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Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects (a) to complete and (b) to publish the Strategy Unit's report on the fishing industry. [126583]

The Strategy Unit project on the UK fishing industry aims to be completed by the end of the year, when its final report will be published.A consultation paper has already been published on the unit's website This builds on, and follows, a series of face-to-face meetings with industry representatives across the UK.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many British fishermen have had their licences bought out under the aid scheme approved by the European Commission on 11 June; and what assistance the Government will give to fishermen and vessel owners whose licences are bought out. [126769]

52 of the 68 salmon drift netsmen remaining in the North East coast salmon drift net fishery have accepted a voluntary compensation scheme to give up their drift net licences to reduce exploitation of this mixed stock. The scheme was open only to those who held a drift net licence to fish off the North East coast of England. The Government are contributing £1.25 million over the years 2003–04 with the remainder of the £3.4 million needed to fund this buy-out being raised by private interests.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what estimate she has made of the number of fishermen who will lose their jobs due to new regulations introduced under the Restrictive Shellfish Licensing Scheme in (a) Wales and (b) the UK; [126822](2) whether there is a provision to ease fishing regulations through the Restrictive Shellfish Licensing Scheme if waters are restocked; [126823](3) whether compensation will be paid for the loss of fishermen's incomes arising from the Restrictive Shellfish Licensing Scheme; and whether there will be separate provision for Welsh fishermen. [126824]

All fishermen with a fishing vessel licensed by one of the four Fisheries Departments in the UK, will be given an entitlement to fish for crabs, lobsters and crawfish under the Restrictive Shellfish Licensing Scheme subject to demonstrating that they have landed and sold more than 200kg of lobsters or crawfish, or 750kg of crabs in a 12 month rolling period between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2002. Those fishermen with a licensed fishing vessel who do not meet the criteria will nevertheless be entitled to catch 5 lobsters and 25 crabs per day. It is not expected that employment for fishermen in Wales or the UK will be at risk as a result of these arrangements.This Department has no plans to provide compensation for fishermen who do not qualify for the Scheme. By preventing excessive effort increases in the future which would threaten crab and lobster stocks, the Scheme should in fact help to maintain the employment of fishermen whose livelihood depends on them.The possibility of course exists to vary the requirements of the Scheme in future: the additional information we shall be obtaining on shellfishing activity as a result of the Scheme will enable us to consider, in consultation with interested parties, how this might be done.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the National Assembly for Wales on the Restrictive Shellfish Licensing Scheme and its effects on the local economy; and what representations she has received from Welsh fishermen. [126825]

The Welsh Assembly Government has been fully involved in all stages of the development and implementation of the Restrictive Shellfish Licensing Scheme.Representations have been received from the North Western and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee, South and West Wales Fishing Communities Ltd., and a number of Welsh fishermen. These relate to the eligibility criteria for the scheme and how this will impact, in particular, on those who fish on a seasonal basis for shellfish.