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Fish Discards

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 21 November 2013

The UK secured a landing obligation as part of the agreement on reform of the common fisheries policy this summer. The final agreement includes a phased timetable, with a landing obligation in pelagic fisheries coming into force in January 2015 and a landing obligation in other fisheries beginning in 2016. Preparatory work has begun and we are talking to the fishing industry and other stakeholders about how we can best implement those changes in practice.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Recent research has shown that a ban on discarding alone will not lead to sustainable management of the nation’s fish stocks. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will introduce a range of measures alongside the discard ban, and that full regard will be given to the interests of the inshore fleet, such as those who fish out of Lowestoft in my constituency?

I confirm that there will be a range of other measures. We have never claimed that a discard ban alone would work, and there are three parts to the reform. The discard ban was one part, and we also introduced regional decision making for the first time. Finally—and most importantly—there is now a legally binding commitment to fish sustainably. Taken together, those measures represent a radical reform of the common fisheries policy, and that is a tribute to my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), who led the charge on those reforms.

The reforms are welcome and what the Minister said is correct, but the regulation on discards will require not just UK Administrations to comply, but other EU member states to do so as well. Will the Government ensure that the European Commission takes measures to ensure that, as far as possible, all member states comply with the regulations on discards?

I absolutely agree. We need other member states to comply with the regulations, and we will raise the matter with the European Commission if we have concerns that they are not doing so. I stress, however, that there is a legally binding commitment for member states to fish sustainably. Regionalisation will mean that for the first time, groups of member states with a shared interest in a shared fishery will come together and come up with better decision making.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. With a ban on discards, the roll-out of marine protected areas, a legally binding commitment to fish sustainably, the introduction of marine planning, and a whole range of other measures to ensure that our seas are sustainable, is this not a good time for those who are concerned about the health and sustainability of our seas?

My hon. Friend is right and I am delighted to continue the good work that he started in those areas. That shows the commitment of this Government to protecting and enhancing our marine environment.

15. Instead of establishing a marine conservation zone across Hythe bay, will the Minister consider other conservation measures that could be carried out in harmony with the work of the inshore fishing fleet in the bay? (901184)

We have today made clear our intention to designate 27 sites as marine conservation zones. I confirm that Hythe bay is not currently one of those, although we are doing further work on that and holding further discussions with stakeholders. We hope to make a decision on Hythe bay in the new year. One interesting area we are considering is whether we might reach an agreement with stakeholders by looking at zoning that site, rather than having it as an entire block.