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Restrictive Shellfish Licensing Scheme

Volume 402: debated on Thursday 3 April 2003

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(Mr. Elliot Morley)

For some time, scientists have been advising us that UK crustacea stocks within British waters are at risk of being exploited beyond their sustainable limit. Defra (then MAFF) issued a consultation letter on 5 January 2001 to gauge industry reaction to a series of proposals to address the problem. One of these was to introduce a restrictive shellfish licensing scheme. The industry's responses to our consultation were very constructive and supportive.Last October I told Sea Fisheries Committees, shellfish interests and whitefish industry representatives that we would be going ahead with proposals to control effort in the shellfish sector as soon as resources became available. I am delighted to announce that we can now proceed immediately and address the large numbers of concerns that have been put to me about the need to protect the shellfish sector from the effects of possible displacement from other types of fishing.

With effect from January 2004 in respect of over 10 m vessels, and 1 April 2004 in respect of under 10 m vessels, in general only holders of existing fishing vessel licences who have been able to demonstrate that they have fished for crabs or lobsters using pots or nets, and have landed or sold more than 200kg lobsters or 750kg crabs during any 12 month consecutive period between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2002, will be given authority to continue to fish for them. At the same time we will set a limit on the quantities that may be landed by licensed fishing vessels which do not qualify for a shellfishing entitlement.

We will issue further detailed guidance on eligibility for the scheme in the near future and application forms will be informed sent to all license and entitlement holders as soon as they become available. It will be the responsibility of individual applicants to provide satisfactory and acceptable proof of their eligibility for a shellfish entitlement. Decisions will be fully explained and documented to fishermen deemed not to qualify.