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Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with which European fisheries ministers she has had discussions regarding cetacean bycatch in the last 12 months; and what the outcome of each communication was. [96734]

I have raised this issue several times with Commissioner Fischler, both in person and in writing. Most recently, I wrote to him earlier this month, reinforcing the intervention made by the UK at the January meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council and pressing in particular for wider observer coverage off the South West coast where a number of other member states' vessels pursue the pelagic fishery. I have also written to the French minister and spoken individually to ministerial colleagues from Spain, Germany and Denmark. The outcome has been, progressively, the inclusion of action on cetacean bycatch firstly in the Commission's roadmap on CFP reform and secondly in the action plan on environmental matters under the CFP, and publication of the Commission's discussion paper on the reduction of cetacean bycatch in December 2002. I shall continue to fund our scientific work and to press for action, with a view to securing concrete proposals from the Commission and then their adoption by the Council.