HC Deb 15 March 1994 vol 239 cc660-1W
Mr. Morley

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) of 24 February,Official Report, column 441, regarding sea bird fatalities in Scotland, what is the proportion of fatalities of (a) adult birds and (b) juvenile birds.

Sir Hector Monro

[holding answer 11 March 1994]: Exact figures are not available, but from post mortem samples it is estimated that of dead guillemots, the species most affected in the recent losses, 50 per cent. of birds found in the Shetlands are adults while in other areas the proportion is about 20 per cent.

Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the possible connection between overfishing and the death of sea birds in the recent incidents on the east coast of Scotland.

Sir Hector Monro

[holding answer 11 March 1994]: There is at present no evidence that current levels of fishing are having an adverse effect on sea birds which feed on sea fish.

The sea birds which have been washed ashore in recent weeks feed on pelagic species such as sprat and sand-eels. There is no significant United Kingdom fishery for these species in the North sea. Scientific advice on the state of sand-eel and sprat stocks does not suggest that they are at low levels. Nevertheless, the European Union has established a working group consisting of marine ecologists and fisheries biologists to study the impact of fishing for sprat and sand-eels on the marine ecosystem. This follows pressure from the United Kingdom at last December's European Fisheries Council meeting.

It is clear that recent bad weather has been a major cause of sea bird mortality and that the prevailing easterly wind will have washed birds ashore that would otherwise have remained at sea.