Skip to main content

Fishing Methods

Volume 928: debated on Thursday 17 March 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will review fishing methods in Great Britain in the interest of conservation.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. E. S. Bishop)

All fishing methods are kept under active consideration.

Does the Minister agree that as the pressures increase upon the British fishing industry it is becoming increasingly essential that in the interests of conservation there should be a proper balance between methods, including the size of mesh nets, beam trawling and purse seining? May we have a review of the British fishing industry that takes account of the European situation?

Yes, I accept, as the hon. Gentleman does, the importance of conservation. He will know that under the Fishery Limits Act we have powers to look at fishing methods as well as other aspects. But what really matters is the way in which we control fishing effort in the areas concerned. These are matters that are under consideration.

As the Minister will no doubt have to move in agreement with his colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland, will he also do so in agreement with his colleague the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, so that the same policy may apply to all parts of the United Kingdom?

Yes. Conservation is not a matter that concerns only the Sussex coast, as the hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) may have implied just now, because of his interest. We are concerned about conservation in the whole of the area around the British coast. We are considering these matters in consultation with those concerned.

On the question of fishing methods, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that an extension of fish farming at appropriate points around the coast of Britain, especially around the coast of West Wales, would substantially increase our food supplies? Will he and my right hon. Friend give very careful thought to that matter?

Yes. My right hon. Friend may be aware of the debate that we had in October, I think, when this matter was discussed. I think that I said then that there could be an increase in food supplies from fish farming which would probably be significant, although not as significant as some may think. Also, the Government's concern about this is indicated by the fact that the Ministry spends over £1 million a year on research and development in that sector. However, I shall certainly bear in mind my right hon. Friend's comments.

Is it not time that the House recognised that man's technical ability to catch fish now outstrips the fishes' technical ability to reproduce themeslves? Will anything short of the banning of some of the modern technical methods save our fishing industry?

That is quite an important point, but the fact is that we must recognise that conservation measures should be non-discriminatory and that they can affect our own fishermen as well. I think that that is something that they would accept. These matters are under review within the Community. We are most anxious to bring forward measures from time to time to protect our stocks.

Does the Minister agree that more important than reviewing the fishing methods of Britain is reviewing the fishing methods of our EEC partners? Will he assure the House that no British fishing boat will be restricted in any way so long as one Danish fishing boat is allowed to continue with Danish industrial fishing methods?

I think that the hon. Gentleman was present at the recent meet- ings at which we had been discussing this matter in connection with various orders to ban herring fishing and certain fishing methods. As I have said, methods of control must be nondiscriminatory. We must bear in mind the effect on all concerned. Community vessels are also covered by any restrictions within the 200-mile limits. But conservation, basically, is the responsibility of the member State. It is something that we think is of great importance.

My hon. Friend referred to the Fishery Limits Act 1976. In terms of other nations' fishery limits, can he say when we can expect some agreement with Iceland and a positive agreement with the Faroes? Also, when will the British Government do something to help the deep sea fishing fleet? This has particular relevance to employment on Humberside.

With regard to Iceland, I have nothing to add to what was said by my right hon. Friend yesterday and by the Foreign Secretary on 9th March. I think that my right hon. Friend also referred yesterday to the Faroese position. These matters are under urgent review because of their importance to our own industry.