HC Deb 02 July 1986 vol 100 cc999-1000
7. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he plans to meet the Scottish Fisherman's Federation to discuss the impact of European Economic Community proposals to increase net mesh sizes on the Scottish east coast fishery.

Mr. John MacKay

My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State met a delegation from the federation to discuss this matter on 6 May.

Mr. Kirkwood

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and noble Friend would have been made aware at that meeting of the vital importance of the retention of the 80 mm net regime to the continuation of inshore fisheries out of ports such as Eyemouth in my constituency. If a 90 mm net is introduced, it will effectively eliminate the whiting fishery for inshore ports such as Eyemouth. I offer the hon. Gentleman an invitation. I shall give him a Bank of Scotland new pound note for every whiting he can catch with a 90 mm net off the coast of Eyemouth.

Mr. MacKay

I know the problem that exists. Recently, when I visited the constituency of my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, I met fishermen at Arbroath who explained the problem. There is a difficult balance between conservation and the number of whiting that the fleet can catch and the number of under-sized fish that are discarded. We are continuing to discuss these matters at Brussels. We must try to strike a sensible balance in the industry's long-term interests.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way to help the east coast fishery would be to agree with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to phase out the north-east of England drift nets, which have such a damaging effect on salmon and sea trout stocks coming to Scotland?

Mr. MacKay

I have heard what my hon. Friend has said about this matter, but I do not think that it comes within the scope of the argument on 80 mm and 90 mm nets.

Mr. Donald Stewart

As the EEC has been able to agree a derogation to 80 mm for whiting in the Kattegat and Skagerrak, why is the Scottish Office not able to do something along the same lines to protect the Scottish whiting industry?

Mr. MacKay

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will recall that we recently had considerable difficulties in Europe with the pout fishery in regard to the by-catch and discard of undersized white fish. This is a much more difficult question than the right hon. Gentleman seems to appreciate. We are considering with the European Commission officials whether it is possible to derogate for whiting only. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman realises that that is not easy, because unfortunately the fish do not realise that they must swim only into certain types of nets.