HL Deb 11 July 1985 vol 466 cc315-8

3.14 p.m.

Baroness Nicol

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government which alien marine species have been brought into the United Kingdom for fish farming, where they have been placed, and under what licence.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, I am aware of no non-native marine fin-fish species which have been introduced into the United Kingdom for fish farming purposes.

In recent years the Pacific oyster is the only marine shellfish species which has been brought into the United Kingdom for commercial farming, although trials of other species have been conducted. I have arranged for a list of the locations where these species are known to have been placed to appear in the Official Report. No licence is required for these shellfish to be brought into the country, but their deposit in coastal areas must be licensed under one of the relevant deposit orders.

Following is the list of locations referred to above:

Known Deposits of Non-Native Shellfish in the United Kingdom since 28th September 1982
Species Location
Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) Cornwall
River Camel
River Helford
Carnsew Pool, Hayle
Low Lee, Mounts Bay
River Fowey
River Exe
River Teign
Salcombe Estuary
Frogmore, Kingsbridge
River Avon
Taw Estuary
Christchurch Bay
West Mersea
Falkenham Creek
Isles of Stilly
Porthcressa Bay
Trowland Creek
Wells next the Sea
Blakeney Harbour
Brancaster Straithe
Eastern Creek, Thornham
Bulcamp Marshes
River Cleddau
Menai Straits
MAFF Fisheries Experiment Station, Conwy*
Dumfries and Galloway Region
Loch Ryan
Highland Region
Loch Ardbhair, Sutherland
Loch Eiseart, Isle of Skye
Storage facilities, Ayre Road, Firth Bay
Strathclyde region
Loch Fyne, Cairdnow, Argyll
Tobermory Bay, Isle of Mull, Argyll
West Loch Tarbert
Isle of Luing, Argyll
The Strand, Isle of Colonsay
Loch Creran, Argyll
Western Isles
Little Lock Roag, Isle of Lewis
Co. Down
Strangford Lough
Dundrum Inner Bay
Manila Clam (Venerupis semidecussata) Cornwall
River Helford*
River Exe*
River Teign*
West Mersea*
Emsworth Yacht Harbour*
Bulcamp Marshes*
Loch Creran, Argyll*
Ormer (Haliotis rufescens) Hampshire
Laboratory at Hayling Island*
Species Location
Ormer (Haliolis tuberculata) Devon
Laboratory at Plymouth*
New Zealand oyster [Ostrea Maria) Cornwall
Helfort River*
Walton on the Naze*
*Trial or experimental work.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, am I right in thinking that the reason for the Minister's assumption that there is no need for a licence is that he believes that the shellfish cannot breed in our waters? I believe that that is the answer he gave to me on an earlier occasion. Is he aware that at least two species of clam have adapted to breed in the lower temperatures of our coastal waters? This clearly shows that there should have been a licence under the 1981 Act. Can he say whether the NCC has been consulted in any of the cases to which he refers and does he not agree that it should be consulted in the future, if it has not been?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I think the noble Baroness is referring to a licence to release into the wild. Indeed, if fish of non-native species are to be released into the wild, a licence is needed. The noble Baroness asked me for an example of this. The rainbow trout, Pacific and Japanese oysters and Portuguese oysters were released or allowed to escape into the wild under a general licence in 1982. I am advised that this was with the agreement of the Nature Conservancy Council.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the cohoe salmon was originally brought in for fish farming on an experimental basis, but is now banned?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am sorry I have no information on that. I shall write to my noble friend.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, how good is the isolation of these fish if they are put into coastal waters? It is very difficult to isolate fish.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, we had a question on this. We are, of course, talking about shellfish because, as I said at the beginning of my reply to the noble Baroness, no non-native marine fin-fish species have been introduced for fish farming purposes into the United Kingdom. We are, therefore, talking about shellfish. We had a question from the noble Baroness on this about the Manila clam and in answering for the Government I made the point that these are kept under mesh or in containers. We believe, contrary to the belief of the noble Baroness, that in those circumstances they cannot escape to establish themselves in the wild.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, will the Minister assure the House that the marine species shellfish which are the subject of the question will not be placed and have not been placed in those areas which are intended to be designated as marine nature reserves?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am sorry, I cannot give the assurance for which the noble Lord asks without looking at the very complicated map of the coasts of the British Isles which shows which places are designated areas and which are not. But perhaps I may come back to the noble Lord privately on this point after looking at the map.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, is it not a little unrealistic, given our experience with terrestrial species such as mink and coypu, to make the assumption that species will not escape when they are being kept for commercial purposes? Should not the Nature Conservancy Council therefore be asked to issue a licence in every case, whether the purpose is to release them into the wild or to keep them for farming purposes?

Lord Belstead

No, my Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord on that point. It is right that we should not have a blanket ban on original importation. Indeed, I was surprised at the question which my noble friend Lord Kinnoull asked because we do not have a blanket ban on any fish coming in. However, once the fish species is in there is the mechanism of deposit orders which ensure that when shellfish or any other fish of a non-native species are being moved from one part of the coast of the British Isles to another part it is possible to control that. I think those are the mechanisms we need, except that we also need the mechanism under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to prevent escape into the wild. We have that mechanism. As I understand it, we consult the Nature Conservancy Council when such a licence is issued.