HL Deb 30 October 1975 vol 365 cc614-5

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they propose to take to prevent the Russian and Eastern bloc fishing fleets from hoovering the English Channel bed to the ruination of the South-West inshore fishing industry.


My Lords, Russian and Eastern bloc fishing vessels are free to fish beyond our 12-mile fishery limit in international waters, subject to the agreed conservation regulations of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. The Commission has not yet agreed a system of quota control for mackerel stocks, which we believe are of the greatest interest to these fleets. The scientific evidence shows that these stocks are not endangered.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, especially in view of its similarity, with a slight difference, to the reply he gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, last week. Is he aware that when the ordinary bloke, especially if he is connected with inshore fishing, hears of a claim by other countries to a limit of 200 miles, he cannot see why the comparatively narrow confines of the Channel are not shared between, say, ourselves and France? Is he further aware that the Russian method of fishing is totally efficient and is ruinous to breeding grounds and conservation, and that when the spirit moves them they do not mind dumping that fish on markets to the economic disruption of the local population? Is he further aware that, being under the command of the Russian Navy, their "fishing" is not always sub-aqua?


My Lords, we wish to see an internationally agreed limit. We are trying to get the limit extended but it is not right to take unilateral action, as has been done by other countries. As for Russian fishing practice, we have no reason to believe that the Conventions into which they enter are not observed by the Russians. As for the mackerel fleet, scientific evidence shows that stocks are not endangered, although there are, I understand, vessels going out next week to sample the stocks in the area concerned and it will be interesting to see what evidence they secure.


My Lords, my noble friend refers to scientific evidence. May I ask him to say where this is published?


My Lords, I will write to my noble friend about that.


May I ask the noble Lord to say how the Russian and Eastern bloc fishing fleets "scientifically hoover" the English Channel seabed?


That is not language that I employed, my Lords.


My Lords, is it not particularly important to get this international agreement, because although the Russians have this enormous fishing fleet there are other countries, particularly those operating in the North Sea, which are equally at fault—if any one is at fault?


My Lords, there are two questions here. One is the limit imposed—and that is the subject which we are pursuing at the United Nations —and the other is the restriction on certain fish. There are already agreements with other countries in connection with certain fish and, as I said, we have every reason to believe that these are being observed. There is no agreement on mackerel because, hitherto, the stocks have been thought to be ample.

Forward to