Fisheries debate: MP calls for local control over fishing
Neil Parish calls for more local control over fishing so that the local fishing industry have ownership of conservation measures.
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I congratulate hon. Members from all parts of the House who helped to secure this debate, especially my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray), who takes a particular interest in fishing.
May I tell the Minister to be careful of the European Commission bearing gifts? He must look that gift horse in the mouth, as he will find that the proposals on devolving powers to regional advisory councils and others are short on detail. When the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs took evidence on this issue, the producer organisations for the south-west were convinced that there were no real powers coming from Brussels, and that things were going the other way. I know that the Minister fights hard for British interests, and I commend him for doing so, but we have to introduce much more local control over fishing so that the fishing industry and people going out to fish have the ownership of conservation measures and are keen to see them work. At the moment that is done far away in Brussels, and if fish are saved in one member state the fishermen there will be convinced that someone else from another member state will come along and take them away. However, there is no proposal to devolve those powers at present.
Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a good point. Does he agree that it is important to include in the balance the needs of recreational fishermen? In my constituency, for generations, people, including me, have enjoyed going out with their fathers and their grandfathers to catch fish to eat at home?
Neil Parish: My hon. Friend makes a good point. A year or two ago I went to Falmouth, where we were trying to secure more help for sea anglers, who play an important part in the fishing industry, not only by catching fish but by bringing people down to Falmouth, the west country and other parts of the United Kingdom, where they stay in hotels and so on. The value of a fish caught by an angler can be a great deal more than that of a fish caught by a professional fisherman. I know that the Minister takes that dimension very seriously.
I want to discuss the change in fishing gear and the 50:50 process in Devon, where discards have been reduced by 50%, which is good news. Until we ban discards and land everything that we catch, how do we know what there is in the seas? Up to 2 million tonnes of fish throughout the European Union are discarded every year, which is a huge waste of resources, and means that we never quite know what the stocks are.
I welcome the Commission’s proposal on landing fish that is not fit for human consumption, suggesting that it should be made into fishmeal to be fed to farmed fish. However, I question its proposal on the landing of fresh fish, which would be kept and distributed to poor people throughout Europe—not that I am against poor people throughout Europe and the UK having fish, but the idea that the Commission will organise that in every port in the EU, especially in the UK, fills me with horror. Some of those proposals need to be considered carefully.
Of course we should ban discards—I know that the Minister has done a great deal of work on this, as have celebrity chefs—but about 70% of the fish landed in Newlyn harbour goes straight in a lorry to Spain, because we do not eat that type of fish. The more fish we can eat in this country, the more we can keep the fish that we land.
We all feel strongly about the issue of the under 10 metre fleet, and the Minister is looking at ways of getting a better share for that fleet, which is essential to the south-west community, including Devon. It is key that those family-run boats have more fish to catch because, in the end, there is a limited amount of fish in the sea, and we must make sure that there are options for that fleet. I look forward to what the Minister can offer us, because in the end, the sea and fish resources have to be shared out between all the fishermen.