HC Deb 09 December 1993 vol 234 cc469-70
3. Mr. Whittingdale

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations she has received about the allocation of fishing quotas to fishermen in the Thames estuary; and if she will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jack)

Officials meet industry representatives on a regular basis to discuss the monthly quota management arrangements for white fish stocks. We are aware of the concern about availability of North sea cod in the Thames estuary and of my hon. Friend's constituents' concerns about the very tight monthly catch restrictions for North sea sole.

Mr. Whittingdale

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his answer. Is he aware that fishermen in the Thames estuary—for instance, those operating from Mersea island in my constituency—have been allocated a quota for sole of about 100 kg a month, which yields about £200? The cost of maintaining a boat may approach £2,000 a month. Does my hon. Friend accept that quotas of that size make fishing almost unviable for my constituents? Will he consider whether they can be given any help and, in particular, will he consider establishing a separate quota for the Thames estuary?

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend is indeed a friend to the fishermen in raising that point, but I feel that his question goes to the heart of a wider issue—the overall problem, in all Community waters, of the current pressure on our white fish stocks. I am well aware of that problem, but, as my hon. Friend will know, our efforts to secure a year-round fishery in his area for both sole and cod have meant evening out the availability of those species throughout the year. The view was taken that it was better to allow some fishermen to catch sole all year round and retain seasonal fisheries than not to allow them to fish at all; however, I note what my hon. Friend has said and will bear it in mind in the coming negotiations.