As my hon. Friend knows, there is no drift netting for salmon in Scottish waters. However, I am in touch with angling interests and will be discussing the subject of the north-east drift net fishery for salmon with representatives of the Association of Scottish District Salmon Fishery Boards shortly.
Is the Minister aware that all civilised countries, apart from England and Ireland, have banned drift net fishing for salmon? Is he also aware that a drift net-caught salmon is worth whatever Billingsgate will pay for it, whereas a rod-caught salmon is worth hundreds of pounds to the Scottish economy? In light of that, is it not sheer folly to allow the north-east drift net fishery to continue? Should it not be bought out immediately with proper compensation?
I appreciate my hon. Friend's strong view, which I share in regard to the economy of Scotland. There is no doubt at all that the tourist industry—our hotels and so on—in the areas through which the salmon rivers run is seriously affected by the drop in the number of salmon coming into the rivers because of the north-east drift net fishery, but we have to proceed on scientific grounds. We are having further consultations and it is at least welcome that between 1992 and 1994 the number of licences in the north-east drift net fishery fell by 19 per cent.
Does the Minister have any plans to change the antiquated laws prohibiting the domestic production of salmon roe in Scotland? Is it not ridiculous that we can sell and consume imported salmon roe but we are prohibited in Scotland from producing our own? Would it not be a lively source of jobs for many people in Scotland?
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but I would not want to over-estimate the number of jobs that may be involved. We are having urgent consultations to try to resolve the matter, but it is not quite as simple as it looks.