Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what stock management plans he plans to implement to improve migratory and freshwater fish stock numbers; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency (EA) has responsibility for regulating salmon and freshwater fisheries in England and Wales. The Agency is implementing a number of management plans to maintain, improve and develop fisheries. It is now implementing its overall strategy for fisheries for 2006 to 2011, 'Better Fisheries for our Nations' that includes among its four key outcomes, improved fish stocks and a better environment for wildlife and people.
At the next level, the EA is implementing the National Trout and Grayling Fisheries Strategy published in 2003 and, earlier this year, the Agency initiated its new strategy (2008 to 2021) for 'better sea trout and salmon fisheries'. The EA has in place salmon action plans for 64 principal salmon rivers.
As required by the new European Eel Regulation, eel management plans are being drawn up for each of the 11 river basin districts (as defined for the Water Framework Directive) in England and Wales. Such plans are required to be submitted to the European Commission by the end of this calendar year.
The Water Framework Directive requires the production of river basin management plans to tackle the major impacts on the whole water environment and to work towards achievement of good ecological status. The measures within these plans will be important in supporting improved fish stocks. The plans are now being drafted and must be finally approved by Ministers in December 2009.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the forthcoming Commons Fisheries Policy reform is likely to lead to further decommissioning within the UK fishing fleet; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: Discussions on the reform of the common fisheries policy are still at a very early stage. As such, no assessment has been made on whether the outcome of the reform will result in further decommissioning of the UK fleet.
One of the key challenges facing the EU fishing fleet at present is the need to achieve a proportionate balance between the available stocks and the size of the fleet that exploits them, and this is likely to feature heavily in proposals for reform. We will need to consider whether the UK fleet, which has already been significantly reduced in pursuit of achieving this balance, should be subjected to further capacity reductions.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the provisions of the Commission Communication Fishing Opportunities for 2009 Policy Statement from the European Commission (COM(2008) 331 final); and if he will make a statement. 
The Communication was discussed at the June EU Council of Fisheries Ministers. The UK was generally supportive of its broad thrust. In particular, the emphasis on the desirability of long-term management plans for all stocks, focusing on achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY). However, we raised some concerns over the Commission's proposed approach, including in relation to their premise that a lack of quota uptake
alone should provide sufficient justification for a future cut in total allowable catch (TAC).
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much has been allocated to research on improving the selectivity of fishing gears in each year since 1997; how much he plans to allocate to research on the selectivity of fishing gears in each of the next five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: DEFRA's Marine Fisheries Research and Development Programme has supported a range of research projects on improving the selectivity of fishing gears since 1997. The details of all projects funded since 1997, together with our planned spend in this area until 2013, are displayed in the following table.
|Total cost (£)
In addition to the research funded through the Marine Fisheries R and D programme, DEFRA also acts as coordinator for the European Commission-funded MariFish ERA-NET (European Research Area Network) project which brings together the major European national funders of marine fisheries research to form an effective, working partnership. MariFish has recently launched a collaborative programme to address the problem of discarding in Europe. The collaborative programme has 14 European partners and 16 operators who have agreed to collaborate on their existing and planned discard projects. This may involve, for example, data sharing, exchange of staff and improved communication with, and involvement of, stakeholders at each stage of the programme plan.
The programme will cover technical aspects such as effort control, gear modification, real time closures and alternative fishing methods, but will also cover other important new areas such as survival of discards, use of cameras and new technologies and alternative management strategies.
The collaborative programme participants met for the first time in June 2008 to agree ways of working together, and are due to meet at the end of October 2008 to agree specific collaborative actions on how to bring their respective national research projects together to form a more cohesive programme.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 3 June 2008, Official Report, columns 855-6W, on fisheries: Scotland, whether an assessment has been made of the effects of the decision of the Scottish Executive to implement a moratorium on licence and quota transfers; what legal advice he has received on the matter; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: Legal advice has shown the moratorium to be unlawful to the extent that it acts to prevent fishermen who re-register their boats to a different fisheries administration from taking their license and fixed quota allocations (FQAs) with them. Any vessel trying to re-register out of Scotland will therefore be treated in the same way as before the moratorium was announced. No formal assessments were carried out, as given our legal position, the moratorium cannot prevent the movement in licenses and FQA units.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department and its predecessor gave to the Environment Agency in grant-in-aid for the Environment Agency's fisheries functions in England and Wales in each year since 1997; how much he plans to provide over the next five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: From 1997-8 to 2007-8, my Department provided grant-in-aid for the Environment Agency's fisheries functions as shown in the following table. Funding for fisheries functions in Wales has been the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly Government since 1999.
|MAFF/DEFRA GIA (£ million)
|(1) Includes fisheries functions in Wales.
DEFRA's grant-in-aid for the Environment Agency's fisheries functions in England has been confirmed at £5.9 million for 2008-9 and 2009-10. The amount of grant-in-aid for 2010-11 and subsequent years will be subject to business planning decisions and the outcome of future Spending Reviews. The funding provided for the Environment Agency's activities in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to the answer of 19 June 2007, Official Report, column 1660W, on fisheries: quotas; what his estimate is of the fish stocks in UK waters that are (a) outside safe biological limits, (b) within safe biological limits, (c) have no safe biological limits defined and (d) have had no scientific assessment made; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: In terms of EU fisheries and quotas, 47 finfish stocks are of most interest to the UK. The complete picture for 2008 will not be available until after the final instalment of the annual ICES advice is released in November.
(a) 14 stocks are outside safe biological limits;
(b) 9 stocks are within safe biological limits;
(c) 6 stocks still have no safe biological limits defined; and
(d) 18 stocks have no scientific assessment.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what quota swaps have been made in 2008; which cross-year swaps will affect UK quota in future years; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: On 15 October 2008, there have been 820 national quota swaps agreed by UK fisheries administrations between fishermens groups within the UK and 66 international quota swaps agreed between the UK and other member states. Fisheries Administrations will consider proposals for cross-year swaps on an individual basis. Most cross-year swaps between 2008 and 2009 will not occur until later this year or early in 2009.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2008, Official Report, columns 1865-6W, on fishing catches, what progress has been made on the development of the EU Discard Atlas; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: In December 2007, the European Commission issued an open call for tenders in relation to Studies and pilot projects for carrying out the Common Fisheries Policy (Call No. FISH/2007/07). These studies included one which was intended to form the basis of the long-planned EU Discard Atlas. The study, which was lot four of the call for tenders, was required to provide a review of the current knowledge about discards in EU fisheries, and a feasibility study on a fisheries information system for these. Specifically, the aim of the project was given as:
To compile and analyse all the information collected so far by the discard sampling programmes under the Data Control Regulation (DCR) on both the discarded and the retained fractions of the catch, in order to reply to questions such as how much, what, where and why discards occur. The study shall cover all main fishing regions of the EU: (i) the Baltic, (ii) the North Sea, (iii) the North Western Atlantic Waters, (iv) the Southern Western Atlantic Waters and (v) the Mediterranean.
At the same time, to assess the feasibility of an information system offering easy and interactive access to fisheries data including information on fishing effort and catches. This feasibility study should consider, in addition to the geographical areas mentioned above, the Black Sea once data from that area is available through the DCR.
The study would have required extensive work and co-operation between all European marine fisheries research institutes, in order to achieve these aims. However, the finances on offer to perform the study were relatively limited, and as far as we are aware, no bids to do the work were submitted before the deadline of 25 February 2008.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much of European Fisheries Fund money will be available for projects to reduce discards and bycatch in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: In accordance with Commission Regulation (EC) No 498/2007, the UK EFF funds have been distributed across the priority axes and years of the Programme. Details can be found in Section 6 of the UK Operational Programme which is available via the DEFRA website.
Priority Axis 1 (measures for adaptation of the Community fishing fleet), and Axis 3 (measures of common interest) are linked with a number of objectives, including reducing discards and by-catch. We cannot pre-empt decisions as to which projects will receive EFF funding, but can confirm that projects which seek to reduce discards and by-catch will be considered a high priority.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the (a) number and (b) percentage of UK fish stocks that have been discarded in each of the last three years, broken down by species; and if he will make a statement. 
Quantities of discards are estimated quarterly using data collected by scientific observers aboard commercial fishing vessels. They are required to record the quantity landed and discarded, and the species and size composition of the discards each time the fishing gear is hauled. Deploying scientific observers
in this manner is expensive and time consuming, with the result that it is usually only possible to sample a small proportion of the overall fishing trips in a given area. As a result, it is necessary to extrapolate from the limited sampling to provide estimates for the entire fleet. Although the sampling is intended to cover a
representative sample of the fleet, this does mean that the estimates of total discards are subject to uncertainty.
DN: Estimated number discarded (thousand)
DR: Discard rate (percentage of total catch in numbers that is discarded)