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Scallop Dredging (Lyme Bay)

Volume 449: debated on Thursday 20 July 2006

5. What advice he has received from English Nature about damage caused to marine reefs in Lyme Bay as a result of scallop dredging. (86600)

English Nature has advised that increased scalloping is having a significant impact on important reef features and it has recommended the closure of 60 square miles of Lyme bay. I would prefer, and am still hoping, to find a voluntary solution to the problem, but if that proves impossible I am prepared to introduce compulsory measures to protect the local marine environment.

I am extremely delighted to hear that response. I hope that the Minister will reach a conclusion soon on that matter because the damage that is being caused to the reef system is having both an environmental and an economic impact on sea angling and diving, which are major factors for the tourism industry in south Devon.

I accept the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. I, too, want to reach a decision on the matter as soon as possible.

The northern Devon fishing industry is struggling at the moment to create and to promote itself as a sustainable fishery off Lundy and around the north Devon cost. There is worrying evidence that Belgium beam trawlers are changing to otter trawlers and hoovering up fish in the Bristol channel in a way wholly contrary to it remaining a sustainable fishery. Will the Minister look into that and do something about it if he finds that that practice is happening?

I will happily look into that, although I am not quite sure what it has to do with the English Nature's recommendation on Lyme bay.

I did not feel that that answer was very helpful from the Minister. I want to know how long it will take him to decide whether to support what Devon Wildlife Trust and English Nature have asked for, which is the enforcement of a no-dredging zone covering 10 per cent. of Lyme bay, although when I googled DEFRA and indecision, I got 699 hits on badger culling, TB in cattle, partial payments, coastal access, greyhound welfare, delaying the marine Bill—