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Hague Preferences

Volume 486: debated on Thursday 22 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what his Department's policy is on invoking the Hague Preferences; (248990)

(2) what extra total allowable catch accrues to UK fishing vessels through his Department's use of the Hague Preferences in this year.

For some time, the Government have been concerned that the Hague Preference mechanism does not provide the necessary support to coastal communities in the UK and Ireland that it was intended to do. We have, therefore, sought to open discussions with the Irish on suitable replacement arrangements. To date, they have been reluctant to engage. We will, however, continue to press them on this, and plan to explore options with the Commission and other member states in due course.

In recent years, we have limited our actions to offsetting the impacts of Irish invocation in the Irish Sea and adjacent areas to ensure the UK fleet is not put at a disadvantage. However, in the December 2007 EU Fisheries Council, we also invoked on both North Sea haddock and whiting, in recognition of the particular importance of these stocks to UK fishermen, and the concerns expressed within the industry that the scientific advice (on which the quotas were based) was somewhat at odds with fishermen's experience on the ground. For the same reasons, we repeated these invocations last December. In both years however, we restricted the scale of our invocations, recognising the concerns of other member states who lose out as a result of our actions.

The effects of the December 2008 EU Fisheries Council invocations on the scale of UK quotas for the stocks in question, are included in the following table:

Hague Preference

UK Quota Pre-HP

UK Quota Post-HP

Gain/Loss

Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and West of Scotland

Area Via cod

Counter-invocation

159

181

+22

Area Vila cod

Counter-invocation

384

259

-125

Area Via haddock

Counter-invocation

3,701

2,737

-964

Area Via saithe

Counter-invocation

2,312

3,617

1,305

Area Vila whiting

Counter-invocation

111

81

-30

Area Vila plaice

Counter-invocation

731

432

-299

North Sea

Area IV haddock

Invoke 30 (%)

25,371

27,507

2,136

Area IV whiting

Invoke 30 (%)

6,647

8,426

1,779