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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who set out the issue so clearly. I have little new to add but would like to echo three points that he made. First, on the role of data, we have heard repeatedly in earlier debates that there is a deficit of good data on which to base our fisheries management models and quota allocations. We cannot fish sustainably if we do not know what is being taken out of the sea. Secondly, as the noble Lord said, we want to ensure, as part of managing our fish stocks and the marine environment for the long term, that there is full compliance with the landing obligation. Thirdly, one argument we have heard is that requiring REM would be too burdensome or costly. I am not convinced by that argument. As the noble Lord said, new technologies are coming on stream that are bringing down the cost of REM. For instance, in Committee I referred to a system called Shellcatch, which is being adopted for fisheries management by small vessels in Puerto Rico and Chile. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are exploring these new technologies?
The main objection to REM seems a bit like the objection to speed cameras: it is not fair to have someone spying on me to check that I am complying with the law. Fishers who comply with the law have nothing to fear and should support REM to guarantee a level playing field.
It is also worth considering what consumers want. We know that all the major food retailers support REM because they do not want to sell illegal fish and know that their consumers want to buy and eat genuinely sustainable fish. Their joint statement says:
“Fully documenting fisheries is an essential tool for successful fisheries management and the attainment of healthy fish stocks … Properly documenting and accounting for catches should not be sacrificed because there are implementation challenges in some fleet sectors … we are willing to support initiatives that will be necessary to support this outcome. These include … Comprehensive and cost-effective monitoring and enforcement of measures, for example the use of remote electronic monitoring.”
I support this amendment as perhaps the single most important change that this House could make to the Bill. It will help to protect our fish stocks and our marine environment, protect our food industry from inadvertently breaking the law, and protect our consumers from eating illegal fish.