HC Deb 23 October 2000 vol 355 cc97-8W
Mr. Nigel Jones

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how many porpoises have(a) been caught and (b) perished as a result of fishing activities in UK waters in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; [133706]

(2) what policies his Department is pursuing to reduce the number of porpoises killed as a result of fishing. [133731]

Mr. Morley

Information on the full extent of porpoise casualties caused by fishing is not available.

My Department is funding the Sea Mammal Research Unit to undertake a three year project following on from earlier EU-funded work, including research at sea on the use of pingers to deter porpoises from nets. The new project which began in July will consider in detail why harbour porpoises become entangled in gill nets and seek to identify modifications to fishing gear which will reduce bycatches. If this work is successful I will encourage the UK industry to make the necessary adaptations and will also seek action at the EU level. In this regard, I welcomed the statement by Franz Fischler, the European Fisheries Commissioner, at the June Fisheries Council on the need to address the problem of cetacean bycatch.

With the support of this Department, my colleague and hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), launched the UK's Harbour Porpoise Conservation Strategy at the 3rd Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) Meeting of Parties held in Bristol between 26 and 28 July. This strategy sets out how the species is to be protected from pollution, seismic and other disturbances, as well as incidental mortality as a result of fishing activity.

Forward to