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Salmon Netting: Legislation

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 11 June 1986

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3.8 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will have sufficient powers without substantially amending the proposed salmon legislation to control, restrict and if necessary end all commercial netting for salmon in UK waters, in order the better to conserve the Atlantic salmon.

My Lords, netting for salmon and migratory trout is already tightly regulated in United Kingdom waters. Existing legislation provides powers further to restrict and, in appropriate circumstances, terminate commercial netting for salmon in England and Wales and, subject to minor exceptions, elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, even at this late stage will not the Government consider increasing the weekly close time, particularly in Scotland, from only 42 hours per week?

My Lords, we are taking powers in Clause 3 of the Salmon Bill to enable weekly close times in Scotland to be increased by statutory instrument. I fully understand the reason why the noble Baroness has asked this Question, and I have to say, in responding in the way I have, that we must also consult all interested parties before we take a final decision.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I greatly welcome the announcement in Committee in another place yesterday that the Government are to establish a standing advisory committee on salmon conservation under an independent chairman? That goes a long way towards meeting the wishes of those of us who argued for a national salmon policy when the Salmon Bill was being considered by your Lordships' House.

On a specific point, may I ask whether the restrictions on drift netting for salmon off North-East England, announced by the Government last November, are all in force during the current season?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moran, for his welcome for the announcement made in Standing Committee in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of State that a standing advisory committee on salmon conservation is to be set up. Indeed, that was a response to opinion in another place but also very much took into account the views expressed on all sides of your Lordships' House.

I know that it is the firm intention that the restrictions on the north-east fishery should be in place during this season. I cannot guarantee that all of them are in place at this moment, but I will write to the noble Lord to give the exact state of play. However, I repeat that it is our intention that they shall be in place during this season.

My Lords, would my noble friend agree that the passing through this House of the Private Member's Bill dealing with safety at sea would be an ideal opportunity to insist that the trawlers operating in the Northumberland drift net fishery should put their numbers and their licence numbers on top of their wheelhouses so that we are able properly to police this fishery from the air?

My Lords, this is a point that was made by my noble friend during the passage of the Salmon Bill a couple of months or so ago. I am therefore familiar with it. Indeed, I am sure that the Government would wish to look with interest on the proposal if it were to form part of a Private Member's Bill.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the traditional salmon netting round the coast of Scotland is under sufficient regulation and that to talk of ending salmon netting there would be a severe blow to the many communities which derive considerable income from it?

My Lords, I am interested to hear that view from the noble Lord, which certainly the Government will take with seriousness.

My Lords, further to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, is the noble Lord the Minister aware that the fishermen of Northumberland have netted salmon for many years and that the danger to the Atlantic salmon does not come from their activities? Will the noble Lord bear that in mind?

My Lords, we certainly made it clear during the passage of the Salmon Bill that we were bearing precisely in mind the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. The noble Lord will remember that further restrictions are to be introduced so far as the north-east drift net fishery is concerned, and their effects will be reviewed after three years. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that we must not pre-empt that review.

My Lords, have the Government taken note of the fact that Norway has recently announced conservation measures, including the banning of monofilament nets from 1988, the ending of all drift netting for salmon from 1989 and the extension of the close season by two weeks? Will this not leave this country and the Republic of Ireland in the unenviable position of being the only countries which are represented in NASCO that will not have announced radical measures to conserve Atlantic salmon stocks?

My Lords, Great Britain already controls salmon fishing very tightly and has a better record on conservation than many countries. I believe that the further measures contained in the Salmon Bill will be recognised internationally as enhancing that contribution.