HC Deb 04 April 1989 vol 150 cc159-60W
Dr. Godman

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if, pursuant to his reply of 6 February,Official Report, columns 561–562, he will state the critical level of spawning stock size for Shetland sand eels, below which recruitment will be affected by the abundance of spawning fish; and how this is estimated.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

It is not possible to state precisely the critical size of spawning stock required to protect recruitment from stock-related effects. However it seems unlikely that it is higher than the lowest recorded level that has produced average recruitment or better. For the Shetland stocks, that suggests a spawning stock biomass of around 20,000 tonnes.

Dr. Godman

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment his Department has made as to whether the voluntary measures taken by Shetland fishermen to reduce catches of young sand eels are likely to conserve stocks of O group and I group sand eels; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Estimates of the abundance of young O group sand eels are based on the accumulated catches of the respective year class in successive years, and it will therefore be two or three years before a full assessment of the effects of the voluntary measures is possible. Landing samples have revealed a very low incidence of very small sand eels in 1987 and 1988 catches but this could be due to the effects of the voluntary restrictions, or to low levels of recruitment of young sand eels, or to both.

Recent scientific data support the earlier view that the decline in stocks is likely to be due primarily to recent low levels of recruitment rather than the effects of the fishery. However, given current concern about the health of the stocks, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland has today announced proposals to introduce statutory controls on sand eel fisheries in Scottish inshore waters. Comments on the proposals are being invited from interested parties.

Mr. Macdonald

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will state the total catch by weight, fishing effort and proportions of both O group and 1 group fish, by weight, for the Minch sand eel fishery since 1980.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The information requested for ICES division VIa (West of Scotland including the Minch) is as follows:

Total catch (tones) Fishing effort (Days fishing) Percentage (by weight)
O group 1 Group
1980 180 26 30 46
1981 5,972 303 21 33
1982 10,786 588 15 13
1983 13,051 447 34 20
1984 14,166 446 13 28
1985 18,586 475 22 3
1986 24,469 530 21 33
1987 14,479 290 11 52
1988 24,465 455 3 4