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Fish Catches

Volume 264: debated on Wednesday 18 October 1995

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11.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the total tonnage of fish caught by fishermen in Scotland last year; and what were the comparable totals 10 and 20 years previously. [36039]

The total standard landed weight of fish landings into Scotland by UK vessels in 1994 was 459,268 tonnes. In 1984 that stood at 543,312 tonnes, and in 1974 477,210 tonnes.

As Scottish waters are now a European Union resource and future decisions will be made by majority vote, is the Minister confident that he can secure the long-term future of that vital Scottish industry?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will be the first to agree that, unlike him, fish do not respect international boundaries. Therefore, international co-operation is vital to ensure the proper management of fisheries and the long-term conservation of the fish stocks. That is in everyone's best interests and it will not occur without co-operation.

I am the first to concede to my hon. Friend that the common fisheries policy may be far from perfect, but we are reviewing our approach to it and we shall continue to press for improvements. I am delighted that the CFP review group has two Scottish members who are playing a full role in developing thinking at this crucial time.

Is the Minister aware that the fishermen of Scotland and Northern Ireland share my concern and that of my colleagues and the people from the Clyde coast constituencies about the threat to safety posed by the phosphorus incendiaries that have been washed up in the past 10 days? As the fisheries and environment Minister for Scotland, will he explain what the Secretary of State for Scotland is doing to ensure that there is no recurrence of the incident? Will he join with me and hon. Members from all parties and ask British Gas—we know that its pipe laying has caused the problem—to suspend its operations immediately until it is clear that there can be no recurrence of that appalling and horrendous danger?

I know that the hon. Gentleman had meetings yesterday with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, which I understand proved constructive. I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, in his role as Scotland's lead fisheries and environment Minister, has been following up those discussions.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the prawn catch in the Clyde estuary is nearing its limit under the total allowable catch? Is he also aware that the volume and the quality of the catch is being maintained at very high levels? On that basis, will he consider extending the TAC for prawns in the Clyde estuary?

I commend my hon. Friend for the way in which he has doggedly pursued the matter with me for some time. As he is aware, I travelled the length and breadth of Scotland during the recess in order to hear what fishermen had to say. The matter is clearly of great concern to fishermen on the west coast and I am pleased to announce to the House today that Her Majesty's Government will press the Commission for an increase of 1,000 tonnes on the 1995 precautionary TAC for nephrops off the west coast of Scotland. I am confident that that will ensure a sustained fishery until the end of the year.