Total Allowable Catches and Quotas 2002

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Mrs. Winterton: National control.

Mr. Morley: Oh, is it national control?

The hon. Lady mentions drawing lines down the middle of the sea, but that is what happens with the current limits. I remind her that the exclusive economic zone was introduced by a Labour Government. Before then, there were only the six-mile fishing limits. Other EU countries have a historic tradition of fishing in shared waters as long as that of the UK, and I would be interested to see how the hon. Lady would clear their fishing fleets out of our waters, where they have long and historic rights. Some of those matters need to be changed by unanimous agreement, so she is setting herself rather an ambitious target.

I mentioned lines in the sea because, if we are going to be dogmatic about a 200-mile limit, that includes Paris. Including Paris in the limit will not do much for Anglo-French relations. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Congleton is right. We are talking about median lines. I was making a serious point. It is not possible to have one policy on one side of a median line and another on the other side and believe that that will not impact on the management of stocks.

Mrs. Winterton: The CFP is failing.

Mr. Morley: We all agree that the policy needs to be reformed, but in the case of, for example, industrial fishing—in respect of which we have brought about changes and restrictions through negotiation and the CFP—if we had exclusive limits, whatever happened on the other side of that line, people could fish away to their heart's content, with all the damage that that might do to the North sea ecosystem.

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We must have a thought-through European-wide management approach. We shall not achieve that by trying to go off on our own and secure unanimous agreement on a treaty change. Not only is that not possible, but it is not necessary if we can make the changes for which we are arguing and have the rationale of a European-wide fisheries management scheme with much more member-state flexibility. That is what we are arguing for.

Mrs. Winterton: The Under-Secretary has a lot riding on his shoulders. If he does not bring about what he says that he wants, he will have failed, and the CFP will continue to fail. Areas of the world in which regeneration of marine resource has been successful have not been controlled as suggested in the proposal with which we are not yet involved but might be at the end of the period. I wish him the best of luck. He has one hell of a mountain to climb, and I hope, on behalf of the British fishing industry, in which I am genuinely interested, that he succeeds. However, I shall not hold my breath.

Mr. Morley: All sorts of things are riding on my shoulders. This is just another one. I believe that I have the potential for more success in negotiating these changes than in seeking a unanimous treaty change, which is a rather bigger mountain than the one that I face. I believe that we will make progress.

We must agree a framework for change and convince people that this is the right approach. It will be an evolving process. However, we are clear about the direction in which we want to go, and we believe that the Commission is right in the direction that it is suggesting in its proposals. We look forward to the final proposals.

I accept that it is inevitable that satellite monitoring will be extended. That was always the suggestion when it was introduced. We shall have to discuss the matter with the industry, including the question of electronic log books. Benefits to the industry are involved, as well as management issues.

It does not make sense to subsidise new fleets, and I worry whether, for example, a new subsidised deep-water fleet in the Republic of Ireland, at the very time when deep water stocks are under real pressure and taking a real hammering, is right. We need to consider those issues carefully. However, I accept that a case can be made for issues such as crew comfort, safety and quality management on board vessels. Indeed, they are already catered for under our FIFG programme and our objective 1 programme in Cornwall.

On the bass fishery, I am pleased to hear that the hon. Member for St. Ives will meet the French ambassador. I have written to the French Minister responsible to offer to share our information on our research. It is a common problem, and we need to approach it in a common way.

I was pleased with the constructive response that we had from Commissioner Fischler on the subject of dolphin by-catch. We need to do more work on the development of the trail net that is undergoing trial, although we are confident that it is a commercial success and catches fish. We must also continue work

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on whether it is successful in allowing dolphins to escape. That work will have to go on into next winter's fishery. It would be nice if there were an Anglo-French project. I know that our scientists are interested in approaching French scientists about a collaboration.

Andrew George: I agree that an Anglo-French—or rather, British-French, as I am Cornish—working group would be most welcome. He mentioned that UK scientists introduced proposals for such a collaboration. How far have those negotiations gone, and is there a possibility of joint work with the French industry in next winter's fishery?

Mr. Morley: These are early stages. The lead scientific department is the sea mammal research unit, which has done work on that fishery and the dolphin by-catch on our behalf. It will evaluate the results of the trial net so far, and will share that information with other scientists. We are willing to collaborate, and the Commission may wish to sponsor further work on a joint approach for this winter's fishery. I should be happy to talk to Commissioner Fischler about that.

So far, the signs are that the net is promising. Unfortunately, the trial was delayed for 10 days because the rather expensive underwater camera dropped off the net, and there was a delay in getting another one, which is a bit unfortunate. However, we have gained some useful information from the trial, even though it was towards the end of the season and there were no dolphins about. However, the underwater camera filmed a tope, a species of shark, which was successfully ejected through the escape

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hatch. If it works on that, there is a good chance that it will work on dolphins, but we still needs further trials.

I appreciate the comments of hon. Members. We have scrutinised matters well. One of the valuable functions of the European Standing Committee is that it allows the House to discuss such issues. It will be a busy year for fisheries, what with the recovery programmes and the CFP negotiations, on which I am certain that hon. Members will have views. There are sure to be further opportunities this year for hon. Members to make their views known, and for me to report back on the progress of the negotiations.

The Chairman: Before I put the question, I remind hon. Members that only members of the Committee can vote.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee takes note of European Union Documents No. 14130/01, draft Council Regulation fixing for 2002 the fishing opportunities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks, applicable in Community waters and, for Community vessels, in waters where limitations in catch are required, No. 15238/01, draft Council Regulation fixing for 2002 the fishing opportunities for deep-sea fish stocks, and No. 6918/02, draft Council Regulation establishing specific access requirements and associated conditions applicable to fishing for deep-sea stocks; recognises that a number of fish stocks have fallen to particularly low levels; notes the Government's success in negotiation TACs which take full account of scientific advice while securing the best possible fishing opportunities for UK fishermen; recognises that action is required to constrain fishing effort in relation to deep-sea species; and supports the Government's attempts to secure a European agreement that will return these species to long-term viability.

Committee rose at twenty-eight minutes past Six o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Begg, Miss Anne (Chairman)
Dean, Mrs.
Dobbin, Jim
Foster, Mr. Michael Jabez
Green, Matthew
Quinn, Lawrie

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(5):
Caplin, Mr. Ivor (Hove)
Connarty, Mr. Michael (Falkirk, East)
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Morley, Mr. Elliot (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Reid, Mr. Alan (Argyll and Bute)
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Rooney, Mr. Terry (Bradford, North)
Winterton, Mrs. Ann (Congleton)

 
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Prepared 23 April 2002