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Drift Nets

Volume 171: debated on Friday 4 May 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list areas designated by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea in which drift nets are used by United Kingdom fishing boats.

United Kingdom vessels may use drift nets in any ICES zone save where there are specific provisions applicable to United Kingdom waters out to six miles.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the management measures applied specifically to the United Kingdom herring drift net fishery.

All British fishing boats over 10 m overall length are prohibited from fishing for herring unless authorised by a licence. No new licences are available; to obtain one a fisherman would have to take over a licence given up by another fisherman, or buy an already licensed boat. In addition, boats 10 m and under need a licence to fish for herring in the Irish sea—including the area known as the Mourne—and the Thames and Clyde estuaries. Exceptionally in the Mourne and Thames estuary, fisheries drift netting is the only permitted method of fishing. Fisheries departments closely monitor uptake from all United Kingdom herring fisheries and regulate catches where necessary with the aim of maximising fishing opportunities to the extent compatible with national quotas and a responsible conservation policy.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the average length of drift nets in use on United Kingdom fishing boats.

The length of drift nets varies widely by locality. An average figure cannot be readily calculated, but it is estimated that a substantial proportion are between 200 and 400 m. These figures refer to the overall length of netting used which normally comprises several individual nets joined together.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether there is a restriction on the total length of net which may be used or carried by United Kingdom drift net fishing boats.

As the drift net fisheries around the United Kingdom are relatively small scale, they do not give rise to the same environmental concerns as the very large-scale drift netting operations for tuna in the Pacific, in respect of which restrictive action has been taken. There is therefore no general restriction, but some specific restrictions are provided for under legislation concerned with salmon, trout, freshwater fish and eels.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information he has on the incidence of drift nets in use on United Kingdom fishing boats being joined together in use to form a single length of a longer net; and if he will make a statement.

It is the common practice to join together a number of individual drift nets, each typically about 50 m in length, to form a longer net, most frequently between 200 and 400 m. This facilitates net handling and repairs.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the type of net filament in use on United Kingdom drift netting boats and the mesh size of these nets for each species fished.

United Kingdom drift netters generally use either monofilament or multifilament nets. Monofilament nets predominate except in Scottish inshore waters where they are banned. The filaments are usually of nylon, but non-synthetic yarn is still used in certain areas.The mesh sizes used normally range from 40 to 60 mm for herring and mackeral, 90 to 130 mm for bass arid mullet, and 100 to 130 mm for salmon and trout.