10. What recent discussions she has had with the European Commission on mackerel quota. (14181)
In addition to a conversation I had on a one-to-one basis with the European Commissioner Maria Damanaki, I wrote to her on 10 August about the north-east Atlantic mackerel fishery, in particular to express my deep concerns about Iceland’s and the Faroe Islands’ total allowable catch for this species. The UK Government are working closely with the industry and the EU Commission to put pressure on Iceland and the Faroes to behave reasonably.
I thank the Minister for that reply. I urge him to continue those efforts and to ensure that he interacts with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and other fishing organisations in Scotland. Although this is not an issue in my constituency, it is a matter of concern to people across Scotland when an industry of such historical importance—and local importance in the north-east of Scotland—is potentially being undermined by the activities of Iceland.
That is a very good point. I had a conversation yesterday with Richard Lochhead and other Ministers from the devolved Assembly. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are working very closely with them, as with the fisheries organisations, to deal with the unreasonable actions of the Iceland Government and the Faroes. If they go ahead with this unilaterally declared total allowable catch, they will put a sustainable stock in a very dangerous position. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am using every means I can to work with colleagues across the UK and with the Commission to make sure that this serious situation is dealt with. I agree that 90% of the relevant jobs are in the north-east of Scotland, which is why I am working closely with the Minister from the devolved Scottish Government on the issue.
The Minister will know of my interest in fisheries. Will he confirm what discussions he plans to have with commercial fishermen in relation to any extension of special areas of conservation recently introduced, the introduction of marine-protected areas, and the introduction of no-take zones around our coast?
With particular reference to the mackerel quota, I remind the Minister.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Of course, it is important to consider mackerel in relation to marine areas of conservation. Therefore, in the context of that species, as well as others, I will have close contact with all the four areas around our coast—how am I doing?—that are responsible for bringing forward these plans. I understand that the matter is causing great concern among fishing communities, which must take part in such schemes—I know that they are doing so, but they must continue. I have visited some of the areas—I will get round to all four of them—to ensure that their concerns are raised and to help to iron out any problems.