§ Mr. Steen
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many square miles of water off the Irish coast have been opened up to European fishing fleets as a result of removal of restrictions relating to the Irish box; and what steps are being taken to protect fish stocks in this area. 
§ Mr. Bradshaw
The Irish Box, part of Western Waters, was established by Council Regulation (EC) No 685/95. It comprises the area to the west of Great Britain south of latitude 56 30° North, east of longitude12 West and north of latitude 50 30° North and includes some some sixty to sixty five thousand square miles of water in parts of ICES Sub Areas VI and VII. Effort ceilings for Community vessels over 18 metres operating in specified fisheries within Western Waters, including the constituent parts of the Irish Box, were subsequently set by Council Regulation (EC) No 2027/95. Under new measures agreed by the Council of Ministers on13 October 2003, to take effect no later than 1 August 2004, separate effort ceilings will no longer operate for the Irish Box other than for a smaller management area off the south west coast of Ireland designed to protect juvenile hake stocks. Future fishing effort by vessels over 15 metres in the Irish Box will fall to be contained within new effort ceilings to be established for the totality of Areas VI and VII on the basis of actual fishing effort in those areas between 1998 and 2002. In addition a statement added to the minutes of the 13 October Council states that in this and other areas where vessels have previously been excluded the Commission and Member States concerned shall carefully monitor fishing activities in order to ensure that such activities are consistent with the measures already in place for the conservation of fisheries resources.