Fisheries Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:24 pm on 21st November 2018.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 3:24 pm, 21st November 2018

It is a great pleasure to speak in this fishing debate, and I very much welcomed the Secretary of State’s speech. On this grey November day in this House, where we seem to have little to cheer us up at the moment, fishing is one of the things that we can cheer ourselves up with, because we now have the opportunity to get more fish, for our fishermen and under-10 metre fleet to have more quota, and for anglers to access more fish, which is another great economic opportunity. There will also be more fish for our processors to process.

The whole thing about bringing back control of our fishing is that we can actually put right the wrongs that happened about 40 years ago. There is no doubt—those of us in and around coastal constituencies know this full well—that if anybody suffered when we went into the then Common Market, it was our fishing industry. As we consider the Fisheries Bill, let us make sure that we right those wrongs and get our stocks back, and ensure that those who fish in our waters—if we allow them to do so—fish under our rules and regulations. Let us ensure that we have a sustainable fishing policy.

I very much welcome the fact that the fisheries White Paper says:

“Fisheries will be a separate strand of our future relationship with the EU.”

For far too long our fisheries have been controlled by the EU under the CFP, and for too long our fishermen have been managed as a single EU exclusive economic zone. The Bill gives us the framework to take control of our waters, to come out of the CFP and to become an independent coastal state. The UK alone will be responsible for our exclusive economic zone of some 200 miles or the median line. Now we need to make sure that the Bill works. However, it can be improved, and I welcome the fact that the Labour party is taking a positive view on the Bill, because it always helps when there is not too much of a great political divide across the House.

It is not clear to me what practical arrangements the Government have made for enforcement when foreign fishing boats have access to our waters, because there is no doubt—under a no-deal Brexit, or any other Brexit that we achieve—that we will need to ensure that we have control of our waters. We also have to ensure that the cameras and systems on the boats that monitor fishing are working and not being switched off. Those systems not only cover quantities of fish and who is fishing, but work very well as far as discards are concerned. If ever there was a benefit of coming out of the CFP, is it with regards to discards. Not only is it a huge waste of resource to throw back into the sea good, healthy fish, most of which will die and probably putrefy the sea bed, but it is important that we land all the fish that are caught, as that means that we can have a proper monitor of what is in the sea and what is being caught so that we know that the science is absolutely right. Those of us who have been involved in fishing for many years, as many Members have, will find that while the scientists say one thing, the fishermen will tell us that they could walk to America on the back of cod because there are so many in the sea. There may be a slight exaggeration, but I think that Members get the gist of my argument.