Fisheries Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:26 pm on 21st November 2018.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2:26 pm, 21st November 2018

I am going to make a wee bit of progress now, if that is okay. One thing that is clear about this Bill is that it has benefited from the support of the devolved Administrations and of non-governmental organisations. As a result, it now allows us to ensure that, as an independent coastal state, we can do what so many have wished, which is fully control access to our own waters and allocate quotas as we wish. Clauses 7 and 8, 11 and 12 revoke the existing rights of EU nations to access UK waters and ensure that the UK will license individual vessels from other nations on our terms, in a way that is consistent with high environmental principles, to demonstrate that we will have taken back control, not just of our territorial waters, but of our exclusive economic zone extending 200 miles out around the whole of the United Kingdom. We will make sure, as a number of hon. Members have asked, that we put conservation first.

Our fish are a great natural, renewable resource. We need to make sure that the lessons of the past are learned and that the mistakes that have been made while we have been in the common fisheries policy, and that other states have made through over-fishing, are at last corrected. We need to make sure that the network of marine protected areas and marine conservation zones around our nation are used to regenerate fish stocks. We need to make sure that we have available the effective data so that we can set quotas and total allowable catches sustainably. We need to make sure that we use the world-leading science available in this country from CEFAS and others to ensure that we set a global gold standard for conservation.

One particular way in which the environmental argument has been accepted by some but applied in a way that can be economically harmful and sometimes environmentally counterproductive is the way in which the discard ban has operated. It is quite right that we should seek to restrict fishing that is carried out in a way that might damage the health and resilience of individual species, but because of the nature of much of the fishing that goes on in our waters, particularly but not exclusively in the case of the under-10 fleet, there is a risk of bycatch. No matter how sophisticated the gear, there is a risk that some of the fish caught belong to some of the species that we wish to protect, and that these choke species, having been caught by fishermen at a level that threatens sustainability, have to be deployed in a way that means that the fishermen can no longer carry on their business.