HC Deb 22 July 1980 vol 989 cc659-61W
Mr. Hicks

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what decisions Ministers have reached following the consultations with the fishing industry about restricting the catching capability of the United Kingdom mackerel fleet.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

On 18 December last year I announced that Fisheries Ministers intended to consult the fishing industry about arrangements to restrict the catching capability of the United Kingdom mackerel fleet. We have now held those consultations.

In the light of the comments which we have received, we have decided not to introduce at this stage a general scheme for restricting entry to the mackerel fleet We are, however, going to take steps to restrict further growth in the catching capability of the purse seiners and freezer trawlers in the United Kingdom mackerel fleet.

Until further notice, mackerel licences will not in general be allowed in respect of purse seiners or freezer trawlers unless the vessels concerned have before today fished for mackerel under the mackerel licensing scheme in their present ownership. Anyone acquiring, replacing or adapting a purse seiner or freezer trawler after today will receive a licence for the vessel only if we are satisfied that the catching capabilities of these sectors of our mackerel fleet are not being increased. Special consideration will be given to vessels which have been only recently purchased or adapted for fishing for mackerel or for which an applicant has by today entered into a firm commitment; but, subject to this, anybody considering acquiring, replacing or adapting a purse seiner or freezer trawler after today should not rely on receiving a mackerel licence for the vessel and should consult one of the Fisheries Departments before entering into any commitments based on plans to fish for mackerel.

Mackerel licence holders are being informed separately about the detailed quota arrangements which will apply from midnight Saturday 9 August when the current suspension of licensed fishing for western mackerel will be lifted. Bearing in mind freezer trawlers' particular problems, these arrangements will include for freezer trawlers an option to apply for a seasonal quota for the period from midnight 9 August until the end of this calendar year.

The new arrangements are intended to deal with some of the difficulties which have arisen with the previous licensing arrangements. The lack of any control on the build-up in the capacity of our mackerel fleet has led to successive reductions in vessel quotas and in the length of the fishing seasons; and this in turn has caused increasingly serious problems for fishermen and those concerned with buying and marketing the fish. By dealing with the types of vessel which account for the bulk of our mackerel catch, regulating the entry of new pursers and freezers to the fishery should help to check the further development of these problems. We will be keeping these new licensing arrangements under close review.

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