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Volume 447: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consideration he has given to the request from English Nature for him to close an area of 60 square miles off Lyme Regis to fishing; what consultations he has held with scallop fishermen on this request; if he will take into account the social and economic implications in his deliberations; when he expects to make a decision; and if he will commission research to determine density and location of scallop beds in relation to those of protected seabed fauna. (76702)

[holding answer 13 June 2006]: I regard the request from English Nature very seriously. I also recognise that Lyme Bay represents an extremely important fishery for the south west and the socio-economic impact of any action needs to be taken into account in reaching a decision. My officials have attended meetings with English Nature and Southern and Devon Sea fisheries Committees and, more recently, with the newly formed South West Scallopers Association. This dialogue is continuing.

I hope we can urgently broker a local solution to this issue which will be acceptable both for the marine environment and the livelihoods of fishermen. If this is not possible, or if individual scallopers choose not to respect any negotiated agreement, I will not hesitate to accede to English Nature’s request.