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Foreign Trawlers (Nets)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps he takes to inspect the nets of foreign vessels fishing in British waters to ensure that they comply with the international convention as to size of mesh.

Fishing by foreign vessels in British territorial waters is prohibited irrespective of the size of mesh used, but I presume my hon. Friend's concern is with the nets used by foreign vessels on the high seas. Under the International Fisheries Convention of 1946, each contracting Government is responsible for ensuring that the nets used by its own vessels are of a mesh of the prescribed minimum size. My Department's powers to inspect nets for the purposes of the Convention are limited to British ships.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, on 3rd May, certain foreign trawlers took refuge in our ports and not only were they seen to have the wrong size of mesh on board, but it was openly admitted by some Belgian skippers at Brixham that they were using a 60 mm. mesh and intended doing so because the new size of mesh was no good? As our own fishermen have co-operated wholeheartedly in altering the size of their mesh, at considerable loss to themselves, would it not be a good thing if we did something to ensure that foreigners coming to our ports do the same?

I would accept the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question at once, so far as our own fishermen are concerned. I had not heard of the instance about which he has informed the House. At the present time, the permanent commission set up under the Convention is ascertaining the views of the constituent governments on whether enforcement of the mesh provisions should be on an international basis. I should prefer to await the result of that inquiry before making a further statement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the present Government would be willing for an international body, the Commission or some other body, to investigate our fishing vessels?

It would depend on how it was done. I should first like to see what the permanent commission recommends.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bring to the notice of the Government concerned the statement which has been made by his hon. Friend?