HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 cc1152-3W
Mr. Paterson

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what measures may be taken, in terms of gear design, to enhance selectivity when fishing in a mixed white fish fishery to(a) optimise the haddock catch, and (b) minimise the cod by-catch; [149120]

(2) what escape strategy is adopted by (a) cod and (b) haddock in the North Sea grounds when confronted by a trawl net; [149139]

(3) what technical measures, in terms of fishing gear design and operating procedures, can be applied to minimise cod by-catch in prawn fisheries; [150297]

(4) what assessment her Department has made of raised footrope trawls as a means of reducing cod by-catch in mixed fisheries where the target species is haddock. [150488]

Mr. Bradshaw

Considerable research is going on in Europe to find solutions to the mixed fishery problem. Depending on the season and area, species such as cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, flatfish and Nephrops can be caught at the same time. In the waters round the UK, different solutions in terms of gear design may be required in Scottish, Irish, English or Danish fisheries, depending on the species present and their commercial importance to the fishermen.

Observations of fish reactions in and around trawls by research scientists have shown that there are species specific behaviours and characteristics which may provide mechanisms for separation or exclusion. Haddock and, to a lesser extent, whiting tend to rise in the mouth of a trawl as they tire. Cod, flatfish, monkfish and Nephrops keep low. Raising the footrope of the trawl or the use of semi-pelagic fishing gear may allow cod to escape under the net but other species may also be lost.

The European Commission is currently funding two major research projects which aim to find solutions in mixed whitefish fisheries and in mixed whitefish/Nep/irops fisheries in the North Sea and Irish Sea. A key feature of this work is the close collaboration between fishermen's organisations, commercial skippers, netmakers and the UK fisheries institutes. The aim is to create solutions to these complex problems which are effective, practical, enforceable and acceptable to fishermen.