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Mackerel Catches (Carrick Roads, Falmouth)

Volume 978: debated on Thursday 14 February 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many officials in his Department are employed in the monitoring of mackerel catches in the Carrick Roads near Falmouth.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

Eight officials from my Department are stationed at Falmouth and are involved in monitoring mackerel transhipments there. Six other officials stationed in the South-West and also headquarters staff are engaged in checks on the documentation relating to transhipments.

How can the Minister believe that eight people can accurately monitor the transhipments between 30 factory boats and more than 150 fishing boats in Cornwall, when often there is only one person one duty? Will he introduce a "report ship" system, whereby ships have to report and have their catch certified before it can be passed to the factory boats?

I accept that it is important that the reporting of catches and our monitoring of them is effective. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, with the resources available to us, we endeavour to keep as effective a check as possible. There is some concern over the accuracy of the figures. We have made investigations and are tightening up many of the procedures.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, because of the problems of fishing in the South-West as a whole, it might be a good idea to institute a departmental review on the size of boats, catches, and where the boats come from? Will he do that to ensure that our stocks will not continue to be depleted?

It is a matter that gives me considerable cause for concern, because mackerel fishing is our largest single fishery. I spent several days in the South-West at the end of last year. I assure my hon. Friend that both through the efforts of my Department and the considerable efforts of the Royal Navy—to whom I pay tribute—we shall endeavour to ensure that our supervision is as strict and as tight as possible.

Is the Minister not aware that he introduced a licensing scheme for mackerel fishing? In the wake of the mad scramble that took place, the over-fishing, the friction between fleets from the South-West and Scotland, and the operations of the Klondikers, may I ask whether that scheme succeeded? What lessons has he learnt from it?

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should take notice of the steps that we have taken in that direction. The previous Government had a licence scheme. We have announced that we intend to introduce one of a restrictive nature that would give us far more control over the mackerel fishing fleets than has existed in the past. We are discussing the matter with the industry and hope to introduce the scheme later this year.

Does my hon Friend acknowledge that, when he introduces that scheme during the next mackerel fishing season—based on the number of boats that will be allowed to operate—the success or failure of that scheme will depend solely upon greater supervision and monitoring?