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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 agree 100%. In my view, appeasement of the unreasonable demands of Iceland and the Faroe Islands will lead only to further demands. The EU must not reward behaviour that has been utterly reckless in conservation terms.

We must remember that our fishermen have absolutely nothing to gain in the negotiations; they can only lose out from any deal struck. Nevertheless, they see that their own long-term interests depend on the long-term health of stocks, so they want us as politicians to hold our nerve and stand firm for a fair and equitable resolution of the issue.

On the subject of mackerel, one of the most frustrating aspects of European fisheries policy is that while our fishermen have made strenuous efforts to fish sustainably, they have seen other member states flouting the conservation targets. Spain overfished its mackerel quota by 296% last year, yet the Commission has taken no action against it. I am unable to explain to the fishermen in my constituency why fishermen in some parts of the EU can flout the rules and regulations with impunity while they face serious sanctions if they do so. I hope that the Minister will take up the issue of Spanish overfishing with the Commission and work with other member states towards more sustainable fisheries in all EU waters.

Sea fishing has the inherent potential to be both a sustainable and a profitable industry. Those goals are sometimes in tension, but I think that most people in fishing communities and the industry recognise that over the long term, they go hand in hand. Our fishing communities deserve better representation from UK Governments than they have had. Too often, fishing has been a bargaining chip in bigger negotiations. It has not had anything like the priority that it deserves. I hope that that will change. I wish the Minister well in the forthcoming round of talks, and in opening the debate this afternoon, I urge him to put the economic, environmental and social sustainability of our fishing industry and coastal communities at the heart of his Government's approach.