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My Lords, remote electronic monitoring will be hugely important to the future management of our fisheries, for a variety of reasons.
First, we do not have the resources to police all our waters. We will soon have the largest independent national fisheries area on the continent. If no one can fish our waters without REM, both home boats and foreign boats, at least we will know, in real time, what is going on and whether boats are fulfilling their obligations under their licences.
Secondly, it is said that 40% of all catch taken in Europe is currently caught in what will become British waters, so if we can strictly manage and police that catch all around the UK, we will have a chance of leading the field and becoming an example to others in managing a sustainable fisheries regime.
Thirdly, we all know that discards are still happening, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned. While sympathising with the problems of choke species, we have to be firm about this, while of course helping and encouraging the industry to find its own non-discard solutions—one of which is the intelligent use of REM, which I will come to.
The main reason for REM, which I would like to focus on, is data, as the title of this amendment highlights. Data is vital to the proper management of our fisheries and is in relatively short supply. That is why there are often disputes between scientists and fishers about the accuracy of the data on which MSY figures are based, and whether this data is sufficiently up to date, et cetera. Now we have the chance of every single fishing boat becoming a scientific research vessel, sending back data on an hourly basis.
The Government have announced that they would like to change the basis of the quota system from relative stability to one of zonal attachment. For that you need a lot more data analysis, because the main idea behind zonal attachment is that you look at the entire life cycle of the fish, where they live at any particular point in time and where and when they are of the right size and in the right quantities to be caught. You need an awful lot of data to make the right assessment, and, of course, that data will vary for each individual species.
We must remember that the seas are always changing, and so are the habits and population development of the fish within them. So it is only right that the industry should play a major part in the data gathering needed for modern fisheries management. Furthermore, as I mentioned in Committee, one of the tools for avoiding the overcatch of choke species is giving the fishing boats real-time knowledge of what is being caught and where, so that they can more easily avoid the choke problem areas. Again, for fisheries authorities, real-time data is vital to help them control the problem of overfishing. Norway and Iceland already impose real-time closures of areas of water where sensitive species are suddenly being overfished, but the key to this policy is detailed and open data, provided by REM.
Eventually, all boats, including the under-10s, will have to have REM on board. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, touched on, I cannot believe that supermarkets will—or should—continue to allow sales of fish from their counters which have come from boats of whatever size that are not totally open about what they have caught and where. So the supermarkets, too, should be insisting on REM.
The national administration in the USA has recently taken the decision on REM that there is no need for further piloting; they just need to get on and do it. New Zealand has also taken the decision to roll it out across the whole of its fleet. I believe that we should do likewise.