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Fishing Catches

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2008, Official Report, columns 1865-6W, on fishing catches, what progress has been made on the development of the EU Discard Atlas; and if he will make a statement. (228064)

In December 2007, the European Commission issued an open call for tenders in relation to Studies and pilot projects for carrying out the Common Fisheries Policy (Call No. FISH/2007/07). These studies included one which was intended to form the basis of the long-planned EU Discard Atlas. The study, which was lot four of the call for tenders, was required to provide a review of the current knowledge about discards in EU fisheries, and a feasibility study on a fisheries information system for these. Specifically, the aim of the project was given as:

To compile and analyse all the information collected so far by the discard sampling programmes under the Data Control Regulation (DCR) on both the discarded and the retained fractions of the catch, in order to reply to questions such as how much, what, where and why discards occur. The study shall cover all main fishing regions of the EU: (i) the Baltic, (ii) the North Sea, (iii) the North Western Atlantic Waters, (iv) the Southern Western Atlantic Waters and (v) the Mediterranean.

At the same time, to assess the feasibility of an information system offering easy and interactive access to fisheries data including information on fishing effort and catches. This feasibility study should consider, in addition to the geographical areas mentioned above, the Black Sea once data from that area is available through the DCR.

The study would have required extensive work and co-operation between all European marine fisheries research institutes, in order to achieve these aims. However, the finances on offer to perform the study were relatively limited, and as far as we are aware, no bids to do the work were submitted before the deadline of 25 February 2008.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much of European Fisheries Fund money will be available for projects to reduce discards and bycatch in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (228067)

In accordance with Commission Regulation (EC) No 498/2007, the UK EFF funds have been distributed across the priority axes and years of the Programme. Details can be found in Section 6 of the UK Operational Programme which is available via the DEFRA website.

Priority Axis 1 (measures for adaptation of the Community fishing fleet), and Axis 3 (measures of common interest) are linked with a number of objectives, including reducing discards and by-catch. We cannot pre-empt decisions as to which projects will receive EFF funding, but can confirm that projects which seek to reduce discards and by-catch will be considered a high priority.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the (a) number and (b) percentage of UK fish stocks that have been discarded in each of the last three years, broken down by species; and if he will make a statement. (228071)

Quantities of discards are estimated quarterly using data collected by scientific observers aboard commercial fishing vessels. They are required to record the quantity landed and discarded, and the species and size composition of the discards each time the fishing gear is hauled. Deploying scientific observers in this manner is expensive and time consuming, with the result that it is usually only possible to sample a small proportion of the overall fishing trips in a given area. As a result, it is necessary to extrapolate from the limited sampling to provide estimates for the entire fleet. Although the sampling is intended to cover a representative sample of the fleet, this does mean that the estimates of total discards are subject to uncertainty.

Estimated annual figures for discards of some important commercial species over 2005 to 2007 are given in the following table. The figures given are as follows:

Country

Area

Species

Type

2005

2006

2007

English and Welsh registered vessels

North Sea ICES sub-area IV

Cod

ND

2,082

2,083

641

DR

47.7

62.1

40.6

Haddock

ND

665

1,837

1,471

DR

14.8

71.6

38.0

Plaice

ND

1,900

1,975

1,102

DR

70.4

36.3

74.7

Sole

ND

13

351

373

DR

5.1

26.8

30.1

Whiting

ND

4,422

9,002

3,628

DR

33.3

53.3

31.9

Scottish registered vessels

North Sea ICES Sub-area IV

Cod

ND

3,709

3,273

2,952

DR

57.4

73.5

83.6

Haddock

ND

84,038

59,314

48,735

DR

28.0

65.4

72.9

Whiting

ND

17,563

23,905

26,249

DR

65.0

50.9

45.3

Saithe

ND

3,930

4,169

4,389

DR

64.2

57.6

75.3

Scottish registered vessels

West of Scotland ICES Division VIa

Cod

ND

170

144

145

DR

62.3

86.7

89.8

Haddock

ND

5,165

9,856

5,765

DR

78.2

69.8

74.0

Whiting

ND

452

489

1,114

DR

96.7

95.8

75.1

Saithe

ND

764

1226

511

DR

64.2

62.0

52.5

Note:

DN: Estimated number discarded (thousand)

DR: Discard rate (percentage of total catch in numbers that is discarded)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what reports he has received on allegations that the fishing vessel Prolific discarded in UK waters fish that were caught in the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone; and if he will make a statement. (228132)

The Norwegians have made their concerns known to me. We are now working with them, the Commission and other member states to deliver a package of measures which will make our fisheries more sustainable in the future and significantly reduce the scale of discarding.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the amount of fish caught within the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone by UK vessels and discarded in UK and other EU member state waters in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (228133)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 708W, on fishing: catches, whether there has been an improvement in the discard data received by the European Commission; whether the provisions of Council Regulation 1543/2000 in relation to collecting discard data are now being met by all member states; whether the Commission has taken any action against those member states not providing discard data; and if he will make a statement. (228137)

The answer of 12 December 2007 refers to a report by the Subgroup of the Commission's Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) on the Assessment of the EU's Fishing Effort Regime. This group has met again during 2008, but its final report is not yet available. However, I understand that there have been improvements in the provision of discard data in the interim, with information provided to the 2008 meetings by Belgium, France and Denmark for the first time. Some countries, including Ireland, collect discard data, but this is not used by the Subgroup for technical reasons.

I am not aware of whether the Commission is taking action against member states that are still not providing the requisite information.