HL Deb 21 January 1991 vol 525 cc1-3

The Earl of Kinnoull asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the latest position regarding serious overfishing dangers in the North Atlantic and what safeguards have been agreed between the North Atlantic fisheries organisation and the European Community to secure a satisfactory level of fish stocks.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Strathclyde)

My Lords, having considered the state of the stocks in the north-west Atlantic, the European Community has agreed reduced quotas for 1991 for all the major stocks in these waters based on the latest scientific advice. The majority of these quotas reflect total allowable catches agreed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO). The Community is playing a strong and positive role in current discussions on improved control measures to help ensure that the quotas of all NAFO contracting parties are adhered to and thus stocks are conserved.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that encouraging Answer. Is a joint scientific study now taking place between the Community and the Canadian Government? Furthermore, is surveillance being carried out in order to ensure that there is no overfishing?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I cannot tell my noble friend how much joint research is being carried out.

The Community takes seriously advice based on scientific research. The United Kingdom donates the use of a fishery protection vessel to look after the stocks.

Lord Mason of Barnsley

My Lords, has the Minister received any representations from the fishermen in Whitby, Bridlington and Scarborough who consider that the new Common Market regulations are threatening their livelihood? What comfort has he been able to offer to them?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, that is an entirely different Question; but I recognise that the point is important. Representations have been heard. We must all remember that last year cod fishermen were allowed to fish for only nine days per month but they are now are allowed to fish for 22 days per month.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, in view of the major and continuing reduction in Great Britain's total allowable catches under the common fisheries policy perhaps I may ask this. Will the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food consider the introduction of a decommissioning scheme to allow fishermen over middle age and operating older vessels to give up fishing, subject to Community and government assistance towards the funding of such a scheme?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, again, that is slightly outwith the Question on the Order Paper. We have always made plain the fact that the decommissioning scheme is not a good use of taxpayers' money. It would be expensive and would not help to reduce the overall capacity. Against that background is the fact that white fish prices have increased by 15 per cent. during the past 12 months.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, has my noble friend's attention been drawn to recent judicial decisions of the European Court which affect the right of Spanish-owned but British-registered vessels to fish, contrary to what would otherwise be British legislation? Can he offer any hope of a remedy?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the Government have recently introduced new regulations affecting the so-called "quota hoppers"—the Spanish fishermen who have flagged their ships in the United Kingdom—which will do a great deal to ensure that that does not happen in the future.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, in reply to his noble friend, the Minister has been kind enough to give the views of the EC on this vexed question. Will he confirm that the European Community's view as conveyed by him is 100 per cent. endorsed by Her Majesty's Government?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, when a European Community decision is made at the fisheries council it is endorsed by Her Majesty's Government.

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