asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether, in the interests of inshore fishermen, in order to conserve valuable food, and in view of the fact that large parts of the North Sea and English Channel are not now being fished, he will consider the possibility of reducing the size of fish that may be marketed to eight inches and of allowing a somewhat wider discretion to local port officers in the matter than they possess at present?
The minimum size limit of nine inches for sea fish sold for human consumption has been operative since 26th October. The effect of the Order is being carefully watched but it is too early to consider the question of amendment. It would not be practicable to have local modifications of the Order.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a great deal of very valuable foodstuff is being thrown back into the sea at many ports? Does he not think the time has come to stop this and to give the port officers reasonable discretion to prevent wastage of food?
I do not think that is the case. This small fish is not, in many cases, fit for human consumption. There have been many complaints from distributors that they are being required to take fish which the public do not want.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a large proportion of the small fish thrown back die, and will he consider giving the people the benefit of eating them rather than giving that facility to other fish?
On the whole, the flat fish that are thrown back do not die. It is important that they should not be caught under the length of nine inches, because otherwise they have not spawned, and the fishing grounds are denuded. The small fish are not what the distributors or the public want. They merely add to the weight of the catch without adding to its value as foodstuff.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that informed opinion in the trade thinks that the limit has been made too big, with the result that in many parts so much of the catch has to be thrown back that the fishermen find it unprofitable to put to sea at all?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that very valuable foodstuff, in the form of pilchards caught off the Cornish coast, is being thrown back daily? If they cannot be used immediately, will he see that proper tinning arrangements are made?