We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:03 pm on 2nd December 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Oliver Colvile Oliver Colvile Conservative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport 4:03 pm, 2nd December 2010

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. I am aware that Newcastle university has a very big role to play in that regard too. However, for my part of the world, it is important that we try to make sure that we have a strong way to ensure that our economy works. I also believe that all of this activity, if it works properly, can help to encourage major economic clusters. Having said that, I am aware that there can occasionally be real tensions between people in the fishing industry and people involved in conservation at the National Marine Aquarium and Plymouth university.

It would be very helpful if my hon. Friend the Minister could double-check and make sure that Natural England has used the correct process to assess marine conservation zones and that any further environmental proposals are consulted on widely with my local fishermen. I fully support the National Marine Aquarium's concerns about the amount of foreign industrial fishing that takes place within our waters. During the past 10 years, I have consistently campaigned for UK fishing waters to come back under UK control and I want to confirm that commitment again today. I am delighted to report that academics at Plymouth university have told me that they are quite receptive to that proposal, which they regard as a way of trying to conserve some of our fishing stocks as well.

Many Members who have spoken, and those are still to speak, are significantly better informed on the whole issue of fishing than I am ever likely to be. I refer especially to my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall, who has demonstrated a good knowledge from a very personal point of view. I am therefore not going to get too involved in some of the technical aspects of fishing policy. Over the next few minutes, I want to talk about recreational sea angling and ask my hon. Friend the Minister what plans the coalition has to protect the UK's premier recreational fishing industry from the over-fishing that currently takes place in UK and EU waters.

In the run-up to this debate, I heard from a number of recreational anglers who are very concerned that the UK is losing out to the Irish. Some 20 years ago, the Irish decided to ban all commercial fishing for bass, and chose instead to focus on the substantial value of bass fishing as a recreational sport. Last night, one of my constituents wrote to me, telling me how he and many other British residents travel to the Republic of Ireland to spend up to 16 weeks a year angling for sea bass. He noted that the Irish Government are delighted with the huge revenue that visiting anglers produce, and he suggested that I ask the Minister if there were proposals to introduce similar legislation in Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK. I appreciate that there is a balance to be struck between the economic contribution that this species makes to Plymouth fish market and the protection of our recreational sea anglers. I must stress that I want to be supportive of Plymouth fish market and ensure that it is not affected.

I will not ask the Government to ban all commercial sea bass fishing, but I would be grateful if my hon. Friend explained-either now or at a later date-what measures the Government are proposing to introduce to help the substantial Plymouth-based charter fleet and the 240,000 British people who, according to Invest in Fish South West, go fishing in the south-west each year and depend on there being fish to catch.

I am aware that devising fisheries policy is complicated and that the Government have to strike a balance between the fishing industry and conserving our fishing stocks. I am also aware of the ways in which fish benefits our health, thanks to the Chestnut Appeal, which is the Devon and Cornwall prostate cancer charity. It regularly tells me that I should eat significantly less red meat and more fish, and I should take notice of that. I believe that Plymouth and the south-west have a proud fishing heritage. We now face a practical and scientific challenge to ensure both that we protect our fish stocks and that our fishing industry is able to flourish in a sustainable manner.