HL Deb 16 February 1977 vol 379 cc1544-6

2.46 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in negotiations for the licensing of Community fishing vessels, they will seek different standards for ships which catch fish for fodder and fertiliser from those which catch fish for human consumption.


My Lords, there are no plans at present for the licensing of Community fishing vessels. We do, however, recognise the need to protect human consumption stocks from damage that can be done by indiscriminate industrial fishing: conservation measures we hope to take shortly will improve control over industrial fisheries.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that agreement was reached with the Danes only last night with respect to some of these conservation measures, and is he also aware that I am very glad that that has happened? Is he further aware that there is considerable admiration for the tenacious way in which the Government have negotiated these conservation measures, and would he not agree that it is necessary to maintain discriminatory standards of this kind for the health of the whole Community fishing industry?


Yes, my Lords. I absolutely agree with my noble friend and I will pass on his kind remarks to my honourable friend who has conducted the negotiations. The House may be interested to know that the Community agreed yesterday on a Council regulation which makes valuable progress towards what we need. North Sea herring fishing will be banned until the end of March, and by then the Council will decide whether to continue the ban; the closed area for Norway pout has been agreed as the United Kingdom wished, and the by-catch limit will be reduced from 25 to 20 per cent, for the rest of the year. Although no decision has yet been reached on the carrying of different size nets, proposals will be made to the Council on this point by the middle of March.


My Lords, when a licensing system is introduced, will the Government seriously consider making this distinction between fishing for human consumption and industrial fishing?—because industrial fishing can so seriously damage our fishing grounds. It works on the principle: if it moves, scoop it. May I, on behalf of myself and my colleagues on the Front Bench here, say that the agreement on Norway pout is welcome, because, although that is a fish which is not of much interest to this country, it is a prime example of a fish which is caught by other countries for industrial purposes, and in the course of catching that fish our own young fish for edible consumption are seriously damaged.


My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Lord has said, and I absolutely agree with what he said about industrial fishing. The agreement concluded yesterday with the Community is, of course, a first step, but we are also looking with our partners in the Community at the whole question of factory ships and whether there should be restrictions on their use.


My Lords, in these recent discussions may I ask the noble Lord what consideration was given to inshore fishing? I have particularly in mind the methods being used, with heavy beams and what are called tickler chains, to catch very large numbers of flat fish inshore which, if persisted with, could do immense damage so far as conservation around our shores is concerned.


My Lords, the question of mackerel and other species of fish is being discussed at present with the Community and we hope that agreement on quotas will be reached.