Section 21 — Rod and line

Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:30 pm on 1st March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 3:30 pm, 1st March 2007

Group 3 is on prohibition on the use of certain baits and lures. Amendment 2, in the name of Ted Brocklebank, is grouped with amendments 12, 10 and 11. In the event that amendment 2 is agreed to, amendment 12 will be pre-empted.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Amendment 2 seeks to remove the paragraph—section 21(2)(aa)—that was inserted by an amendment in the name of the minister at stage 2. Section 21(2)(aa) implements the Executive's intention to ban the use of live fish as bait.

I totally understand that the minister's primary concern in introducing the provision in section 21(2)(aa) is to prevent the contamination of waters with alien species that are used as live bait, but I am far from convinced that such practices are responsible for any more than a small percentage of the alien species that appear in our lochs and rivers. I would support the minister if she were to introduce a Danish-style ban on live bait by banning the use of live bait that had not been caught on the same day and in the same waterway that is being fished. However, I worry that, in outlawing completely the use of live bait, we may be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

The fact remains that the use of live bait is a thoroughly well-established practice among pike fishermen, who travel from far and wide to Scotland's lochs to enjoy some of the best pike fishing anywhere in the British isles or the world. In my view, the Parliament should do all that it can to further the growth of coarse angling generally and pike fishing specifically. Therefore, I worry that including the provision on the face of the bill will send out all the wrong signals to the coarse fishermen who currently come to Scotland and to those who are considering coming here in the future.

I fully understand the minister's concerns, but I ask her with all sincerity to consider whether there might be a better way forward to deal with all our concerns about alien species without implementing a total ban on the practice of using live bait. As well as supporting amendment 2, in the name of Ted Brocklebank, I will support amendments 12, 10 and 11, in the names of Richard Lochhead and Dennis Canavan.

I move amendment 2.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

If members listened closely to Jamie McGrigor's speech, it will have been obvious that he was speaking more in favour of amendment 12, in my name, than amendment 2. Amendment 2 would mean that there would be no ban on the use of live vertebrates, whereas amendment 12 accepts that there should be a ban in the bill but that, at a future date, the minister should have the power to introduce exemptions.

The reason why we cannot lift a ban completely is that it is imperative that we take a belt-and-braces approach to preventing alien species from going into our rivers—in the past, that has caused much damage to indigenous species—and to protect biodiversity in Scotland's rivers. We need a ban of some kind to ensure that that does not happen.

On the correspondence between the Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling and the minister's office in recent months, there is perhaps a case for making exemptions in the future. I know that the federation and the minister have been batting correspondence back and forth. It has been claimed that if we take live vertebrates from the river and use them as bait in the same river, that would not pose a threat to biodiversity and would certainly not introduce alien species to the river.

My amendment 12 would leave it open to the minister to bring back exemptions in the future, but it would ensure that there were no unintended consequences of that. It is a sensible amendment, because all it would do is give the minister the option to bring back an exemption at some future date after further discussions with the fisheries sector and with the coarse anglers in particular. It is as simple as that. I urge members to support the SNP's amendment 12, because Jamie McGrigor's amendment 10, which he did not speak to, does not make sense and would pose a threat to biodiversity in Scotland's rivers.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

Amendments 10 and 11 would mean that ministers could not introduce a complete ban on fishing with live invertebrates as bait or a complete ban on lures. Many children and young people's introduction to angling is fishing with a worm, maggot or spinning rod and reel with a small metal lure. It can be difficult for young children to learn fly fishing, although they might graduate to that skill. The use of a worm, maggot or small lure is much easier and potentially more successful. That is how many children get their first catch, which they will probably remember for the rest of their lives. I do not think that we should deprive children and young people of that exciting experience. It would be wrong for ministers to introduce a complete ban on the use of all live invertebrates as bait or a complete ban on all lures. I ask the deputy minister for appropriate assurances.

Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green

This issue was discussed extensively at stage 2. The Environment and Rural Development Committee recommended in its stage 1 report that the Executive introduce a ban on live vertebrate baits, which it said that it was minded to do.

For me, two issues are involved. The first, which motivated the Executive, is biodiversity and the risk of fish used as bait becoming established in an area where they did not belong and posing a threat to the native species. The second issue is fish welfare. It is acknowledged that fish are sentient beings and I do not think that it is right that live vertebrates be used as bait.

I have no problems with what Dennis Canavan said about the importance of being able to fish with lures and invertebrates. I am very supportive of angling and I would never want to stop people using invertebrates, which come into quite a different category.

However, I not believe that using live fish as bait is acceptable nowadays. I accept that that puts me at odds with the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain, with which I have corresponded. The first thing that one sees on its website is instructions for fishing for pike with dead bait, so it is not inevitable that one must fish for pike with live bait—although I accept that the club says that using live bait provides better sport at a certain time of year. In this day and age, we should not be using live fish as bait.

I accept the points about biodiversity that have been made. I have no problems with the point that Dennis Canavan made, but the bill as it stands—as amended at stage 2—takes the right approach.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The bill already includes an enabling provision, which was introduced in section 25, to allow for a prohibition of the use of live vertebrates as bait to be made through subordinate legislation. That would allow for the use of specific baits and lures, such as live vertebrates, to be prohibited in fishing for freshwater fish.

Following concerns that were raised by many stakeholders about the risk of adverse effects on biodiversity in our inland waters from the use of unused live bait, we decided that putting the provision on the face of the bill would make the policy absolutely clear. The Environment and Rural Development Committee endorsed that position in its stage 1 report and the bill was amended at stage 2 to include such a provision. Ted Brocklebank's amendment 2 would remove that provision.

I want to refute some of the myths that have been flying around about this issue during the past few weeks. First, it has been suggested that the provision that was inserted at stage 2 was some kind of late amendment aimed at getting through a new policy at the end of the process. It was not. The prohibition on the use of live vertebrates was first proposed in the Executive's green paper "Scotland's freshwater fish and fisheries: Securing their future", which was published in August 2001. It was subsequently debated thoroughly in the freshwater fisheries forum and included in the consultation document that was issued in December 2005. The response to the question in that consultation was four to one in favour of a ban.

I acknowledge that the strongly held views for and against the use of live vertebrates as bait tend to split along the lines that are associated with different branches of the sport. Those who wish to fish for predatory fish such as pike want no ban, whereas those who fish for other fish want a ban. It has been argued that introducing the ban simply supports the views of the latter group, but those on both sides of the argument share the same environment, and the fact remains that the use of live vertebrates by one group could compromise the environment and the fishing of another group.

The second point has been raised by several people; Eleanor Scott mentioned it today. The ban is not about welfare, and the Executive's next step will not be to prohibit the use of worms and maggots, if not fishing itself. I emphasise that the Executive has been consistent on that issue from day one. The issue is one of biodiversity, and I welcome Richard Lochhead's acknowledgement that biodiversity must be the central issue.

There is also a myth that live vertebrates are not a problem. That is not so. The use of live vertebrates as bait has resulted in the translocation of live fish from one body of water to another. We need only look at Loch Lomond to see what has happened. The loch now supports a number of fish species that are new to the loch. One of those species, the ruffe, is now the most numerous fish in the loch and it is thought to pose a major threat to the loch's indigenous powan, which is an internationally important species of freshwater fish found in Loch Lomond and Lock Eck and which is listed in the habitats directive.

The use of lures and dead fish—often marine species such as sprat or mackerel—gives anglers an ample range of methods and there is no need to put biodiversity at risk. We do not want to suggest that pike anglers should not come to Scotland; they will still be very welcome.

Although the use of live vertebrates is supported by a minority, support for a ban was, and remains, widespread. The case for prohibition is compelling. That was also the view of the majority of members on the Environment and Rural Development Committee.

I ask Jamie McGrigor to consider withdrawing amendment 2 for the reasons that I have outlined. I listened carefully to Richard Lochhead's arguments in favour of amendment 12. We have to focus on the issue of our native biodiversity. The fact that it has been compromised in some places does not mean that we should allow that to continue in others. The Executive's view is that the risk is just too great. I ask Richard Lochhead not to press his amendment. The Executive's position is clear and is supported by the majority: the provision should stay in the bill.

Taken together, the effect of Dennis Canavan's amendments 10 and 11 would be that Scottish ministers would not be able to make conservation regulations that would completely prohibit the use of lures or live invertebrates as bait either directly or as a result of the cumulative effects of sets of regulations. Some stakeholders are concerned that banning the use of live vertebrates as bait will also mean a ban on the use of live invertebrates, or that it would be followed by such a ban. That is not the case, and I am happy to repeat the commitment that I gave at stage 2: the Executive supports angling and does not intend to ban the use of live invertebrates as bait.

I met Dennis Canavan and I fully understand that the use of worms and maggots as bait and certain spinners as lures is central to the introduction of many young people to the sport of angling. I assure him that it is certainly not our intention to put any obstacles in the way of potential new entrants to the sport; quite the contrary.

By introducing new section 51A into the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003, section 25 of the bill addresses the need that was identified by stakeholders for a set of appropriate tools that may be used when there are conservation concerns about freshwater fish. If the appropriate response to an identified problem includes prohibiting specified lures or baits, the appropriate regulation can be made.

Scottish ministers can make regulations only if they are satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so for the conservation of freshwater fish. That power is not available to be used for any other reason. For example, it could not be used to ban the use of live invertebrates as bait solely on supposed welfare grounds.

Before any regulations are made, a system of checks and balances will apply. There is a requirement that ministers must consult and take advice from a range of bodies, including the Fisheries Research Services, SEPA, and environmental non-governmental organisations; the views of anglers must be sought, too, of course. Ministers must always be proportionate and reasonable in the action that they take. The final check and balance is that they will have to persuade the Parliament of what they want to do.

As I have explained, the Executive has no intention to ban completely the use of any lure or of live invertebrates as bait, and we can see no circumstances in which section 25 would be used to introduce such a complete ban. Dennis Canavan's amendments 10 and 11 are unnecessary and, on the basis of the reassurance that I have provided, I ask him not to move them.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I hear what the minister says and I certainly agree that the movement of fish from one catchment area to another in which they are an alien species should be avoided. However, I do not see why that means that a method that has been used by pike fishermen since time immemorial should have to be banned. Surely the ban should be on bringing fish from one catchment area to another water. As I do not agree with what the minister has said, I intend to press amendment 2.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 5

For: Aitken, Bill, Brownlee, Derek, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Johnstone, Alex, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Petrie, Dave
Against: Adam, Brian, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hyslop, Fiona, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Macmillan, Maureen, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McFee, Mr Bruce, McMahon, Michael, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 11, Against 80, Abstentions 0.

Amendment disagreed to.

Amendment 12 moved—[Richard Lochhead].

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 3:45 pm, 1st March 2007

The question is, that amendment 12 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 6

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Petrie, Dave, Robison, Shona, Stevenson, Stewart, Swinney, Mr John, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McMahon, Michael, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinburne, John, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 36, Against 65, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 12 disagreed to.