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[Albert Owen in the Chair] — Backbench Business — Fisheries

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 2nd December 2010.

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Photo of Eilidh Whiteford Eilidh Whiteford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Fisheries) 2:30 pm, 2nd December 2010

I thank my hon. Friend for making that very important point about the need for a whole-ecosystem approach to fisheries management. In addition, our fishermen need the ability to plan their business on a long-term basis and certainly on a much longer-term basis than they do at the moment.

I cannot think of any other industry that is subjected to the intense degree of micro-management and annual uncertainty that the fishing industry is subjected to every year at this time. Fishing is a politically managed and politically regulated industry, and we just simply have to do better.

Fishing is very much the lifeblood of the coastal communities I represent, which include Peterhead, Europe's premier white fish port, and Fraserburgh, Europe's biggest shellfish port. Between them, Peterhead and Fraserburgh are also home to a large part of the UK's pelagic fleet and home to a large processing sector. We have a very diverse industry and it does not just involve major ports such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh. In my constituency, many coastal towns and villages define themselves by their maritime traditions: Whitehills, Gardenstown, Rosehearty, Cairnbulg, Inverallochy, St Combs, and my home town of Macduff. These communities have paid a very high price for the failure of the CFP, which has essentially been a failure of political leadership.

I know that the diverse fishing industry I see in Banff and Buchan is reflected around other parts of the UK coastline. One of the advantages of having a general debate this afternoon is that it will enable Members from around these islands, I hope, to express the concerns and interests of different parts of the fishing industry that pertain to their own locale. Nevertheless, I hope that Members will understand that I myself want to focus this afternoon on a couple of issues that are of particular interest to my own local area.

Perhaps nothing symbolises the mismanagement of fisheries policy more than the present predicament of our white fish fleet in relation to the whole problem of discarding good-quality fish. Under the current regulations, nutritious and marketable food that could be landed and sold is instead thrown back dead into the sea, polluting the marine environment and needlessly depriving boats of landings that could keep them afloat financially.