Fisheries Debate

Neil Parish backs a motion that supports the Fish Fight campaign against fish discards where EU common fisheries policy results in dead or dying fish being thrown back into the water.Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am delighted to speak in this debate; I could not get out of the Finance (No. 3) Bill Committee until 4 o’clock. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) on securing the debate and I also pay tribute to a great friend, my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray), who has huge experience of the fishing industry. She has been able to return to the House in hugely difficult circumstances; our hearts very much go out to her.My hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) said that he had talked about this issue back in 1999. I was then fighting for the Conservative party, while he was fighting for another party. I recall saying to him afterwards, “Do see the light; come over to the Conservative party.” I do not know whether it was all due to me, but he obviously did see the light and came over to the true cause.I was elected to the European Parliament and sat on its Fisheries Committee for some 10 years. In all that time, I opposed the common fisheries policy. Let me explain why. The CFP is a little bit like communism: it is a wonderful idea in principle, but in practice it just does not work, as I shall explain. If we have a common resource in Europe, every country thinks that some animals are more equal than others and are entitled to a greater proportion of the fish.I will name some of those countries. Spain is one of them; it goes all around the world looking for fish, fishing off Africa and goodness knows where, causing an awful lot of problems. We must face up to the reality. We need our fishermen to be able to sign up to a policy to get rid of discards and to manage fisheries. If they believe that managing their fisheries sustainably will provide the fish for them to catch, they will sign up to it.I am sure that that is very much what the Minister will be aiming for. However, if a common fisheries policy means that we sustain our fish stocks but some other nation then comes in and steals them, will we be inclined to adopt such conservation measures?Fishermen have to go out to sea and deal with the vagaries of the weather, and then they have to deal with the vagaries of the common fisheries policy. There is, for instance, the nonsense of “quota species”, which means that those who catch too many of a particular species must throw healthy fish overboard. When big boats throw discards into the sea, they often putrefy on the sea bed, which can have huge consequences.We must take a sensible attitude, and I am delighted that the Government are doing so. Now is the time to say to fishermen, “Let us have a look at the way in which you fish. Let us ensure that when you bring your fish back, you are able to sell it.” Many Members have made the point that we need to eat more species of fish in this country, but there is another point to be made, and I have made it in the House before. During the period of the common fisheries policy, much money has been wasted when boats have been decommissioned and new boats have been built with larger engines that may enable more fish to be caught. When fish are landed that are not fit for human consumption, they can be made into fishmeal and fed to farmed fish. That may not save a vast amount of money, but it will give fishermen some incentive to land those fish.Another point that has been made today is that until we stop discarding fish, the scientists will not know what is actually being caught, so we will not know what the stocks are. That is a central part of the argument for the banning of discards.I also think that the argument between large and small boats must be settled. We cannot allow big companies to buy up huge amounts of quota and then force out many small fishermen. Those fishermen must have a livelihood. We must face up to the reality: it is a case of the haves and have nots, when what we want are sustainable fisheries.Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?Neil Parish: No, I will not, because I have not much time left.I have had 10 years’ experience in Europe, where many warm words have been spoken by commissioners in the past about discards. There have been improvements such as the provision of better fishing tackle and Project 50% in Devon, but the Commission and Europe must be driven hard to make absolutely certain that we secure change—that we stop discarding fish, and all the fish that are landed are either eaten by humans or made into fishmeal to feed farmed fish.There is a limited resource of fish in the world—there are no two ways about it—and we are consuming more fish than are being bred in the seas. If we do not act, we will destroy our own resource and our own ecosystem. I wish the Minister great success in Brussels. He must take not only his briefcase but a handbag and a concrete block, because he will need them when he is negotiating. It is necessary to negotiate very hard in Europe in order to get anywhere. I look forward to the Minister’s coming back with everything that we want.| Hansard