§ Mr. David Porter
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has any plans to change the arrangements for fishery protection at sea.
§ Mr. Curry
Yes. In order to maintain the patrol capability at the level I consider necessary to achieve effective deterrence and proper compliance with United Kingdom and Economic Community fisheries regulations, the Department has arranged to charter the Southella to carry out fishery enforcement duties within British fishery limits. The charter will run from the middle of this month. The ship is already converted for this work, having previously carried out similar duties for the Falkland Islands Government and the Commission of the European Communities. It will supplement the forces of the Royal Navy's fishery protection squadron.
Like the ships of the fishery protection squadron, Southella will operate under the direction of the Ministry's sea fisheries inspectorate. She will carry a team of 661W experienced inspectors who will carry out enforcement checks on both British and foreign fishing boats, mainly though not exclusively in the south-west approaches.
This civilian addition to the fishery enforcement capability is necessary because of a current shortfall in the availability of suitable naval ships this year. The requirements for next year will be reviewed in the light of the availability of Royal Navy vessels.
I commend the fishery protection squadron for the invaluable service it has given and continues to give in carrying out the fishery enforcement duties for the protection of fisheries and the ultimate benefit of all fishermen.