HL Deb 16 January 1979 vol 397 cc931-2WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action is being taken to provide for the professional management of the food and mineral resources of the ocean and ocean bed in territorial waters.


Her Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to the proper management and optimum utilisation of the fisheries resources within the waters under its sovereignty or jurisdiction and are continuing discussions with our Community partners for an acceptable regime to govern fishing by member States within Community waters. Examples of specific management measures adopted by the Government include licensing arrangements, the introduction of closed areas to protect spawning stocks, complete prohibition of fishing when this is necessary, mesh size regulations, the adoption of minimum landing sizes and controls over industrial fishing. In addition the Government play an active part in the work of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea which assesses the state of stocks and recommends total allowable catches for individual species.

The search for an exploitation of offshore oil and gas resources is conducted under licences granted by the Secretary of State in accordance with regulations made under the Petroleum (Production) Act 1934 and the Continental Shelf Act 1964. The regulations specify the model clauses to be incorporated in all licences. These model clauses require that all operations be carried out in accordance with good oilfield practice, and that the licensee avoid interfering unjustifiably with navigation or fishing or the conservation of the living resources of the sea.

The National Coal Board, by virtue of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, is charged with the duty of working and getting the coal in Great Britain (including territorial waters). Rights exercisable by the United Kingdom outside territorial waters in the seabed and subsoil and their resources relating to coal were vested in the National Coal Board by the Continental Shelf Act 1964, and are exercisable by the Board subject to the consent of the Secretary of State.

The Continental Shelf Convention of 1959 declared that the coastal State exercises over its continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring the shelf and exploiting its natural resources. In the case of the United Kingdom Continental Shelf, no one may explore it or exploit its resources without the express consent of Her Majesty's Government.

So far as other minerals within territorial waters and on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf are concerned these in general form part of the Crown Estate and are under the management of the Crown Estate Commissioners who have professional and scientific advisers. Activities, licensed only after careful consideration of the possible impact on other interests, include the winning of tin, salt and potash, but by far the most important activity is the winning of marine sand and gravel from the sea for use as concrete aggregate or for reclamation. This activity comprises some 10 per cent. of the national production of that material.