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Fisheries Council

Volume 115: debated on Wednesday 6 May 1987

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Council of Fisheries Ministers meeting held in Brussels on 5 May; and if he will make a statement.

With my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels on 5 May. This was the first meeting of the Fisheries Council since the end of the British presidency.The main business of this council meeting concerned the allocation of quotas between the Member States for the cod stocks at Spitzbergen and in north-west Atlantic waters subject to regulation by the North Atlantic Fisheries Organisation. I am pleased to report that the Council approved by qualified majority a compromise proposal by the Commission which was very favourable to United Kingdom fishing interests. We were allocated for 1987 a quota of 2,700 tonnes of cod at Spitzbergen, which is well in excess of the United Kingdom catch in any year since 1978 and amounts to nearly 13 per cent. of the Community availability; the allocation for future years will be on a sliding scale which gives the United Kingdom over 22 per cent. of any increase in the Community availability over 1987 levels and this increases the total United Kingdom share as the stock improves. For cod in NAFO areas 2J, 3KL (the other main stocks of practical interest to the United Kingdom fishing industry), the compromise approved gave us 850 tonnes as compared with the Commission's original proposal of 700 tonnes.In view of the urgent need for a decision on these quota allocations, both from the point of view of United Kingdom fishermen and in terms of the Community's international standing on fisheries matters, I judged it right to support the compromise decision in advance of completion of parliamentary scrutiny procedures in this country.The Council approved a decision, in fulfilment of a commitment in the treaty of accession, to grant Portugal financial assistance in 1988 and 1989 up to a maximum of 12 mecu for the modernisation and improvement of her fisheries control and surveillance facilities, together with a further decision providing for similar assistance to other member states up to a maximum of 10 mecu in 1988 and 1989. Member states, including the United Kingdom, have until 30 September 1987 to submit their investment plans. I very much welcome this decision which should lead to an improvement in control arrangements throughout the Community.Finally, under "other business", I raised with the Commission the need for urgent action to follow up, in consultation with Norway, any possibility for increasing the current total allowable catches for North sea cod and haddock in the light of revised scientific advice likely to emerge from the current meeting of the advisory committee on fisheries management of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. I was supported by a number of other member states and in turn supported a similar request by France in relation to cod in area VII. I am glad to report that the Commission undertook to follow up any such advice, if and when it emerges, with all urgency.