HC Deb 28 March 2003 vol 402 c463W
Sue Doughty

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will raise the issue of cetacean bycatching at the next meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers; [104026]

(2) if she will work with appropriate bodies to put in place new measures for the introduction of a strategy to reduce incidental bycatch in European waters by early 2005; and if she will make a statement; [104024]

(3) if she will work with appropriate bodies to maintain progress with implementation of existing proposals for international monitoring for cetacean bycatches in order to put in place a scheme by early 2004. [104025]

Mr. Morley

My noble Friend Lord Whitty raised the need for urgent action on the issue of cetacean bycatch at the January Council of Minister' meeting. In addition I have also raised this issue with Commissioner Fischler on a number of occasions both in writing and in personal contacts.

I recently launched a consultation document outlining a UK bycatch response strategy. This was developed by Defra in partnership with the Devolved Administrations and other appropriate bodies, and sets out the extent of our knowledge of bycatch in UK waters and makes proposals for action to address the bycatch problem. The document has been placed in the Library of the House.

I have also recently written to the Commission to press for urgent action to widen observer coverage off the south west coast where a number of other member states' vessels fish. I was pleased that the Commission included a commitment to take action in this area in papers produced as part of the recent reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. Commissioner Fischler has sent an encouraging reply sharing the UK's concern and agreeing a need to act at Community level but I will continue to press for concrete proposals for positive action in advance of 2004–05 in response to our recent approaches.