New Clause 8 - Agency arrangements between sea fish licensing authorities

Part of Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 13th October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:30 pm, 13th October 2020

No, I do not think that is the case. When we pass the Fisheries Bill, as I very much hope we will do shortly, there will be no question but that we will be able to impose licence conditions at the end of the transition period.

Pelagic fishing is the main method used by vessels that are over 100 metres in length. This takes place within a water column, and so is unlikely to affect the seabed features, such as reefs and sediment habitats, that most marine protected areas are set up to conserve. Prohibiting these vessels will not protect MPAs from fishing activities such as bottom-trawling, which we know damage them. As such, I am concerned that this amendment would not deal with the most important issues concerning MPAs. Instead, we should focus on preventing damage from the types of fishing that we know effect MPAs, which involve the trawling of nets on the seabed. More than 90 inshore MPAs are now protected from destructive fishing methods.

To date, the common fisheries policy has restricted our ability to implement fisheries management measures in offshore MPAs. To do that, we have required the consent of all the EU member states who fish there. Once we get to the end of this year, we will be free of that restriction and we plan to use the powers in the Bill to put measures in place very quickly. The House will welcome the fact that the Marine Management Organisation will shortly be launching a call for evidence on its assessment of the management measures needed in one inshore and four offshore MPAs. This is the start of engagement in advance of our new policies being put in place early next year. It is important that we develop these policies in conjunction with the industry. Fishermen want to work in partnership with us on this, as was demonstrated by the fishermen who raised concerns about the scallop fishery on the Dogger Bank, which we were then able to close.

Turning to new clauses 11 and 12, on safety, we all recognise that fishing remains a dangerous occupation. We are agreed that it is important that all fishermen have a fair and safe working environment. I would like once again to pay tribute to all those who work at sea and who are at sea now, and I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about this important matter again today. And of course I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mrs Murray, who has worked so hard in this area, and to the other Members who have, too.

The Government strongly condemn any aggressive actions taken at sea that make safety worse, particularly when this is done deliberately. We have had appalling instances off Shetland, which I think we may be hearing about later, with German-Spanish gillnetters, and in the Baie de Seine with French vessels very recently, over the weekend. Videos of those incidents are truly horrifying, and the fact that there have not been real injuries recently is, quite frankly, a miracle.

I know this is a probing amendment, but I would say that the UK already has the powers to prevent unacceptable or dangerous practices within our territorial waters that cover all UK vessels anywhere in the world. We, like other coastal states, rely on flag states being responsible for the conduct of their vessels in our EEZ. We will explore what further action can be taken with the Marine and Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport and other interested parties. We will continue to raise issues with the flag state of any vessels concerned, as the MCA did with the German Government in June after the incident in the Shetlands.