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Cetacean By-Catch

Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the level of cetacean by-catch within the UK 200-mile limit in the last 12 months. [112496]

Since 2000 the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), under contract to Defra, has carried out a number of surveys to estimate the level of by-catch in UK fisheries. These surveys recorded for the offshore bass fishery 53 common dolphins caught in 116 hauls in 2001 and eight common dolphins caught in 66 hauls in 2002. However, by-catch information from other member states whose vessels operate in this fishery and elsewhere in UK waters is not available so it is not possible to produce reliable estimates of dolphin by-catch deaths in within the UK 200-mile limit. It is for this reason that I have been pressing the Commission for urgent action to widen observer coverage of EU fisheries and to bring forward proposals for positive action to reduce by-catch.