HC Deb 18 June 1997 vol 296 cc218-9W
Mr. Savidge

To ask the Minster of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures the Government intends to introduce to ensure that United Kingdom-registered fishing vessels comply with the law; and if he will make a statement. [4296]

Dr. John Cunningham

The Government propose to take a range of initiatives designed to ensure that all fishing vessels in the UK abide by the rules.

The Fisheries Departments will continue to give priority to fair and effective enforcement. In 1997–98 some £24 million will be spent on enforcement, including surface and aerial surveillance. We are determined to bear down on those who disregard the law. If fish stocks are to be conserved fisheries regulations must be respected.

We have considered whether the existing conditions of fishing licences need to be strengthened to assist enforcement. A matter of particular concern is the practice of allegedly discarding, after inspection at sea but prior to landing, marketable fish which have been sorted, stowed on board and recorded in EC logbooks. This practice appears to be used to evade the proper operation of quotas and is inconsistent with the conservation of fish stocks. Subject to consultation with the Commission and our fishing industry, we propose to introduce as soon as possible a new licence condition which addresses this problem.

The Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen has powers to terminate a fishing vessel's registration if, taking into account any requirement of merchant shipping legislation relevant to its safety or that of its crew, he considers that it would be inappropriate for the vessel to remain registered. In the interests of safety, it is proposed that the Registrar General will serve notice of the intention to terminate the registration of any fishing vessel which fails to hold a valid safety certificate.

In addition, we shall be making arrangements for British Sea Fishery Officers to assist the Department of Transport by detaining in port fishing vessels which do not have valid fishing vessel safety certificates, as well as checking that fishing vessels are manned by crew holding the appropriate certificates, including UK Certificates of Equivalent Competency (CECs) in the case of foreign qualified crew.

Finally, the Department of Transport and Fisheries Departments have reviewed the requirements for masters and officers of larger fishing vessels to be competent in the use of English. It has been concluded that these provisions are adequate. Certificates of competency, including CECs, already require a sound knowledge of English. The more rigorous checking of officers' certificates will help to ensure that these requirements are properly complied within the interests of safety.

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