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Fishing

Volume 116: debated on Thursday 14 May 1987

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures the Government have taken since 1979 to support the British fishing industry.

[pursuant to his reply, 8 May 1987, c. 564]: Agreement on the common fisheries policy (CFP) in January 1983 was a major achievement which was welcomed by the United Kingdom industry because of the stability it provides and because it allows the industry to plan future activities with increasing confidence. It was particularly welcome as it marked the close of a period of instability due largely to reduced distant water opportunities following the establishment of 200-mile fisheries limits.The agreement, which reflects a delicate balance of interests, includes satisfactory provisions on access to coastal waters and the Shetland box, allocation of national quotas, technical conservation measures and the Community's control and enforcement regime.In April 1985 the negotiations between the Community of Ten and two applicant countries, Spain and Portugal, on the terms of their accession to the Community on 1 January 1986, were concluded on a basis which, while being fair to the new member states, fully preserved United Kingdom fishing interests and the existing balance of the CFP.Under the United Kingdom presidency of the Fisheries Council from July to December 1986 we secured the full-scale revision of the regulation on technical conservation measures. Agreement was reached on a staged increase in the minimum mesh size for the North sea to 90mm by 1989, on retention of the mesh size derogation for vessels below 300 bhp fishing for sole, on improvements in the rules governing beam trawling within the 12-mile inshore zone (including the reintroduction of an 8m aggregate beam length) and on the maintenance of the key restrictions on industrial fisheries.Substantial improvements were alse made under the United Kingdom presidency to the Community's control and enforcement arrangements including increased powers for Community inspectors, tighter control of over-fishing and, for the first time, we have established the principle that a member state which over-fishes its national quota to the extent that other member states are prevented from fully taking theirs, will now be required to compensate the disadvantaged member states, thus providing a real incentive not to over-fish.In each of the last three years we have managed to secure agreement on the TACs and quotas for the year ahead before the actual start of the fishing year and in 1986, under the United Kingdom presidency, we also negotiated a long-term agreement with Norway on the share out of North sea herring, an issue which has caused major problems in the past.On the market support side, a revised regime was introduced in 1983 which provides a system of degressive compensation, by which fishermen's co-operatives are eligible for partial reimbursement from FEOGA of losses made on the sale of the main species of fish. In addition, there is provision for private storage subsidies and import duties. In 1986 the EC budget for fisheries was 41 mecu. Domestic regulations have been introduced to back up Community requirements for the grading of a wide range of fish species according to size and quality.A number of measures have been taken to improve the protection of the marine environment. These include the enactment of part II of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985, which has introduced more comprehensive controls over the disposal of waste at sea; the introduction last year of a new liquid discharge authorisation for BNFL Sellafield, which embodied a further tightening of controls to ensure the continued reduction of levels of radioactivity released to the Irish sea; and the bringing forward of provisions to regulate the use of anti-fouling paints containing tributyl tin (TBT) in the aquatic environment. At the same time, the scientific and other resources in my Department devoted to the protection of the aquatic environment from pollution have been increased.In 1980–82 the Government provided special financial assistance to the fishing industry in a period of uncertainty prior to the agreement of the CFP in 1983. Under the fishing vessels temporary support scheme some £55 million in aid was given to the industry.In 1983 we were the first member state to implement the Community fisheries structures package through the Fishing Vessels (Financial Assistance) Scheme 1983 which provided grants for the decommissioning and laying-up of vessels, exploratory voyages and joint ventures—together with aids for building and modernising vessels. These measures expired at the end of December 1986 and a new system of financial support for the sea fisheries industry was agreed by the Council of Fisheries Ministers on 3–4 December 1986. This was a Council regulation covering the first five years of a 10-year programme for the modernisation and adaptation of the fishing fleet: modernisation of port facilities, promotion of some fish species and the development of fish farming. The Community financial provision up to 1991 is 800 mecu (£500 million. Arrangements are in hand to lay before Parliament draft orders to implement the main provisions of this Community regulation.A new commercial strategy for Torry research station was introduced in 1985 under which the station was set an annual receipts target of £400,000 by the end of the third year.

The Sea Fish Industry Authority's five-year sea fish industry development programme (1984–89) is promoting the consumption and marketing of fish. The Government have already paid £8 million towards the first three years of this programme and a further £4 million has now been allocated for the final two years.

More recently at the Council of EC Fisheries Ministers on 5 May, we achieved a generous cod quota for 1987 of 2,700 tonnes at Spitzbergen and 850 tonnes in the important fishing grounds of the north-west Atlantic.