Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence



Examination of witnesses (Questions 200 - 208)

TUESDAY 12 JANUARY 1999

MR ALEXANDER SMITH, MR JOHN H GOODLAD and MR HAMISH MORRISON, OBE

  200.  The POs are being given more responsibility to manage fisheries. Is this a trend that you welcome? Is it an area where you feel you can expand the role of the PO in managing stock? What would that mean in terms of power and resources for the POs?
  (Mr Goodlad) It is something which could be developed and I think that is something which the Federation Committee is looking at just now. We have problems with quota trading at present, whereby outside speculators can come in and quota can be sold out of the UK. By holding quota in producer organisations, by perhaps limiting quota trading to producer organisations, that kind of thing may put an extra level of defence in keeping British quota to be caught by British fishermen. I think that is something worth exploring.

  201.  Would you prefer to see more emphasis on technical measures rather than control of quotas, mesh sizes, closed areas, etc?
  (Mr Smith) We have had almost a three year, ongoing review of technical measures and it has been very difficult to get an agreement. One of the difficulties with this is that we are dealing with technical measures from the Bay of Biscay right up to the Shetland Islands and beyond. The same regulations apply to vessels of ten metres as apply to vessels of 70 metres. Clearly, with the difference in power and things like that, what someone can live with as far as mesh size is concerned, for instance, for a small vessel —there was a move to go up to 110 millimetres. The fact of the matter is that the largest of our vessels actually uses in excess of 110 millimetres but when you get the smaller vessels under, say, 300 horsepower or so, they would find it impossible to make a living with that. Ideally, you would think, "Let's increase the mesh size and this will let the immature fish get away and the stocks will recover." I wish that were the case but sadly it is not.

Mr Marsden

  202.  To take up a point about inspection in Scotland, which is carried out by the executive agency whilst in England and Wales it is MAFF and the Royal Navy, what do you think very briefly, are the chief advantages and disadvantages of the Scottish system?
  (Mr Morrison) The point was made earlier that the way you stop over quota fishing is by having sensible quota management. In fact, the enforcement situation is really treating symptoms. The game is over by the time the enforcement people arrive. Fish are dead. I think it is very important to bear that in mind. Getting at the cause of the problem is far more important. If, for example, you took the investment currently planned in satellite monitoring and designated ports and, by some magic, reapplied that to devising a quota system that was stable and predictable, you would achieve a great deal more than all the enforcement in the picture because, as Alec Smith has already said, last year's very good performance in eradicating black fish had very little to do with the enforcement agency. It had to do with a stable, well managed fishery.

  203.  I appreciate what you are saying but what are the main advantages and disadvantages between the two systems?
  (Mr Smith) I do not know if they are so much different. I know the Royal Navy plays a much larger part in southern waters than it does in the north. We have no gripes with the control, other than that we felt that the designated landing ports were unnecessary. The main gripe we have is the old adage about an unlevel playing field. It is almost like going up the motorway and there is a 30 mile limit on; you stick to the 30 miles but every car passes you doing 60 and you feel aggrieved because nobody is enforcing it. The same applies with our fishermen. We are quite happy to stick by the rules providing everybody else is doing it, but we know of cases, particularly on the west coast, where the Spanish flood vessels work, where we know the quota that they have and you could not run a 40 foot vessel with that, but it is still enforcement.
  (Mr Goodlad) We have no strong views whatsoever between the Scottish Office and MAFF.

  204.  Coming to the matter of devolution and the setting up of a Scottish parliament, do you see further differences likely to emerge in the regulatory and enforcement systems following the setting up of a Scottish parliament?
  (Mr Morrison) I certainly hope so.

  205.  How?
  (Mr Morrison) When we came, at the end of last year, to the fisheries debate, I think it brought home to us very clearly how little regard is paid in our terms to a very important industry. I do not know how long it is since the last time your Committee looked at fisheries matters.

Chairman

  206.  It was in the last Parliament.
  (Mr Morrison) In Scottish terms, it is something that is very important for Scotland and we are certainly hopeful that a Scottish parliament will pay far more attention than does Westminster.

Mr Marsden

  207.  Are there any specific ideas or suggestions on what you actually mean by that?
  (Mr Goodlad) The immediate and most obvious example refers back to the Andrew George's question on management of the inshore fishery within six miles. It would be in the direct control of the Scottish parliament what measures are introduced within six miles in terms of inshore management. That is a very big area. Do we do regulating orders? Do we do sea fisheries committees? How much are fishermen involved both on a regional basis or a Scottish basis? Those are all the kinds of things which can be looked at. The point Hamish was making, which I entirely agree with, is that we in the industry certainly hope that there will be much more time to have a much more informed and more regular debate in the Scottish parliament than has clearly been the case at Westminster.
  (Mr Smith) It is very much a wait and see situation as far as we are concerned. It is difficult to understand how the Scottish parliament is going to work. Areas where I certainly hope that there might be differentials are that the Scottish parliament might see the importance of the fishing industry to Scotland both onshore and off and might go about helping to renew the fleet. They might have powers to access European funding. That is something that we are not here to debate.

  208.  I presume also by looking for a new Scottish law on a seal cull?
  (Mr Goodlad) If you think that we are calling for a seal cull, you are totally and utterly mistaken. No one this side ever said that. We tried to highlight the problem with seals and to ask your Committee—and it will be the first committee of politicians ever to do it that I know of if you do—to try and address that we have a serious problem, but we did not propose a seal cull.

  Chairman: I think you have left the problem with us very neatly. I do not know what Mr Curry thinks but we probably get proportionally more debates on fishing in British Parliament than we do on farming. There is a debate this week on fisheries. Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed. There were a number of issues that we did not address with you that we had hoped to address with you. We are out of time. We do thank you for coming. We hope we will see some or all of you again on our visit north of the border later on. There are issues that have not been addressed so perhaps we may put some of those in writing to flesh out the memorandum. It would be helpful if we could have an exchange of correspondence on those. Thank you very much indeed for the spirit in which you answered our questions. We are very grateful.


 
previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 10 January 1999