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Fish Discards

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

Since the ministerial meeting I attended in Brussels on 1 March, discussions have progressed at official level. Officials attended an event on 3 May with other member states, industry representatives and other interested parties, where the discussion about a discard ban continued. I consider that any move towards a discard ban must be backed up by genuinely effective, enforceable and affordable measures, driving more selective behaviour towards reducing what is caught in the first place.

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. He will certainly have my support and good wishes, and those of my Front-Bench team, in making progress on that particular action. When he does so, will he also raise with the European Union and with John West Foods Ltd that company’s performance on tuna discards and tuna fishing generally? Some 49,000 people have signed a Greenpeace petition calling for improvements in that performance, and John West remains the only retailer and producer not to have taken action in the United Kingdom.

I entirely understand the right hon. Gentleman’s point. It is worth applauding companies such as Princes that have moved over to line-caught tuna only. Many other multiples and supermarkets now sell only tuna that has been caught by sustainable means from sustainable stocks. I entirely endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said.

I congratulate the Minister on the negotiations about discards, which is a wholly unacceptable practice. The Commission seems to be moving towards a quota for 15 years. Will he spare a thought for the Coble fishermen in Filey who have no quota, want to fish cod at the moment, but are unable to do so under the current regime?

I understand my hon. Friend’s point. We have to work off track records and historical fishing effort. I understand the many concerns of fishermen in the non-quota areas. They want to be part of a reformed policy and I will certainly consult my hon. Friend and Members of all parties to make sure that we take forward a long-term policy that has sustainability at its heart.

How will the Minister assess the success of the catch quota trials that have been going on in Scotland and England? Does he foresee an extension of that effort to tackle discards?

When I was in opposition, I visited the hon. Lady’s constituency and talked to fishermen who were very concerned about having cameras on their boats as part of this scheme. Those concerns have now, by and large, dissipated and fishermen across the country are joining similar schemes. We have signed a declaration with France, Germany and Denmark, saying that catch quotas should be at the heart of a reformed common fisheries policy. That is really good news. I applaud the fishermen in the hon. Lady’s constituency and elsewhere; there will be no cod discarded from boats fishing from her constituency in the catch quota scheme this year.

Is the Minister aware that the 200 fishermen in the Cornish mackerel handliners association have decided not to continue their certification with the Marine Stewardship Council because they judged that the costs clearly outweighed the benefits, particularly bearing in mind that the MSC appears to have become more business-led and supermarket-driven in its standards, allowing some high-impact trawler-based methods to achieve certification?

Marine Stewardship Council accreditation is a highly respected brand globally, and must remain so. We must do all we can to work with it to ensure that it does remain so. I was dismayed to hear recently about the decision of the handline fishermen in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and I want all fishermen to try to get into accredited schemes like this one, which shows that they are not only fishing sustainably but accessing the market at a premium price. We want to make every effort to sustain the MRC accredited scheme.