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North Sea Fisheries

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to prevent French fishing vessels from causing damage to the property of British fishermen off the coast near Bridlington and Flamborough Head. (93967)

French trawlers can legitimately operate outside the 12-mile limit off the Yorkshire coast. They also have limited access rights in the 6-12 mile area between Flamborough Head and Spurn Point to fish for herring. The activities of these vessels have been closely monitored by the Marine Fisheries Agency (MFA). A French trawler was successfully prosecuted on 7 July in Grimsby for fishing illegally inside the 12-mile limit and total fines and costs amounted to £14,750. Since this incident, no further evidence of subsequent incursions within the 12-mile limit have been found.

The MFA monitors fishing activity through a programme of inspections on land and at sea, using the Royal Navy's Fishery Protection Squadron. Aerial surveillance, combined with a satellite Vessel Monitoring System, precisely records the position of all vessels over 15m in length, including any French vessels. In recent weeks, approximately 80 per cent. of French vessels operating off the Yorkshire coast have been inspected when their catches are being landed.

The MFA will be hosting a meeting between members of the UK and French fishing industries in London on 31 October. This will help to develop a dialogue about practical ways of minimising interference with each others' fishing operations, and reduce the risk of damage to fishing gear.