HC Deb 23 October 2000 vol 355 cc98-9W
Mr. Nigel Jones

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what policies his Department is pursuing to ensure abundant supplies of cod in(a) the short term and (b) the long term; [133704]

(2) if he will make a statement on the state of cod fish stocks; [133702]

(3) what assessment he has made of the statement by the World Wildlife Fund on the state of cod stocks. [133703]

Mr. Morley

The Government are committed to managing cod stocks on the basis of the precautionary approach in order to keep them away from levels at which there is a serious risk of collapse and to help rebuild them for the future. Cod stocks generally are in poor shape, with unusually low recruitment of young fish, which may be due in part to climatic factors. This is reflected in the reduced TACs agreed for 2000 and lower landings by fishermen this year compared with 1999.

We have already demonstrated our willingness to support strong short term measures when needed. The UK took the lead in securing the Irish Sea cod recovery programme developed in close consultation with the industry and adopted in the EU earlier this year. This should help rebuild the depleted cod stock in the Irish Sea. It includes closing spawning areas in the Irish Sea from mid-February to the end of April to protect spawning cod as well as new technical conservation measures to improve protection for young cod.

Advice on cod stocks will be provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) in the autumn. We will then consider, in the light of ICES' assessment and recommendations, what management action is needed for 2001.