HC Deb 12 May 1992 vol 207 cc70-1W
Mr. Trotter

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his policy on measures to supplement European Community requirements for fisheries conservation.

Mr. Curry

The EC Fisheries Council agreed in October 1991 on a significant package of technical conservation measures which take effect from 1 June 1992. United Kingdom fishermen made it clear that they were willing to go further in some respects in order to help conservation. After consulting the industry we have decided to apply the following additional and complementary measures on a national basis from 1 June.

For all United Kingdom vessels we shall operate a minimum landing size for whiting maintained at 27 cm rather than reduced to 23 cm as allowed for by the EC; an anti-ballooning provision for whitefish fisheries which is designed to prevent closure of meshes by requiring the circumference of the cod end of the net to be no greater than that of the adjacent part of the net.

In the North sea and west of Scotland area where the EC's minimum mesh size is to increase to 100 mm for roundfish fisheries the EC's further measure to permit the optional use of a square mesh panel will be adopted. While we shall no longer require a 90 mm square mesh panel in a 90 mm diamond mesh net, mesh selectivity will be enhanced by the EC provision to limit the number of meshes round the cod end and our own anti-ballooning provision.

To complement the increase in the EC's minimum mesh size in the Irish sea from 70 to 80 mm we shall increase our present unilateral requirement for a square mesh panel from 75 to 80 mm for all whitefish nets with meshes between 80 and 89 mm inclusive in the Irish sea—area VIIA—and also apply the same requirement in area VI south of 56° N to remove the anomalous position of this area and to assist enforcement.

We shall continue to require the use of an 80 mm square mesh panel when fishing for nephrops in areas IV and VI. We shall retain the present requirement for a 75 mm square mesh panel for nephrops nets with meshes of between 70 and 85 mm inclusive in the Irish sea—area VIIa—and introduce it for all nephrops nets in the rest of area VII. In this way the discards of young whitefish from all nephrops fisheries undertaken by United Kingdom vessels should be reduced.

Further, from 1 June all licensed fishing vessels will be subject to a one net rule, designed to improve the enforcement of minimum mesh size nets, and we intend to apply it to smaller vessels when licensing is extended to them.

The necessary regulations will be laid shortly.

I greatly welcome the constructive response of the United Kingdom fishing industry to the need for national measures to supplement the new Community measures being applied from 1 June because as a significant fishing nation we have a strong interest in making conservation work. We will continue to work for agreement on similar measures and further improvements in the EC technical conservation measures, but in the meanwhile the national measures which we are introducing will make an important additional contribution to conserving the stocks, including hard-pressed haddock and cod stocks in the North sea, of which United Kingdom fishermen take 89 per cent. and 46 per cent. respectively. These conservation measures are vital to our fishermen's long-term future and to our consumers.

We are very pleased that the Irish Government too intend to maintain the minimum landing size for whiting for Irish vessels at 27cm. We regard this joint move in the Irish sea as very important and we are exploring ways of taking this collaboration further.

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