HC Deb 08 July 1981 vol 8 cc144-5W
Mr. Onslow

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he proposes to publish the consultation paper on his review of inland and coastal waters; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I are issuing our consultation paper on our "Review of Inland and Coastal Fisheries" in England and Wales to-day. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

The consultation paper deals with local fisheries administration, salmon, fish fanning and fish diseases. There has been a clear need for a wide-ranging review: the present split between the fisheries functions of the water authorities and of the sea fisheries committees has not been satisfactory; considerable concern has been expressed about the state of our salmon stocks and the unprecedented level of illegal netting; the rapid growth of fish farming, while greatly to be welcomed, calls for both encouragement and for safeguards for other water users; and, the expansion in fish farming and the increase in the movement of fish call for a thorough review of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937.

We are proposing that the sea fisheries committees be retained with a membership that reflects local fishing interests. They should, we suggest, be given the appropriate local regulatory responsibilities for the fisheries in the estuaries and out to 3 miles from baselines. They should also have particular responsibilities for the development of the shell fisheries, which we regard as a valuable growth area. The fisheries responsibilities of the water authorities would relate to the rivers and inland waters. However, we are proposing a pooling of water authority and sea fisheries committee resources for the management of the mixed fisheries stocks of salmon and sea fish in the estuaries and taken by shore operated nets along the coast.

It is proposed that the salmon drift net fishery off the Northumbrian and Yorkshire coast be retained but subject to greater restrictions to safeguard, in particular, the salmon destined for the River Tweed. The proposals contained in the consultation paper should make an important contribution to combat illegal salmon netting.

The Government have already introduced the derating of fish farms and this, together with the measures in the Fisheries Act 1981, should help this important growth industry. We have not advocated compulsory licencing of fish farms but are prepared to consider some form of compulsory registration. The consultation paper includes proposals on the problem of fish farm emissions and on water abstraction licencing. The existing responsibilities of the water authorities for controlling fish movements would be restricted to the public waters for which they have management responsibilities.

In the fish disease proposals particular attention is paid to preventing the importation of serious fish diseases. Greater flexibility in the powers available for preventing or dealing with outbreaks of serious fish diseases is proposed. It is suggested that shellfish diseases be brought fully into the fish disease arrangements. Compulsory slaughter of farmed fish in the event of outbreaks of VHS—viral haemorrhagic septicaemia—or IHN—infectious haematopoetic necrosis—are proposed. There would be a statutory obligation on fish farmers to maintain fish movement records for use in tracing disease outbreaks.

Comments on the proposals in the consultation paper are invited and will be taken into account by the Government in reaching their decisions on specific measures to be introduced.