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Lyme Bay: Scallops

Volume 685: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the damage caused to the marine environment in Lyme Bay as a result of scallop dredging; and [HL6991]

What assessment they have made of the monetary value of scallops taken from Lyme Bay in (a) 2004–05, and (b) 2005–06; and [HL6992]

Whether English Nature has advised what area of the seabed in Lyme Bay should be protected immediately; and whether the Government will publish the advice they have received from English Nature about the damage caused to marine reefs in Lyme Bay as a result of scallop dredging; and [HL6993]

What factors they will take into account in deciding whether to introduce a stop order to control scallop dredging in Lyme Bay; and whether they will introduce a stop order under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to stop damage to the marine reefs in Lyme Bay.[HL6994]

We have considered very seriously the action needed to protect the pink sea fans, ross corals and sunset corals, and to protect other parts of Lyme Bay’s important marine environment.

We have worked closely over recent months with both English Nature and representatives of the fishing industry to reach a compromise on the areas of the bay to be closed. In the end, Ben Bradshaw determined that a zonal solution backed by independent scientific assessment and advice was the most proportionate way to provide the necessary protection for those areas of Lyme Bay of greatest nature conservation and marine biodiversity importance. It will also allow a valuable sustainable fishery (estimated value of up to £3 million annually) to continue where it has done for many years.

The areas to be closed give over seven times the level of protection that was available in Lyme Bay last year and cover more than 90 per cent of the pink sea fan locations presently confirmed by English Nature and Devon Wildlife Trust surveys. Members of the South West Inshore Scallopers Association confirmed they would respect the closed areas from midnight on 24 August and have in place a system for monitoring compliance. They also undertook to advise non-members of the agreement not to fish in these areas. At the same time we will be considering, with the Devon and Southern Sea Fisheries Committees, the most appropriate legislative vehicle to make this protection statutory.

We will also be considering suggestions that we should exclude other forms of extractive fishing from the closed zones, in order to allow the biodiversity of Lyme Bay to receive maximum benefit and to allow scallops to benefit in the open areas. Potters, gill netters, pelagic trawlers and divers will be fully consulted as we develop our ideas.