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Fishing Industry

Volume 464: debated on Thursday 28 April 1949

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Overfishing

26.

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.

35.

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.

36.

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?

Headless Fish (Landings)

27.

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he intends to take to stop the landing of headless cod and other long fish from the distant fishing grounds in view of the damage to their keeping qualities; the fouling of grounds; the loss of fishing time; and the loss of fishmeal for cattle, pigs and poultry feeding.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to a Question on this subject by the hon. and gallant Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) on 4th April. There is no conclusive evidence that the heading of fish at sea substantially affects keeping quality or is detrimental to the fishing grounds. It does not necessarily involve a loss of fishing time. More fishmeal could be obtained by preventing heading at sea, but this might lead to less fish being landed for human consumption.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the fishing industry is unanimously in favour of returning to the traditional practice of landing fish whole? This new practice has simply come about because of the interference of the Minister of Food in a well-meant endeavour to bring in more fish, and all he is doing is to bring in more bad fish. Should it not be stopped? The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the production of all food.

Yes, Sir, but the hon. Member is aware that while I appreciate the urgent need for more fishmeal as protein feedingstuff and so forth, I am also anxious to see that the human family are not deprived of any of the fish we could obtain while there is such a shortage of meat.

Is the Minister of opinion on examination of this question that the heading of fish does reduce the keeping qualities, and what is the scientific estimate of the effect of the heading of fish on the fouling of the fishing grounds?

Experiments carried out by the Torry Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research have shown that as regards the keeping qualities there is no great advantage or disadvantage directly attributable to the heading of fish at sea.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that to retain the head of a fish decreases the effect of the weight of the fish on those in the lower strata in the hold, because the heavy bone in the head of the fish reduces the pressure on the fish underneath?

It is obvious that if all the fish are headed there is more accommodation for the bodies of the fish, of which the human family are in urgent need.

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that all the people in the longshore fishing industry are agreed that this practice has spoiled some of the best fishing grounds not only in the North Sea, but in the White Sea and in the far fishing grounds, and would he do something to get this practice stopped instead of spoiling the fishing?

I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no unanimity among the trawler owners. There is no reason why they should not start bringing in whole fish instead of heading them at sea.