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Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal: My Lords, those of us who live in areas surrounded by fishermen are fully aware that their voices are few in number but the impact of the industry on small and remote areas is very marked. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for giving us the opportunity to express some of our misgivings about what will happen after 2002.
I have been involved in fishery affairs for some years through my livery company, the fishmongers, which actively supports the industry and does its best to speak up for it. As the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, said, the information on fish stocks is unreliable and often deliberately distorted, which is regrettable. He also said what I was going to say--and said it much more forcefully--the one indisputable fact is that the fishermen of this country feel betrayed by the CFP. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, also made the point that the Minister must wish at times to use the old expression, "If I were going there I would not start from here". The pass was sold in a big way in 1971, but we have to recognise that the negotiating stance of agriculture and fisheries is not strong when governments are negotiating about other major issues.
The other indisputable fact is that the common fisheries policy has failed to conserve stocks. Many anomalies, and the infuriating effect of discards and black fish, serve to aggravate the attitude of British fishermen.
At a recent Greenwich forum discussing fishery enforcement legislation, the point was made that we spend £25 million protecting a £500 million catch. We have drawn the short straw. Because we have 70 per cent. of resources, and it is a national obligation, we are stuck with a high proportion of the costs of
What is also indisputable is that the distant water fleet has been decimated. I wear another hat as a member of the council of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain. I hasten to add that it is not a pecuniary interest. I fear there is a danger that the inshore industries may go the same way as the distant water fleet unless we act quickly. We have only four years until 2002. Let us bear in mind that fishermen are in business which often involves large investment of capital. It is difficult for a fisherman now to invest huge sums of money in buying a new boat for the inshore fishery when he does not know what the regime will be in only four years' time. To try to recover costs in four years when one is uncertain as to what will happen is clearly an impossible target especially under the present conditions.
We have this wonderful Euro-speak word "derogation" which has delayed equal access for the inshore waters until 2002. But unless there is a change, as has been mentioned today, it is a fact that after 2002 all the EC nations will have equal access right up to our beaches. Furthermore, if the expansion of the EC continues, other nations such as Poland with a large fishing fleet will enjoy the access which according to the principle of the CFP should be applied to the inshore waters. A document published by the EC states on the exception to the rule:
Is it fanciful to visualise a French or Spanish boat grabbing up oysters and mussels in the Solent under rules laid down by some official in Brussels? That seems to me to be the implication of that document. I do not think that we should like that.
My noble friend Lady Wilcox has also been involved in encouraging lobster stock enhancement schemes. I do not know whether she will talk about that. Again, one needs some protection for people who are investing in such schemes. We already have working in this country a system of local control through the 12 sea fishery committees in England and Wales. I wish to suggest that that is the way forward; and that is what we should continue to aim for on a permanent basis.
The southern area, of which I have some knowledge, stretches from Portsmouth to Lyme Regis. It has 600 vessels under 12 metres. In other words, under the dreaded derogation, the inshore waters have been protected, unlike the distant waters. I hope that the Government are still as sound as they were in their
Tonight, I wish to extract from the Government a clear undertaking that they will use every endeavour to ensure that temporary derogation is replaced by a permanent policy after 2002 by which inshore waters' control is devolved to local control. They have £25 million, which they are spending on fishery protection, with which to negotiate.
The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for introducing this timely debate. The common fisheries policy has clearly decimated the British fishing industry, which was sacrificed on the altar of the Common Market some time ago. The derogation then agreed to soften the pill, which is the subject of our debate, comes up for renewal in 2002. It was unsuccessfully operated. As has been said by all noble Lords, in particular my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, encroachment on the 12 and six-mile limits must be resisted immediately. I hope that the Government will be able to make a clear statement on that point.
There is no possibility of our repatriating our fishing waters unless we abrogate the Treaty of Rome and there is no possibility of that. Our fishing waters comprise two-thirds of the present common fishery waters and are controlled by the CFP. In the meantime, stocks have dramatically reduced throughout the area and while Brussels has been pontificating the situation does not seem to have improved "at all at all".
To have a fishing fleet controlled from Brussels is a negation of any system of nation states. I hope that the Government will reassure us that there will be no question of a European controlled fishing fleet. There needs to be more efficient control of the situation at sea in reference to the 200-mile limit.
Control at sea is a more difficult problem which requires presence, especially in regard to the 200-mile limit. We need to prevent the Commission from doing anything further to control these matters. We require a fleet which has surface and aerial surveillance with sufficient strength to monitor the areas on a full-time basis. That is a prime need. As and when transponders have been fitted to all EU fishing boats--and where is the Commission moving on that point?--there will be some reduced need for surface surveillance. But in the meantime there will be a need for a greatly increased presence at sea for the fishery protection flotilla to follow up aerial sightings. Our own surveillance and control system is the most efficient in the EU waters, but capable of a less intensive patrol system than will
Other countries could of course have the same deal in relevant areas, but the UK would have control of some two-thirds of the total waters in advance of the dog fight that will ensue from the end of the derogation.
Suspicion always falls upon the Spaniards, but we must accept that they are an ancient maritime nation with whom we have been embattled over many centuries. Times change and we have to recognise that they have no continental shelf to fish. It follows that they have predated over the Atlantic Ocean from the cod banks of Newfoundland--and that is an object lesson of things to come--to the west coast of Africa and all points south. The opening up of new areas in 2002 will be a temptation too far and adequate controls will be vital.
Our own Services are the most capable and most immediately available for this purpose. Therefore, I ask the Minister to make such a proposal, with a view from the MoD of the additional forces needed to implement the enhanced surveillance operation in the one-time UK waters. Will he include such a proposal in the negotiations that will precede the end of the derogation? I wish him well in the difficult task that lies ahead.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for tabling the Question tonight and for describing the situation so well and so briefly. As I am the last speaker before Members of the Front Benches I shall try to be as brief. I shall bring my brief remarks in support of my noble friend near to home for me and my fishing community in Cornwall.
As well as sea fishing, there is a growing industry cultivating and ranching shell fish in our coastal waters, with 526 registered farms producing oysters, mussels, scallops and clams. My noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal referred to my interest in lobster conservation and stock enhancement. At last, British fishermen are supporting new national technical conservation measures for lobsters and other shell fish which we hope will come into force in 1999. Fishermen are also supporting, if a little warily, a scheme for lobster stock enhancement using hatchery-reared juveniles.
That is not for the future. Already, hatchery-bred lobsters are being used to restock inshore grounds around the Orkney and Shetland islands. Plans are going ahead to build a new hatchery in Cornwall. I am proud to be the patron of the National Lobster Hatchery at Padstow, which should start releasing baby lobsters around Cornwall in July 1999. I am delighted to reveal tonight that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, who I am sorry is unable to be here tonight for reasons that have not been fully explained to me, will open the hatchery, diary permitting. I am most encouraged about that.
The question I must ask is whether they will be caught by Spanish, French or Portuguese fishermen, competing with my Cornish fishermen for this valuable resource. So, waiting until 2002 for security is no good to my hatchery; it is no good to the fisheries and conservation officers; and it is no good to the local fishermen in Cornwall whom we are trying to encourage to stop hunting and start ranching and thinking mariculture for the long term. They need to know now that our Government are already on the way to ensuring for them that the right way forward is the new technology.
My friends in the Shellfish Association of Great Britain are concerned about the future of that industry after 2002. The present derogation from the common fisheries policy finishes on 31st December 2002. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, rightly drew our attention to the fact that Spanish fishery interests have already drawn up an extensive and far-reaching declaration of their demands post-2001 in a report to the European Parliament. That report, written by the Spanish MEP Carmen Fraga Estevez, Chairman of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, has been approved by the Parliament and become its official view. It will probably also influence the Commission's thinking as the deadline of 1st January 2002 approaches.
If all the recommendations contained in the Fraga report are eventually accepted as policy, the Spanish and Portuguese industries will be in a win-win situation while the interests of other member nations will lose out. Little comment, if any, in response to the Spanish demands has emanated from MAFF or the British Government. Many industry leaders fear that the UK fishery will again be used as a bargaining tool for other areas of political interest.
It has often been said to me that the UK mushroom industry produces more profit than the whole fishing industry, so why bother with such a difficult food resource? Fishermen, like miners, do a terribly dangerous job. Nowadays, people who live urban lives find it embarrassing that ancient methods of hunting at sea are still being used. But fish is a precious source of protein and we do need it. Investment in mariculture will help. Investment in our fishermen so that they can be supported, re-educated and properly equipped will also help--but our fishermen will only sign up if they can see a future now.
In Cornwall, there are 48 ports, mostly with traditional, artisanal vessels using sustainable methods of fishing such as pots or lines. Up to five people ashore rely on each fisherman's post for their own employment. The ramifications of job losses among fishermen go much further than would normally be expected in any other industry. A large proportion of the tourists who visit the south west do so partly because of the traditional fishing villages and the possibility to
It has been estimated that catches realising close to £11 million annually are caught in the nought-to-six mile belt around Cornwall. Those estimates are probably conservative, but does £11 million really matter? It is not a fortune but it is vital income to a poor and distant part of our land, to its people, and to the communities there. That income does matter and they matter. The deadline of 1st January 2002 is not far away and concerted moves by the United Kingdom to defend her interests ought to be initiated. The Spanish have already declared the rules of combat via the Fraga report, but a wait-and-see option appears to be the preferred battle plan of the British Government. I hope that is not so and that tonight the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, will reassure me and other noble Lords who have spoken.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on her intimate knowledge, which is of great value to the House. I thank also the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for introducing this debate, which he has done in a timely manner--as is his wont. I succeeded the noble Earl as the rapporteur of an important and laborious committee in the Council of Europe--the wine committee. I can testify to the fact that my predecessor pursued the subject of wine with great zeal and expertise, to the considerable benefit of the industry. I am glad that he is doing so here today.
The fishing industry is a complex issue and the industry is currently in a mess. The fishermen are displeased and the scientists are not very sure whether they have got it right. Co-operation between them on establishing quotas is not good enough and needs to be put right. Quota hopping has produced enormous international tension. The European Union must look to common sense. If there is going to be enormous resentment all around the coast, one cannot possibly pursue a policy that arouses such resentment among fishermen, not only of the UK but other countries.
It is essential that there should be an international body because no country alone can control its own bit of the sea and expect to keep its fish stocks. The example given by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, in the North Sea was highlighted by the fact that we were able to stop the Russians bringing large numbers of fishing vessels into the North Sea instead of buying fish from our vessels. One cannot do that without some form of international body. We can have an EU body but it must also be an international body. Appalling things are happening. We have the example on the Newfoundland banks, where the biggest stock of cod in the world has been decimated in a very short time.
Perhaps we must return to line fishing. The Spaniards are better than us in that respect because they catch tuna with lines and nets. We scatter the high seas with nets that are miles long and catch everything. Internationally, there is an enormous amount of work to do. That work will be expensive. Spain has for a long time had far too few inspectors. From what I hear and know, those inspectors are no bar. There are no black fish in Spain because the fishermen land what they want. It will be expensive to bring the situation under control but, if that is not done, I do not see how things will work. The Government must ensure that the fishermen accept policy by retaining our 12-mile limit and seeing that quota-hopping is sorted. It is absolute nonsense that the Dutch and Spanish should work an enormous racket, assisted largely by our own fishermen--who were encouraged by a government who did not decommission at a high enough rate. I see no signs of the present Government increasing the decommissioning figure, and that is something they really must do. In other words, we need fewer but more prosperous fishermen catching more fish.
As to the small fishing communities, I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, has the answer. Those communities must find niche situations and cultivate good and sought after fish or shellfish, such as oysters. I trust that I will be here in six years to taste the first of them.
However, taken on the whole, there is no question that we are going to catch fish in the future by modern and improving methods, but not the sort of methods which the Danes are using at the moment, where they scoop up everything from the bottom of the sea and before anyone can inspect it, it is on its way to the fish meal factory.
It should not be beyond the wit of man--and the Government should encourage research with money--to evolve a system whereby you catch fish, suck them into a tunnel and on the way along, select the ones you want. That can be done with potatoes and I do not see why it cannot be done with fish. I am not trying to be funny. Unless that is done, we shall have a mixture of catches and we shall decimate the young fish.
Those new methods need to be encouraged with money and the Government need to do something about that. It will not be easy. We must have international bodies and a great deal of bureaucracy, but for goodness sake, let us evolve methods of catching and selecting fish. That is a basic job for the Government to back with all the money that they can.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for instigating this debate. In the course of his speech, he mentioned the dangers of the fishing industry. He is absolutely right. For three years, I was chairman of the Sea Fish
He is also absolutely right to talk about the importance of relative stability. I shall not go on about that at any length. The negotiations which my noble friend Lord Walker and the late Alick Buchanan-Smith took part in and led in the 1980s gave the British industry, by and large, the kind of share that the industry was catching at the time, and more in many cases. I have listened to many fairy stories subsequently but that is the truth. In the early and mid 1980s, the fishing industry had some of its most prosperous times. Ask any fisherman about that and he will tell you that that is the case. That is shown by all the statistics which the Government issue but, more important, it can be shown by the number of new vessels which came into the fleet and the number of new techniques, which the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, mentioned, which were brought to bear on the industry. In a way, the success of those years sowed the seeds of the problem. It is the problem with which I shall now deal.
All the oceans of the world have problems when it comes to managing fisheries stocks. Two noble Lords have mentioned the great Canadian grand banks fishery which has quite literally been destroyed. Therefore, it is not a case of blaming the common fisheries policy for the problem. We must have a common fisheries policy for the common pond of the North Sea and the English Channel. It is just plain daft to pretend that you can draw a line around the United Kingdom and somehow or other the fish will know, when they come up against that line, that they should not go any further because, "those naughty foreigners who catch wee fish like us will be there. We had better stay in the British sector". This matter must be looked at on a wide scale.
The problem is not that we have a common fisheries policy with our European friends. I am afraid that the problem is that the policy of tacs and quotas which for perfectly good reasons at the time, we adopted, is a policy which is inherently flawed. Perhaps I may explain. If your Lordships are fishing and you catch fish to which you have no quota entitlement and you know that if you can land those fish, they will bring in money, and you have bills to pay, you land the fish. It is simple. That is true whether you be a Scottish, English or Spanish fisherman. Scottish and English fishermen have different problems. They usually catch fish of more than the minimum landing size. Spanish fishermen land under-sized fish for the same reason: there is a market for under-sized fish. Any of your Lordships who have spent any time on holiday in Spain or Portugal will know that there is a market for under-sized fish. I do not believe that I have ever seen an over-sized fish in a fish restaurant in Spain or Portugal.
It is simply crazy to run a policy which expects fishermen to dump overboard dead fish which they know will bring them an economic return, whether it be under-sized fish or fish whose quota they have already caught.
It is interesting that in the pelagic fishery sector, which is basically the herring and mackerel sector, the problem is not nearly so acute because it is not a mixed fishery. If you are fishing for mackerel, you catch mackerel and likewise as regards herring. You catch them in such great quantities that you cannot sort them and dump overboard those which are too small. You have to land them all. I know that some fishing boats now have graders on board. I believe that that is probably a mistake, but I will deal with that in a moment. Therefore, the pelagic fishery is controllable. There are a limited number of vessels in it; they are controlled and the pelagic fishery is developing. New boats are being built and old boats are moving out of the fleet in a proper economic manner. That is right and sensible.
The demersal fishery is the problem, because it is such a mixed fishery. When you fish for cod and haddock, you catch lots of other fish. You have little parcels of quotas. If you are catching a lot of, for example, coley, which is not terribly valuable but there is a market for it, and you are not catching very many sole, and there are not many of those and they are very expensive, you make sure that you land your quota of sole so you carry on fishing until you have your quota of sole or megrim or monkfish or cod--the more valuable fish. If that means that you are over your quota of coley, so be it. You have two alternatives: you dump them overboard; or you land them as black fish. Man is an economic animal and it is standing that fact on its head to imagine that the fishermen will dump those fish overboard.
In the past two or three minutes, I have been trying to explain that the problem with the common fisheries policy is the tacs and quota system because it asks fishermen to do something which is against their interests: not to catch too many fish but to dump overboard fish they have already caught which are dead and for which there is a market. Therefore, I believe--and in this regard, although I speak from the Dispatch Box, I cannot say that I am particularly speaking for my party, but when one is in Opposition, there is a certain amount of liberty allowed--we must all think very carefully about the policy which we should like to see in place after 2002.
I believe that the total allowable catch is necessary but it should be expressed in a common currency--dare I say the word?--of cod equivalents. That is a well-known common currency in the fishing industry. Each vessel should have a cod equivalent. A scientist can work out easily what will be the mix of any species that the fishermen are going to catch. Roughly speaking, one kilo of dover sole translates into three kilos of cod equivalent. When you have caught the cod equivalent, whatever number of fish it is and however it is mixed, you land them. That includes small fish. That includes under-sized fish. I would say that if you land a tonne of under-sized fish, that should count as 1½ tonnes against
The real problem is that we have far too much fishing capacity for our own good. We cannot wish that away. As my noble friend Lady Wilcox said, around our coasts there are many small communities dependent on fishing. I do not want to reduce the number of people in the catching sector. I want to keep them because of their importance to economies around the coast. To do that it is not a case of abandoning the CFP, as some noble Lords would like to do; it is a case of looking for a more sensible CFP, and we must do that via some of the methods I have outlined.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, this has been an extremely good debate. I join with those who thanked the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for raising this important subject. We have seen the amount of interest there has been tonight and heard the constructive comments made by most people, albeit in some instances from their own point of view, including the Front Bench opposite, when the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, said that he may not be speaking for his own party. It is probably not the first time that he has spoken not for his own party, but at least he put forward constructive comments.
My time, like everyone else's, is limited but I should like to make one other point to the noble Earl. He does valuable work with the Royal National Mission. The Government applaud the work of the mission in the 89 ports around the British Isles, not only in providing food and accommodation, but also in counselling fishermen and their families in cases of illness or injury. I know that the whole of the fishing industry holds the mission in high regard and I hope that the noble Earl will pass on to it the remarks that were made here tonight.
I welcome also the contribution from the Front Bench opposite. I agree that there must be a common fisheries policy. We cannot go back on that. We cannot in any way begin to turn back the clock. Some British fishermen and their supporters continue to believe that leaving the CFP would solve all their problems. It would not. It is a fact that co-operation with other countries is essential if we are to look after the interests of fish stocks. It is right to say that fish do not respect specific territories; they move about.
Perhaps I may deal with some of the points raised, particularly as to what will happen in relation to 2002. I say immediately that there is no truth in some of the exaggerated claims that after 2002 the current CFP relative stability will lapse automatically. The basic CFP regulations make clear that it will be for member states to decide by 31st December, by qualified majority voting, whether changes are needed. We will be arguing for relative stability and we believe that no changes will be agreed then.
However, there is one major exception. Mention has been made time after time tonight of the six and 12-mile limits, which are extremely important. It was asked whether they would be rolled over beyond 2002. We received confirmation from the European Commission that it believes that they will be rolled over. Indeed, the Commission president confirmed in his letter to the Prime Minister following the Amsterdam summit last year that the key elements of the CFP--for example, restrictions on foreign vessels within the six and 12-mile limits--are expected to be maintained beyond 2002. This Government are committed to that and will be fighting for it.
I was asked also whether a single European fishing fleet would be introduced. Again, wild claims have been made in relation to that. They were based on a misreading of the Finnish and Swedish accession treaty. It is true that a Community fishing permit already exists and it provides a basis for the western waters effort control arrangements. But it can only be extended with the agreement of member states. I say from this Bench that the Government will reject any proposal that member states' responsibilities for managing quotas and vessels should be taken away. We will totally resist the introduction of a single EU fleet managed and policed from Brussels.
Another question that was asked was whether Finland, Sweden, Portugal and Spain would gain unrestricted access to the North Sea after 2002. Again I say from this Front Bench that the answer to that is "no". The principle of relative stability will continue to apply until a qualified majority of the council decides otherwise. We are committed to ensuring that relative stability remains. Lack of quotas will continue to limit severely access of newer members to North Sea stocks. Again I stress that we are committed to continuing to exclude newer member states from our 12-mile limit. I wanted to put that matter in context and say that we are constantly seeking to improve the common fisheries policy. It is important to make that clear here and now.
I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy--he asked a number of questions--about the economic link. He was trying to say--I am sure that he did not mean it--that it does not make a lot of difference. I believe that it does make a difference, in that the vessels will now have to comply with one of the following options. They will have to land 50 per cent. of their catch of quota species in the UK; or they will have to employ 50 per cent. of their crew from residents of UK coastal areas; or incur a level of operating expenditure in UK areas; or demonstrate an economic link by other means, including combinations of the matters I mentioned, which will provide economic benefit to populations of the UK dependent on fishing.
There are therefore real improvements in the present situation where many vessels, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, rightly said, provide little or no benefit to British fishing communities. We are seeking to remedy that matter. It was asked whether the measures will withstand challenge. The Commission confirmed its view that our measures are compatible with the EU treaty. It was pointed out that, though the Commission may say one thing, the European Court may say something else. It is important that we will have the Commission with us when arguing our case.
I have also been asked whether the measures will get rid of all quota-hoppers. I must admit that they will not, but in future vessels will maintain a real economic link. They will not be allowed to fish against UK quotas unless they have such a quota. That is a significant improvement on the current situation in which those vessels bring little or no benefit to the UK. I ask the noble Lord to take those points into account.
Many other interesting matters have been raised. I hope that I have dealt with and, to some extent, allayed the fears expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, said that quota-hoppers undermine national agreements and relative stability. I totally agree and I have dealt with that point. That is why we support the measures to which I referred and which are an improvement on what has gone before.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, asked about the amount of fisheries enforcement in this country as compared with other states. I advise him that we in the UK devote large resources to fisheries enforcement. When considering other countries, one has to question whether one is comparing like with like. I give the assurance that we shall continue to devote such resources to this. Indeed, money has been set aside.
I do not want to conclude without referring to one other matter. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, referred to my noble friend Lord Donoughue visiting and opening the National Lobster Hatchery at Padstow. Providing that circumstances permit, my noble friend will do so. Indeed, he has already visited it. In relation to the landing size of lobsters, they cannot legally be caught until they are a specified size. The Government will take all the measures that they can to enforce that.
I hope that I have reassured noble Lords that the regulations will not come to an end in 2002 and that there will continue to be stability. Of course, as a Government we shall do everything that we can to protect the six and 12-mile limits.
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