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Mackerel Fishing

Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 18 December 1979

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what licensing arrangements will apply to United Kingdom fishing for mackerel in 1980.

Fisheries Ministers have reviewed the mackerel licensing arrangements, taking account in particular of ICES recommendations for reduced TACs for mackerel in 1980 and the increasing capability of the United Kingdom fleet.Pending further consideration of the desirability and feasibility of more comprehensive controls on entry into the United Kingdom fleet, we have decided that restrictions must be placed on the catching capability of the United Kingdom mackerel fleet. We intend as early as possible next year to introduce a restrictive licensing scheme for the Western mackerel fishery. Under this scheme, licences would be available for vessels which have a significant recent record of participation in this fishery as United Kingdom registered vessels: the precise criteria for determining the eligibility of such vessels will be defined after consultations with the industry, but we envisage that in general, to be eligible, vessels will have to have fished for Western mackerel in their present ownership as United Kingdom registered vessels for some weeks during the recent past. We will also be prepared to consider issuing licences to applicants in respect of fishing vessels which have been recently purchased or adapted for the purposes of fishing as United Kingdom vessels for Western mackerel or to applicants who, at the time of this announcement, have entered into a firm financial commitment to purchase or adapt vessels for the purposes of fishing as United Kingdom vessels in this fishery.Nobody entering into commitments after today to purchase or adapt a vessel should assume that he will get a licence under the restrictive licensing scheme for that vessel to fish for Western mackerel. The owner of an existing vessel which has not, at the time of this announcement, recently been active in the fishery as a United Kingdom registered vessel should similarly not assume that he will receive a licence for such a vessel under the restrictive scheme, even if the vessel is licensed under the current scheme. Nor should the owner of a vessel receiving a licence after today assume that he will receive a licence under the restrictive scheme if up until now the vessel has not within the recent past been active in the fishery.Early consultations will now be held with the industry about the exact criteria for eligibility for a licence under the restrictive scheme and about other administrative details with a view to bringing the new scheme into force in the spring.In the meantime, the existing licensing arrangements will continue to apply except that, with effect from 30 December 1979, vessels' weekly quotas will be reduced by 20 per cent. Fishing against these quotas by vessels of over 60 ft. registered length will have to stop at midnight on 16 February 1980. We hope that an earlier suspension of the fishery can be avoided, but, if catches run at unexpectedly high levels, this closure date will have to be reviewe