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Fisheries

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he plans to introduce primary legislation to implement the recommendations of the Report of the Review of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Legislative Project 2006, as recommended in the report; which recommendations of the Review of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries 2000 have been implemented; and if he will make a statement. (228052)

The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review 2000 made 195 recommendations, 49 of which require changes to existing primary legislation. The Government accepted the majority of these 49 recommendations and made a commitment to introduce new legislation when parliamentary time so permitted.

The subsequent Review of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Legislative Project identified that proposals to address obstructions to the free passage of fish in inland waters could be introduced through powers to implement the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC). A consultation on these proposals will be issued shortly.

Those recommendations, accepted by Government and identified as needing change to primary legislation and subsequently identified as critical by the Review of Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Legislative Project 2006 informed chapter 3, part 7 of the draft Marine Bill, published in April this year. These remain an integral part of the Marine Bill, which will be introduced subject to the availability of parliamentary time.

Most of the recommendations which the Government accepted, and which do not require new primary legislation have been completed: for example, the introduction of wider range of payment methods for rod licences, and elver/eel catch returns. Others, while being addressed, will take longer to complete, such as addressing the problem of siltation arising from agriculture. A copy of the complete table will be made available in the House of Commons Library.

The Government are committed to ensuring that salmon, trout, eels and freshwater fish should be managed in a modern way; to protect stocks for sustainable fishing, to protect habitats and reflects the importance of angling to the rural economy in England and Wales.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the stock of native migratory and freshwater fish, broken down by species, in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (228053)

Native stocks of migratory and freshwater fish are subject to extensive annual monitoring by the Environment Agency through the collection of catch statistics, programmes of river surveys, and other scientific sampling. These data are used to assess significant changes in stocks at the river catchment (or individual stillwater) level so that appropriate management interventions can be made. ‘Stock’ estimates are only collated at a national level for salmon (table 1).

The Environment Agency recently published a snapshot review of the status of the migratory and freshwater fisheries of England and Wales “Our Nations’ Fisheries”. This report concluded that numbers of coarse fish (which includes 21 species) are increasing in many of our rivers, and sea trout are also generally doing very well. However, stocks of salmon and eel are depleted and this is thought to be due, in part at least, to environmental changes affecting the fish during the marine phases of their life cycles.

For salmon, detailed stock monitoring data are published annually in a report on the status of stocks and fisheries in England and Wales. Catch data for salmon and migratory trout, for both net and rod fisheries, are also published annually (totals provided in table 1). Such data are not systematically recorded and collated for other migratory and freshwater fish species. The aforementioned reports are available on the Environment Agency website at:

http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/fish/569882/?version=1&lang=_e

Declared catches

Estimated number of spawning fish returning to England and Wales

Salmon (Number)1

Sea trout (Number)1

Eels, yellow and silver only (Weight in tonnes)1

1997

58,911

44,506

65,128

68

1998

57,017

42,288

75,468

58

1999

74,155

46,651

86,854

2000

101,713

68,594

87,344

2001

99,316

57,626

85,300

49

2002

88,925

53,561

86,814

24

2003

71,584

28,738

74,349

25

2004

87,575

43,917

62,155

10

2005

82,048

38,229

63,748

42

2006

74,464

33,087

49,580

36

2007

60,698

30,906

49,749

16

1 Catch statistics do not provide a reliable measure of changes in stock size unless changes in exploitation rates are taken into account.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what stock management plans he plans to implement to improve migratory and freshwater fish stock numbers; and if he will make a statement. (228054)

The Environment Agency (EA) has responsibility for regulating salmon and freshwater fisheries in England and Wales. The Agency is implementing a number of management plans to maintain, improve and develop fisheries. It is now implementing its overall strategy for fisheries for 2006 to 2011, 'Better Fisheries for our Nations' that includes among its four key outcomes, improved fish stocks and a better environment for wildlife and people.

At the next level, the EA is implementing the National Trout and Grayling Fisheries Strategy published in 2003 and, earlier this year, the Agency initiated its new strategy (2008 to 2021) for 'better sea trout and salmon fisheries'. The EA has in place salmon action plans for 64 principal salmon rivers.

As required by the new European Eel Regulation, eel management plans are being drawn up for each of the 11 river basin districts (as defined for the Water Framework Directive) in England and Wales. Such plans are required to be submitted to the European Commission by the end of this calendar year.

The Water Framework Directive requires the production of river basin management plans to tackle the major impacts on the whole water environment and to work towards achievement of good ecological status. The measures within these plans will be important in supporting improved fish stocks. The plans are now being drafted and must be finally approved by Ministers in December 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the forthcoming Commons Fisheries Policy reform is likely to lead to further decommissioning within the UK fishing fleet; and if he will make a statement. (228062)

Discussions on the reform of the common fisheries policy are still at a very early stage. As such, no assessment has been made on whether the outcome of the reform will result in further decommissioning of the UK fleet.

One of the key challenges facing the EU fishing fleet at present is the need to achieve a proportionate balance between the available stocks and the size of the fleet that exploits them, and this is likely to feature heavily in proposals for reform. We will need to consider whether the UK fleet, which has already been significantly reduced in pursuit of achieving this balance, should be subjected to further capacity reductions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the provisions of the Commission Communication Fishing Opportunities for 2009 Policy Statement from the European Commission (COM(2008) 331 final); and if he will make a statement. (228066)

The Communication was discussed at the June EU Council of Fisheries Ministers. The UK was generally supportive of its broad thrust. In particular, the emphasis on the desirability of long-term management plans for all stocks, focusing on achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY). However, we raised some concerns over the Commission's proposed approach, including in relation to their premise that a lack of quota uptake alone should provide sufficient justification for a future cut in total allowable catch (TAC).

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been allocated to research on improving the selectivity of fishing gears in each year since 1997; how much he plans to allocate to research on the selectivity of fishing gears in each of the next five years; and if he will make a statement. (228136)

DEFRA's Marine Fisheries Research and Development Programme has supported a range of research projects on improving the selectivity of fishing gears since 1997. The details of all projects funded since 1997, together with our planned spend in this area until 2013, are displayed in the following table.

Project code

Title

Start date

End date

Total cost (£)

MF0720

The biological and economic impacts of discarding by the UK east coast brown shrimp fishing fleet.

March 1997

September 1997

4,400

MF0615

An analysis of the selectivity processes within the beam trawl fisheries for Crangon crangon and identification of methods that could be used to improve their selectivity.

July 1997

December 1999

251,640

MF0706

Fishing gears with mitigating impacts.

January 2002

March 2005

379,913

MF0738

Gear technology, discard reduction, and environmentally friendly fishing studies.

April 2005

March 2008

539,987

MF1002

Practical steps towards reducing discards and developing more environmentally responsible fisheries.

April 2008

March 2013

1,185,871

In addition to the research funded through the Marine Fisheries R and D programme, DEFRA also acts as coordinator for the European Commission-funded MariFish ERA-NET (European Research Area Network) project which brings together the major European national funders of marine fisheries research to form an effective, working partnership. MariFish has recently launched a collaborative programme to address the problem of discarding in Europe. The collaborative programme has 14 European partners and 16 operators who have agreed to collaborate on their existing and planned discard projects. This may involve, for example, data sharing, exchange of staff and improved communication with, and involvement of, stakeholders at each stage of the programme plan.

The programme will cover technical aspects such as effort control, gear modification, real time closures and alternative fishing methods, but will also cover other important new areas such as survival of discards, use of cameras and new technologies and alternative management strategies.

The collaborative programme participants met for the first time in June 2008 to agree ways of working together, and are due to meet at the end of October 2008 to agree specific collaborative actions on how to bring their respective national research projects together to form a more cohesive programme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 3 June 2008, Official Report, columns 855-6W, on fisheries: Scotland, whether an assessment has been made of the effects of the decision of the Scottish Executive to implement a moratorium on licence and quota transfers; what legal advice he has received on the matter; and if he will make a statement. (228167)

Legal advice has shown the moratorium to be unlawful to the extent that it acts to prevent fishermen who re-register their boats to a different fisheries administration from taking their license and fixed quota allocations (FQAs) with them. Any vessel trying to re-register out of Scotland will therefore be treated in the same way as before the moratorium was announced. No formal assessments were carried out, as given our legal position, the moratorium cannot prevent the movement in licenses and FQA units.