those countries to apply restrictions.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Would the Minister agree that widespread concern has been expressed in many quarters that the fishing for salmon off Greenland may have a disastrous effect on salmon stocks? Is he in a position to say anything authoritative on this matter since, though one continually reads reports of the dangers, one is not sure of the weight to give to those reports.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

This gives us great cause for concern, but what we can achieve can be done only by international negotiation. This is what we have tried to do in the Commission. What is clear is that the other countries concerned in this matter are already becoming much more aware of conservation problems, and I am hopeful that over the years we shall get even more co-operation than we have had in the past.

Mr. Maclennan

Could the hon. Gentleman say whether Denmark is prepared to go along with these restrictions?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

This is one of the difficulties. We must try to make sure that we achieve the maximum that will be observed in existing circumstances. We cannot force other countries, which are free agents, to adopt a solution which we would like and which we think best for our own stocks.