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Volume 479: debated on Monday 1 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures he is taking to stop the practice of discards in fisheries; and if he will make a statement on the pilot scheme that has been undertaken for inshore vessels. (221423)

Under the EU’s cod recovery programme, the UK is trialling a real-time closure mechanism designed to ensure vessels avoid significant concentrations of the species, particularly of spawning and juvenile fish—and thus reduce the need to discard. In addition, commercial trials are being undertaken to identify how certain gears can be made more selective. We will provide encouragement for the widespread deployment of those found to be effective amongst our fleet—and will press the Commission for them to be applied Community-wide.

The initial phase of the Irish Sea Data Enhancement Pilot was completed recently. Fisheries dependent data are being cross-checked against observer data collected from vessels in the same fishery. This validation process is essential to ensure that the estimates of discards that result from the project are both realistic and representative.

I announced in February 2008 an environmentally responsible fishing pilot research project. The aim of the 12-month project is to quantify all components of the environmental footprint of commercial fishing vessels targeting quota stocks in inshore waters of the North sea off England. The project will collect data across a range of indicators associated with the fishing operation, marketing and ancillary services and will make an important contribution to the implementation of Fisheries 2027, DEFRA’s long-term vision for sustainable fisheries. Around 30 fishing vessels from Hartlepool, Lowestoft and the Thames estuary have been invited to take part. Training and installation of vessel monitoring equipment and is expected to start in July with all participating vessels operating under the scheme from August.