Fisheries Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:54 pm on 21st November 2018.

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Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall 4:54 pm, 21st November 2018

That is my understanding of the withdrawal Act. The implementation period should come to an end as quickly as possible, because the discard ban and the fines that might come about from it would place our fishermen under immense pressure.

I welcome the commitments made to supporting sustainable fisheries by ensuring that all our harvested stocks are in line with maximum sustainable yield. I was told recently that we must follow the science, and that is equally important with fisheries management. It is great to see the UK committing itself to internationally defined standards adopted by most successful fisheries and fisheries management regimes around the world.

However, more could be done through the Bill to ensure that we meet those targets. A light-tough approach to the duties placed on authorities to deliver on these objectives risks the complete undermining of the Government’s stated ambition. There is an absence of duty on fisheries managers to set fisheries limits on exceeding levels, to restore stocks or maintain maximum sustainable yield, and a lack of deadline for restoring stocks above maximum sustainable levels. I therefore recommend a binding duty to ensure that, as soon as the Bill comes into force, fisheries managers cannot set fishing limits above scientific recommended levels. That would deliver the UK Government’s objective to restore stocks.

I firmly believe that we have a chance to invest in our fishing industry and bring innovation at a time of change and changing technology, to improve both safety and prosperity in the industry. I welcome the Budget announcement of £12 million for the fishing industry, with £10 million of that money coming from UK Research and Innovation, to establish an innovation fund to help transform the fisheries industry, and £2 million being set aside for fisheries safety projects across the UK and on-board safety equipment; I know that my hon. Friend Mrs Murray has pushed for that for some time.

The fishing industry and its practices have not developed much over the last 40 years, and it is time we brought innovation into the industry. Taking back control of our fisheries policy gives us a chance to ensure that the UK is a world leader in sustainability and safe and productive fishing methods. Investing in technology and technological change will help the UK to stick to its scientific objectives, which commit us to contributing to the collection of scientific data. An example of where we have gone wrong in the past with a fishing technique that has not evolved is the gill net. Currently, juvenile fish can be caught in an overloaded net, and this is one area where the tech innovation fund could look at new ways of developing gill net mesh.

Technology can also boost productivity for independent fishing businesses, support entrepreneurship and provide the ability to create new real-time data to allow fish to be sold directly to restaurants straight off the boats. An example of this is an independent small business in Cornwall that uses an app to register and download fish information as soon as the fish has gone into the boat, so that it can be sold to restaurants as soon as the boat comes back.

In my last minute, I would like to talk about recreational angling, which is hugely important to coastal communities such as mine. I commend the support in the Bill for promoting recreational angling. One opportunity this Fisheries Bill affords us involves Atlantic bluefin tuna. Stocks have collapsed over decades from commercial overfishing, but with the return of these iconic fish to the British Isles—in particular, to Cornwall—we now have a real opportunity to grasp the nettle and embrace this opportunity. As an independent and sovereign member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, we have the opportunity to request a quota, and I believe we should. A fish that is caught by rod and line and returned to the sea is worth six times more to the economy than a fish that is landed, killed and eaten. I will leave it there, but I commend this Bill.