HL Deb 23 October 1979 vol 402 cc1-4

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so I would apologise to some noble Lords, for it is clear that I should have added Wales, as has been forcefully pointed out to me by various noble Lords.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what further steps they propose either by legislation or order, for better preservation of salmon in the rivers of Scotland and England and the surrounding sea waters within the control of the United Kingdom.

The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (The Earl of Mansfield)

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is reviewing the law and the administration of salmon fisheries in Scotland, and he expects to make an announcement in due course. Informal consultations have recently taken place with representative bodies on a number of policy issues, including salmon protection, relating to inland and coastal fisheries in England and Wales.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that Norway, Iceland, Ireland and Canada have already updated their conservation legislation in order to meet the increasing danger from new technology to the diminishing stocks in in-season rivers? Could he further say that this country will not have to wait for some international convention but feels the need for urgent unilateral action to stop the present danger of the extinction of salmon?


My Lords, my noble friend's Question falls into two parts: first, what I might call the domestic front; that is, the taking of salmon in the sea not so far from our coasts. The whole question of salmon protection is currently under review. In the meantime the fisheries departments are seeking to improve operational co-ordination of existing protection measures on both sides of the border. In an international sense, because British salmon are indeed taken many hundreds of miles from our coasts, the Government are at present considering proposals from the United States Government for an international convention to control salmon fishing at sea. I do not believe therefore that unilateral action on our part is either possible or desirable at present.


My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that, because salmon returning to their rivers to spawn swim close to the surface, they could virtually be wiped out by unrestricted continuous drift netting round the mouths of rivers and that this threat has arisen only within the last 20 years because of the new man-made fibres? Previously, the salmon were strong enough to break the mesh.


My Lords, my noble friend is referring to mono-filament nets; but better scientific evidence of the effect of these nets is needed. The question is being kept under review.


My Lords, is it not the fact that salmon from our rivers go off to Greenland and elsewhere? And would it not be possible to have some international agreement whereby we can stop the salmon being (shall I use the word?) poached off Greenland before they come back to our rivers in this island?


Yes, my Lords, this is the international part of the reply which I was attempting to make to the supplementary question of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye. There are two parts. There is the domestic salmon protection and also international measures. It is these which at the moment the Government are considering in the light of various proposals made by the United States Government.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, if, as I believe is the case, it is the Danes who are the major culprits in fishing salmon in their feeding grounds between Canada and Greenland—and they, the Danes, have no natural salmon spawning rivers and have no interest in keeping salmon spawning rivers—can my noble friend undertake that this will be brought very much into the consideration of Her Majesty's Government?


My Lords, we have our differences with the Danes over various fishing matters, but I think that it is right to say that there has been considerable co-operation between Her Majesty's Government and the Danish Government for some considerable time as to the fishing off Greenland. But I agree with my noble friend that this is not a question that we can ever put aside.


My Lords, will the Minister be so kind as to let me know whether this is an auspicious opening for the House of Lords, or have you your priorities right?

The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Lord Soames)

My Lords, having heard that supplementary question, I think that it would be a good idea if we moved on to the next Question.


My Lords, before we do so, as only three minutes have passed, can my noble friend confirm that, because salmon fishings are highly rated as in paying local rates in Scotland, a great deal of finance comes in to local authorities and it is an important element in the economy in Scotland?

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