Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:50 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 4:50 pm, 1st March 2007

I happen to know that very few of those 140 sites are being used for fallowing. They are maintained by the companies concerned for their own purposes—to restrain competition.

We need to recognise that the spread of GS requires a wider view to be taken that involves the European Union. The affected areas need to be identified and a plan among the different countries needs to be worked out. We should expect the Scottish Executive to move in that direction because we know that GS is endemic not only in parts of Norway but in other EU countries, including France. We have a major job to do to ensure that we are able to stop the parasite spreading to Scotland. Of course, the major element of such efforts must involve controlling the importation of fish and smolts, given that that is easier to control than the behaviour of anglers.

Regarding how we control and develop the management of fisheries, we look forward to the next stage, when the freshwater fisheries forum reports and we can move on to total catchment management. These interim measures are all very well, but they do not really address the full problem, which will need to be taken care of in future.

It was interesting that, with amendment 7, Dennis Canavan wanted to hold out for what he regarded as the best solution. I had a great deal of sympathy with his proposal. The aim was not to take powers away from local angling clubs but to ensure that anglers can be organised at a national level so that common standards can be brought into play. However, when he questioned why people should be able to be convicted on the evidence of only one witness, I was sorry that the minister did not refer him to the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, under which people can be so convicted of taking birds' eggs. That provision is a good way of dealing with the issue because of the difficulty involved in getting witnesses.

For some of us—if not for the minister—the reference to the ways in which salmon fishery boards and bailiffs acted in the 19th century did not bring back happy memories. In those days, I think they still used mantraps. The minister should have pointed out that convicting on the evidence of one witness is a modern way of dealing with such matters. As Stewart Stevenson said, when he was a water bailiff, he had more powers than a constable. I will not list any of Stewart Stevenson's other jobs just now.

We agree that the modernisation of the powers of control over our inland waters is welcome. We can handle those measures for aquaculture. We are happy to support the bill in general.