Fisheries Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:10 pm on 21st November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Procedure Committee 5:10 pm, 21st November 2018

Madam Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence, may I take you to the sunlit uplands of 2028 as imagined by my great friends in the Angling Trust in this amazing press release?

“In South Cornwall, swathes of new guesthouses, hotels and restaurants have opened up to service the visiting anglers fishing for blue fin tuna in Falmouth bay. The millions of pounds this has brought to the region has resulted in hundreds of full-time equivalent jobs servicing anglers travelling from the UK and from overseas to take advantage of the world-class big game angling opportunities that Cornwall is once again offering.

Meanwhile, nearly a decade of management measures protecting the spawning bass stock in the southern North sea has turned Clacton-on-Sea into the go-to location for weekend Londoners now spending their money bass fishing and enjoying their catches cooked before them in one of Clacton’s many new seafood restaurants capitalising on the turnaround of the North sea into one of the UK’s most productive fishing grounds. More broadly, the Essex coast is once again seeing former charter captains, such as Stewart Ward, returning to the sea.

It is worth remembering that none of these dramatic developments would have been possible without the Government’s brave and radical decision when the UK left the EU to ensure fish stocks were managed sustainably and to maximise the return to the UK of the sustainable use of fisheries resources and protection of the marine environment.

The policy was controversial at the time, but the bold and ambitious move has paid off in ways even the most ardent supporter of such a policy could not have expected at the time. The UK is now a world leader in how to manage fish stocks sustainably, so they deliver the biggest benefits to society as a whole.”

The press release concludes:

“EU policy makers are now planning to follow suit in the next reform of the Common Fisheries Policy which, like the reforms before it, from 2002 to the last one in 2022 failed to live up to their promises.”

That is the prize—and, my word, is it a prize. Imagine people from around the world travelling to Cornwall to catch 500 lb tuna fish—not to knock the tuna on the head and put them in a refrigerated ship to be cut up on a slab, but to be part of a conservation programme so that they can be tagged, measured and released; a big game fishery that means people who love fishing and catching big fish do not have to fly to Kenya to do it? People from around the world will be flying to London and regional airports to get to Falmouth, so they can go big game fishing. This is going to be a fantastic opportunity. Charter skippers will be able to charge somewhere in the region of £1,500 a day to take three fishermen, fisherwomen or fisherpersons out. Wow.

As for bass fishing, what an opportunity: thousands of beds around Essex filled up with anglers at the weekends and during holidays with their fly rods and spinning rods, coming to Essex and other coastal communities and counties to catch bass; bass that are no longer plundered but preserved for game fishermen. Of course, I do not want to see commercial fishermen cut out of bass fishing, but I know there is a way of managing our bass stocks so both interests can have a sustainable future. As well as the big politics of Brexit, that is what we need to be discussing today: the fish, because the fish are really important.

I want to say a couple more things before I sit down—I said I would be brief. The management of our fish stocks, as far as recreational anglers are concerned, has been nothing short of catastrophic up to this point. Until 1 October, if I had gone bass fishing with my son and we had caught a bass each, we both would have been required to return them. Even if they had been above the 42 cm keep limit, it would have been illegal for us to keep a fish. That is not right; fish stocks belong to everyone. I see in front of me my hon. Friend Mrs Murray, who speaks so passionately about fishing. She understands that they need to be shared out and that recreational fishermen need to be able to keep a fish or two, or maybe three, for their family and friends. That is not being greedy; it is connecting with nature and the sea.

I look around the Chamber and see colleagues who are passionate about fishing, but we need to have a bit more passion about the fish. We need to make sure that we have viable fish stocks for people to enjoy.