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Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): Will my hon. Friend confirm for the layman that discards do not amount to throwing back small fish that might grow into bigger ones, but that the great majority of discarded fish are dead? They pollute the environment and represent an environmental scandal.
Mr. Paterson: My hon. Friend is right. This is a complete scandal, and the facts are unknown. I cited the example of Fleetwood, where I saw 90 to 95 per cent. of tiny baby plaice being discarded. If they had been allowed to grow, with sensible mesh size regulations, they would have become commercial fish. Most fishermen tell me that they believe that more fish is dumped as pollution than landed for human consumption, and a large number of those fish must be saleable, commercial fish. I have heard that some beam trawlers in the south-west dump 20 boxes of cod a night because they do not have the quota for it. The lesson from the Faroes and New England is that if those fish are landed, we know what is going on. Bluntly, we do not know what is going on now because there is such a level of discard and black landings. Having accurate data is an absolute basis of any management system, and my contention is that we do not have accurate data.
Mr. Carmichael : I accept the hon. Gentleman's point about the importance of accurate datait is a very good one and we have all suffered over the years because of the lack of accurate databut he has twice mentioned that a lot of black landings are going on, although, as he says, we do not know that. I caution him that it does the interests of our industry and our Ministers in representing our industry no good to make such wide statements about the level of black fish landings.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that comment, but I am reporting what I found on my travels. It is common to every quota system that quotas
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inevitably lead to discards and black landings. That is an ineluctable fact. The point of our policy is that we have seen that where days at sea rules have been introducedI think that this is the third time that I have said sothere are fewer black landings and fewer discards. That is the most fundamental gain, and accurate data are produced. The royal commission said:
Mr. Salmond : I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman's travels may have taken him to the major pelagic fish factories in Norway, where the nearest fisheries inspector will be well over a day's travel, perhaps two days' travel, away. From his travels or perhaps just from intuition, can he say what that might mean, for example, to the percentage of herring and mackerel going into such a Norwegian pelagic fish factory?
and they have been used successfully in each of the fisheries that I have mentioned. New England closes as much as 33 per cent. of its fishing groundsan area of 8,000 square miles. We would certainly encourage a system of no-take zones, particularly in spawning and nursery areas, which are biologically sensitive, or in areas with corals or reefs, which might be exploited by divers or those with tourism interests. There is also a case for temporary closed areas.
Again, I have been struck by the speed of response that is available to those countries that run independent fisheries systems. In the Falklands, each vessel is required to report its catch every night by satellite. If a vessel that is after squid runs into too many hake, a message will be sent to it overnight requiring it to steam on for a few hours to avoid an excessive by-catch. In Iceland, messages are sent by radio within hours of a vessel reporting running into juvenile fish, and announcements are made on all the radio stations requiring vessels to stay clear. Such instant management is impossible under the system from which we currently suffer.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): The hon. Gentleman has been indicating his view of the merits of independence. Is it still Conservative party policy that Britain should withdraw from the common fisheries policy?
Mr. Paterson: Yes. I have made that clear on many occasionsit was our policy at the general election. Our policy is that we believe that national and local control can deliver the measures that I describe. Sadly, they are not possible now. My contention is that the Minister should take on board those measures.
Given the leader of the Conservative party's pledge to jettison unrealistic, extreme policies based on dogma and his failure in his leadership
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campaign explicitly to support the Tory policy of attempting to withdraw from the common fisheries policy, is the hon. Gentleman absolutely certain that his new leader supports that policy?
Mr. Paterson: It is very interesting that the first time that the Minister jumps up, he avoids the technical details that would improve our marine environment and gets into tittle-tattle. I was delighted by both of our leadership candidates. As Anatole Kaletsky reported last week in The Times, my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) said that he
On numerous occasions during the campaign, my hon. Friend stressed employment and social policiesand my word, fishing certainly comes into that category. I can assure the Minister that we are all Cameronistas now.
The Minister does not want to talk about the detail, but I have often brought the use of selective gear and technical controls to the House's attention during our numerous sparring matches in European Standing Committee A and at other times. The obtuse attitude of the Commission and the Government to the possible gains from using selective gear is extraordinary. Selective gear is quite simpleit is designed, to quote one scientist, to "surgically extract" a species from a mixed fishery without affecting any others, and many techniques can be used. As the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has said many times, it is ludicrous that when our haddock stocks are at a 30-year high we are letting such catches go to waste and concentrating entirely on cod.
I have visited Manomet in Massachusetts, which is the world's leading research centre for selective gear. I have told the Minister about the details when he asked me about them behind the Chair. We could use those techniques. The Manomet centre has managed to separate cod and haddock with an 81 per cent. success rate. It has separated cod from flat fish with a 100 per cent. success rate. When the Minister leads these discussions in Brussels, will he please get his colleagues to understand the environmental benefits of using selective gear, because many of those techniques are not allowed by EU regulation?
We would also opt for a rigorous definition of minimum commercial sizes. Ideally, we would like a commercial size to be set to ensure that mature adults are able to survive at least one and preferably two breeding seasons without being caught. We would ban industrial fishing. I am pleased that that is one of the lessons that the Government and the Commission picked up and, very late in the day, the sand eel fishery was closed. However, as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has said, it was
Internationally important seabird populations have suffered widespread breeding failures, partly owing to climate change, with warmer seas altering the plankton cycle, thus reducing the availability of sand eels, which the RSPB describes as
Mr. Salmond: I want to make a friendly intervention this time. Many hon. Members have sat through fisheries debates over the years and there has been virtual unanimity among most fishing MPs to ban the industrial fishery. Yet, year after year, ICES produces the most extraordinary figuresmany hundreds of thousands of tonnesfor the permissible fishery. Is it not passing strange that, after all those years, the welcome decision has now been made to close the sand eel fishery? Does that not bring into question the nature of the scientific advice that, year after year, against all experience and all common sense, has suggested that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish could be swept from the North sea and elsewhere?
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