HC Deb 20 December 1995 vol 268 cc1528-9
12. Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet representatives of the fishing industry to discuss drift netting for migratory fish. [5206]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

I expect to meet members of the Association of Scottish District Salmon Fishery Boards early in the new year.

Mr. Bellingham

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is huge concern in Scotland about the north-east drift net fishery, which regularly takes 50,000 salmon a year that would otherwise have run up Scottish rivers? Why is drift netting banned in Scotland, as it is in most other countries, but legal in England? Will my hon. Friend meet his MAFF colleagues to ensure that the fishery is closed down, with full compensation?

Mr. Robertson

I know that my hon. Friend has pursued this issue on many occasions at Scottish questions and with many Scottish Fisheries Ministers. He will be pleased to know that the phasing out of drift netting is proceeding, and that the number of licence holders has dropped by nearly 30 per cent. since 1992.

Sir David Steel

Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the work of the Tweed Foundation and the research that it is doing into migratory fish? Will he keep a close watch on the numbers being caught in the open seas, bearing in mind the decline in the east coast rivers of Scotland?

Mr. Robertson

I am happy to agree wholeheartedly with the right hon. Gentleman. He will be pleased to know that interest groups, including the National Rivers Authority, support a shorter phase-out period.

Sir Hector Monro

Will my hon. Friend do all that he can to hasten the phasing out of the north-east drift net? He will appreciate that the wild salmon stock in our east coast rivers has been falling fast. That will inevitably have a long-term effect on the tourist industry, for example. Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to say whether he has obtained a minimum import price for farmed salmon?

Mr. Robertson

My right hon. Friend, who had my job until July, is fully aware of the problems that have had to be faced. He has pursued the drift net issue from the Government Front Bench, as he has from the Back Benches. He will be pleased to know that there are now fewer licences. There were 149 in 1985 and in 1995 the number is 99 and falling.

My right hon. Friend will be delighted to know that the European Union has announced a minimum import price. I am delighted to have had the opportunity of working hard with the Scottish industry in tackling the problem.