asked the Minister of Agriculture what immediate action he is taking to protect the North Sea and other near water fishing grounds in view of their depletion.
An Order is already in force prohibiting the landing and selling of undersized fish as recommended by the Overfishing Convention of 1946. It is hoped shortly to lay before Parliament a further Order raising the minimum size of mesh of nets which may be used in the North Sea and waters adjacent to the British Isles.
While I appreciate these measures, has not the time come for an international conference at Ministerial level, because of the importance of this question? There is hardly a trawler fishing in the North Sea today which is paying its way.
I could not agree more with the hon. Member about the urgent necessity of giving effect to the Order referred to, and we are in fact at this moment considering whether or not the six nations who have ratified the Order should bring it into operation at once.
asked the Minister of Agriculture when the new order to give effect to the recommendations of the Overfishing Convention, held in London in 1946, with reference to the alteration in the minimum sizes of the mesh of nets, will be introduced; and from what date the new mesh sizes are to become effective.
It is hoped shortly to lay an Order before Parliament fixing new sizes for nets. The date on which they will come into operation will be fixed having regard to the position of fishermen and manufacturers so as to enable the fullest use to be made of existing nets.
Before the right hon. Gentleman does that, will he assure himself that the other signatories to the Convention will implement regulations which are equivalent to the restrictions which we propose to put upon our own fishermen?
Yes, Sir. As I said in reply to a previous Question, the five other signatories are being consulted as to the appropriate date for bringing the Order into effect.
Does that reply mean that the British Order will not be applied until all the other nations have agreed to come in on the same date?
It will not apply until those who have already ratified the Convention have agreed on the same date.
asked the Minister of Agriculture when the next meeting of the Standard Advisory Committee set up at the Overfishing Convention, 1946, will take place.
The Standing Advisory Committee was set up for a specific purpose and its report was issued in Command Paper 7387. It contained a recommendation that the Committee should become the permanent Commission provided for by Article 12 of the Overfishing Convention, 1946. The Convention is not yet in force as six Governments have not yet ratified it. I am, however, considering the desirability of inviting Governments, which have already ratified, to agree to the Convention being brought into force so that the permanent Commission can be appointed.
Will the Minister name those Governments who have not ratified the Convention?
Belgium, Eire, France, Iceland, Portugal and Spain.