HL Deb 01 March 1984 vol 448 cc1439-40WA
Viscount Ridley

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have concluded their consideration of the views submitted to them regarding salmon fishing as a result of the Government's consultation paper on the Review of Inland and Coastal Fisheries in England and Wales; and if they will make a statement.

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

We received a large number of responses to our consultation paper offering differing and sometimes divergent views. We have considered these carefully with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales and, where appropriate, with my right honourable and noble friend the Minister of State at the Scottish Office.

One of the main issues on salmon arising from the consultation paper was that of illegal catches, and we have in particular sought comments on the report, Salmon Conservation—A New Approach, prepared by the Salmon Sales Group of the former National Water Council, which proposed a salmon tagging scheme to combat the illegal taking of salmon in English and Welsh waters. We have received views on these proposals from a wide range of bodies which indicate strong support for some kind of salmon sales control. It is also clear, as the Salmon Sales Group themselves recognised, that a number of difficult practical problems would need to be overcome before any scheme of this sort could be introduced.

In our view, it would not be sensible to have a salmon tagging scheme which did not include Scotland. We have therefore just concluded discussions with my right honourable and noble friend the Minister of State at the Scottish Office and have agreed that, in view of the widespread concern—which the Government share—over the illegal fishing for salmon, it would be right to explore further whether the ideas set out in the Salmon Sales Group's report can be developed into a workable scheme within Great Britain as a whole. It does seem, allowing for all the snags, to be the most promising way of tackling this problem. Accordingly, we have instructed officials to discuss this with the various interests concerned and to let us have their conclusions as quickly as possible. I will make a further statement as soon as I am in a position to do so.

Our consultation paper also discussed the strengthening of links between water authorities and sea fisheries committees, particularly concerning the regulation of fishing for salmon and other migratory fish in estuaries and coastal waters. Since we issued the consultation paper, water authorities have been reorganised and the authorities themselves have achieved better working relations with salmon fishermen. The restructured water authorities have also indicated their willingness to improve their cooperation with sea fisheries committees. In consequence, and having taken account of the views expressed during the consultation process, we have concluded that a change of organisation of local fisheries management is not required at this time.

Regarding commercial salmon fishing, and particularly in the Solway and off the north-east coast of England, we have noted that different interests frequently deduce opposite conclusions from the same evidence, and that the evidence itself is often incomplete. In consequence, we have instructed officials to meet local interests concerned about the Solway and to consider further the effects of the northeast coast fishery before we take any decisions on these matters.