Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
My Lords, we had an extensive debate in Committee on the use of remote electronic monitoring of all fishing vessels. Noble Lords on all sides of the House have expressed concern at the state of fish stocks and the amount of bycatch and discards. It is not that we do not trust our fishing industry to stick to the quota and species rules; it is more that a degree of realism is needed when dealing with this issue. The discard ban is not being observed, and not just in the UK. Full compliance, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, told us, is essential. In the past, fish stocks have been decimated, cod in particular, which has led to a switch to other species. Due to stringent measures, including REM, cod stocks are beginning to recover. The only fail-safe way of protecting fish stocks is to have fish monitored at the point of catching, and REM is the most effective way of doing this.
Marine conservation has to be led by scientific data. My noble friend Lord Teverson has explained the purpose of REM as an enforcement tool. Where this is currently used, it is effective. I regret that I am unable to agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that now is not the time to make REM mandatory. Now it is precisely the time. If we leave this to the discretion of fishermen, fish stocks data will be insufficient.
This amendment has cross-party support; it covers the current UK over-10-metre fishing fleet fishing within the UK exclusive economic zone; it covers the UK fishing fleet outside the UK EEZ; and it covers all motorised vessels fishing in the UK EEZ, whatever their nationality. In the vernacular, what’s not to like? As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, told us, supermarkets do not wish to sell and the public do not want to buy illegally caught fish. The noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, called this amendment the most important change we can make to the Bill.
Many noble Lords have mentioned data collection. It is essential that we know where fish are moving as result of changing sea temperatures and flows. How can we do this if data is not collected? REM would allow data to come back regularly, as the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, told us. This is not new technology; it is tried and tested.
The conditions in the amendment are stringent, but they need to be to protect our fish stocks. Without protecting our fish stocks, future fisheries will find fish stocks depleted and that there is nothing for them to catch. The arguments have been made and I look forward to the Minister’s response, but I fear I will probably be voting virtually.