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Cetaceans: Conservation

Volume 475: debated on Monday 12 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent to which the UK has met its obligations under the EU by-catch regulation (EC) No. 812/2004; and what impact this has had on cetacean populations in UK waters. (203996)

The UK has reported on its implementation of EC 812/2004 in June 2006 and June 2007. As can be seen from these reports, we have fully met our obligation to monitor cetacean by-catch. This work is being carried out by the Sea Mammal Research Unit, and the annual reports of this research are published on the Departments website. However, technical problems with current designs have precluded full deployment of acoustic deterrent devices. No assessment has been made of the impact of these actions on cetacean populations in UK waters.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many UK vessels are using acoustic deterrent devices to reduce cetacean by-catch . (203997)

Acoustic deterrent devices, “pingers”, are required to be used in certain fisheries under Council Regulation (EC) 812/2004. Prior to enforcing the use of pingers, the UK Government wants to be sure that the pingers we recommend to be used are safe and cost-effective for the industry and offer maximum protection to porpoises. The European Commission has recognised that because of deployment problems, some member states are not able to implement pingers as required by the Council Regulation, and have recommended that member states should continue with trials to develop a working pinger. The Sea Mammal Research Unit are currently looking at the effects that a ‘super-pinger’ has on the population distribution of porpoises. These ‘super-pingers’ are larger and therefore fewer devices are required, reducing deployment problems. We will consider the results of this research when it becomes available. We are therefore not aware of how many UK vessels are currently using acoustic deterrent devices to reduce by-catch of cetaceans.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent research on cetacean by-catch in UK waters his Department has commissioned. (204000)

The Department has implemented a comprehensive system of by-catch monitoring under the requirements of the EC Habitats Directive and Council Regulation 812/2004. The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) produces annual reports of this research for DEFRA, and these are published on the Department’s website.

Since 2000, the UK has put over £2 million into researching by-catch mitigation measures and monitoring by-catch on vessels through observers. This is to try to identify those fisheries responsible for high levels of cetacean by-catch and mitigation measures that are effective at deterring cetaceans over the long-term and are safe and cost-effective for the industry. We are due to receive the final report project on By-catch Mitigation Research from SMRU at the end of May. A new research contract on this issue has recently been agreed with SMRU.

In 2003, the UK was the first member state to publish a cetacean by-catch response strategy for small cetaceans.