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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:45 pm on 2nd December 2010.

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Photo of Alan Reid Alan Reid Liberal Democrat, Argyll and Bute 2:45 pm, 2nd December 2010

I congratulate Dr Whiteford on opening this debate. I echo her comments that it should be in the main Chamber and not in Westminster Hall. This is the 10th annual fisheries debate that I have attended, and it is only the second that has not been held in the main Chamber. I hope that in future years, the Backbench Business Committee will put this debate in the main Chamber, where it rightfully belongs.

As the hon. Lady said, fishing is a dangerous occupation, and it would certainly be uncomfortable to be on a fishing boat on a bitterly cold day like today. This is my 10th annual debate. Unfortunately, the issues do not change much. Agreement at these debates is always widespread that the common fisheries policy has failed and needs radical reform.

We must move away from centralised decision making by the Commission and towards a decentralised system of regional management committees involving fishermen, scientists and fisheries managers from member states. Only by decentralising decision making will we ever get a system that sustains both fish and fishermen.

I stress that we need a common fisheries policy. The actions of Iceland and the Faroe Islands on mackerel show what would happen if there were a free-for-all and each member state could do its own thing. We need a common fisheries policy, but it must be based on regional management, not centralised decision making from Brussels.

Discards are an obvious example of why the present common fisheries policy is failing both fish and fishermen. The European Commission is well aware of the problem; its cod recovery plan is based on the assumption that 30% to 40% of cod taken from the sea will be discarded. There is something wrong with a system that makes such an assumption. Decentralising decision making to those most affected by the decisions must be the way forward. Fishermen are well aware of the need to sustain stocks over the long term.