New Clause 8 - Agency arrangements between sea fish licensing authorities

Part of Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 8:30 pm, 13th October 2020

It is a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend John Redwood. It is fantastic to be the fourth Cornish MP that has the opportunity to speak in a fishing debate. When I first got elected, we would have to wait until December, just as negotiations were taking place in Brussels, to get an hour and a half to speak about fishing, so it is fantastic, as my hon. Friend Scott Mann said, to be able to talk about fishing a bit more often, and we absolutely should.

It is a tremendous achievement by the Minister and the Secretary of State to get this far, with all those who have been involved, in delivering the UK’s first fishing policy for decades. This Bill enables Government, regions and the UK fishing fleet to work together for progressively managed, vibrant fisheries in a post-common fisheries policy landscape. I cannot believe I am an MP standing up and being able to say that—fantastic! I know, as an MP who represents one of the UK’s key fishing ports, that south-west fisheries are up for the challenge and keen to get on with it.

I want to speak briefly to the amendments of the official Opposition. I recognise that they have been hoodwinked by the environmental campaign groups, believing the Bill has been stripped of its ability to deliver real sustainability for UK fishing, but this is not the case. Frankly, I am tired of hearing the good efforts of our fishermen and women constantly undermined by the SNP and Labour Front Benchers. Their desire to install a heavy burden of regulation and bureaucracy on fishermen, because of an unfounded belief that the industry is preoccupied with greater access to fish, would be a mistake, and the Government are right to reject the pressure.

Newlyn fishermen have led the way in developing improvements in sustainability and environmental practices, including the cod-end, which has reduced fish bycatch by huge amounts and reduced massively the loss of fish that they were not able to land. Fishermen are not in the business of taking whatever they can, sparing no thought for the resources that future fishermen and women will depend on or for the natural environment. The fishermen I know support conservation priorities such as bycatch reduction and managing stocks under climate change, as well as advocating for a system that will allow for the flexibility and adaptation required to deliver on these goals.

The strong and diverse set of sustainability-focused objectives in the Bill makes this a progressive framework for our country’s rich mixed fisheries and for the communities that depend on them. That framework takes me to my next point: the UK fishing fleet is part of the solution to achieving the full aspiration of the Bill. Co-management is a route to this. I look forward to hearing greater detail from the Government regarding their plan for co-management, but as I said on Second Reading, I cannot overstate the need to maintain a close relationship with our fishing industry. The prize here is enthusiastically to include the industry in the management, design and decision-making process, and trust in the knowledge it holds.

Cornwall’s fishermen want a Bill that leaves scope for engaged and meaningful co-management of fisheries, with genuine fishing voices at the heart of collaborative decision making. As the Bill stands, it is poised to deliver on this ambition.

I hope to get some clarity on the Government’s intention in relation to what is known as the economic link. It seems entirely sensible to say that what is caught in UK waters is landed in UK ports. Most would see the attraction in that until they started to look at what unintended consequence might arise. There are Cornish boats sailing out of Newlyn that land their fish in France. Why? Because it is fuel efficient to do so, and sometimes and often, their market is favourable. UK fishing is a complex industry and my advice to the shadow Minister and the shadow Secretary of State is that what sounds popular on and on social media outlets might prove completely unsustainable and counterproductive for the very people and values they seek to represent.

In conclusion, and not entirely unrelated to the economic link issue, when fish are caught and landed in UK ports, Newlyn must not miss out. While I do not believe vessels will ever be prevented from landing in Newlyn, it would reassure local stakeholders if Newlyn could be included on the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission designated ports list. That is something the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can do, and the Minister here can do, irrespective of the Bill—perhaps a necessary tidying-up of loose ends.