asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he intends to take to protect the traditional shell fishermen of Cornwall and Devon from the activities of Irish aqualung divers who have been banned from commercial fishing in the Republic.
Is the Minister aware that in South Africa, the United States, Ireland and many other countries skin diving has been banned because of its effects upon stocks of crayfish? If the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to ban skin diving, will he consider a method whereby zones could be introduced to protect the spawning grounds of the crayfish?
The hon. Member will be aware that I cannot answer for other countries, but he will also be aware that scientific investigation is at present taking place into the Cornish crayfish stocks. Certainly there is no scientific information to bear out the hon. Member's allegation that skin diving is having an effect.
Is the Minister aware that this is an increasing problem and is not confined solely to the South-West but that there is much poaching of lobsters from fishermen's pots by aqualung operators in other parts of the country, including Selsey, in my constituency? Cannot the Minister offer some protection for the fishermen?
If poaching of that kind is taking place and the hon. Member will let me have information, I will see that action is taken. This was not borne out, however, by a delegation which was led by one of his hon. Friends.