New Clause 8 - Agency arrangements between sea fish licensing authorities

Part of Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Conservative, Truro and Falmouth 8:15 pm, 13th October 2020

I will try to speak clearly with my new self-imposed time limit. It is a pleasure to follow right hon. and hon. Members, particularly Dave Doogan, and here we are going straight back down the line to Cornwall, which just shows what an important issue this is for the whole United Kingdom.

Despite being the great-great-granddaughter of a Scarborough fisherman, I had no idea as a young girl that I would grow up to become a Cornish fishwife, but here I am. Actually, I am very proud to be so. It is a privilege to be married to a fisherman, because it gives a great understanding of what a scary but wholesome living it is. It is absolutely necessary for the health of our nation. I mentioned in my maiden speech some time ago how precarious a living it is, especially when one is on the end of the phone and the weather turns and they cannot get back, so I will not go into that again.

One thing I have to say is that the fishing industry does not speak with one voice, and that is important to remember. To stand up for the fishing industry means giving our fishermen their voices back, and that is what this Bill absolutely does. It takes a first important step, and that is what we have to remember about this framework Bill.

I will speak briefly to the amendments. I do not think that the Bill is the right place for them, but I understand why they have been tabled. I believe they are well intentioned, and I know that Ministers are listening. In terms of amendment 1, I welcome the Government’s consultation, and I urge anybody involved to make their representations known before the closing date, which I believe is 10 November.

I would like to see more support from Ministers for direct-from-the-boat sales. When people go to London and eat a nice plate-sized piece of fish in a restaurant, the price can be eye-watering. Let me tell the House that at the other end of the scale, when the fisherman gets his price from market, that can also be eye-watering, but for a different reason. Somewhere along the way, somebody is making a lot of money out of it, but it is not the fishermen, and we need to put that right. I know there are voices in the Treasury who are sympathetic to that, and I make a plea to urge those conversations forward. A business in Falmouth that has just opened has as one of its unique selling points the fact that it wants fish that has never touched land. That sort of business should be encouraged, particularly in Cornwall.

Amendment 2 is about sustainability. One of the main reasons I came to this House was for the sustainability of our oceans and sustainability on land, but when we talk about sustainability in the fishing industry, we cannot talk just about the oceans; we have to talk about the coastal communities as well. Take bass, for example. My hon. Friend Scott Mann and I have spoken at length about bass and recreational angling versus the commercial fishermen, and I want to try to bridge the gap tonight if I can.

I absolutely get the reason why we need to have a sustainable bass fishery. The angling economy in Cornwall is growing and is worth a lot of money, but if that bass fishery is suddenly taken away from an under-10 metre boat, that fisherman cannot feed his family. We cannot just expect these fishermen one day suddenly to have to go out to fish for something else—it does not happen like that. I am not prepared to make people suddenly do that, so we have to have a long consultation with the industry, the fishermen and the conservationists before we come up with a plan. That is why this amendment is misplaced. We have to go with the framework and see where we go from that.

Amendment 3 deals with supertrawlers. Again, I understand why it has been proposed, but I am reassured by Ministers who say that we now are in control of those licences, and pressure will be on our Front Benchers to make the right decisions there. I will not go on for too long, I promise, but let me deal with a couple more things that I want to see, if we can do them.

Mr Carmichael is no longer in his place, but I have sympathy with him on the enforcement argument, and not just on the outrageous incidents to which he refers. We see daily off the Lizard Point that French fishermen are within our waters and they should not be there. Even in the spawning grounds in the estuaries we need to make sure that anglers are not going up and taking undersized fish. There should be enforcement from one scale down to the last, and we need to make sure we are properly prepared to have enforcement here.

I am a big advocate of labelling—everyone in Devon knows how I feel about that—and it is vital that we get some clear labelling on our fish. The technology is there now to put the boat name on anywhere that that fish ends up, be it in an expensive fancy restaurant or in one of our supermarkets; we can see what boat that fish has come off and how it was caught. The fisherman who is fishing hook and line should get a better price than the one who is using the nets. The fisherman will then suddenly become responsible for his catch, in the same way as farmers are responsible for the high standards of their animals. That is important and it means that the consumer starts to become king—I hope that Ministers are listening.

We have a great opportunity for a culture change in this country about what we eat and why we eat it—that was mentioned earlier. The new Cornish residents, our TV chefs, who have moved down to the south-west have an important role to play in this. If we suddenly start eating wrasse, which they do in Japan, in sushi, or whatever else it might be, we can start making this a good thing to eat and consumers will follow.

I will conclude because I do not want to take up too much time. This Bill is a great first step, from which we have learned lessons from the CFP. We are finally starting to release our fishermen from the shackles of the CFP, which is vital. What we can achieve for the industry is endless because we are now an independent coastal state. I am reassured that future consultations will benefit our industry and I look forward to plans that come forward next year.