UK Fisheries — [Sir George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall 9:30 am, 12th February 2020

If the right hon. Gentleman is patient, I will come to that.

To reiterate, my friend wrote that the Marine Management Organisation has introduced a new licence condition that requires skippers of under-10-metre boats to estimate, or guess within a 10% tolerance, the weight of all fish caught, species by species, before the fish have been landed. He went on to say that, with small quantities of fish, it is almost impossible to estimate that reliably within 10%. If a fisherman gets it wrong, he is liable to criminal prosecution, with a maximum fine of £100,000.

Given the mixed catch in the south-west, my friend continued, that could put an extra hour or two on the end of a long working day for an under-10-metre trawler. That is totally unreasonable and is not safe. There is no de minimis exemption for small catches; every fish has to be counted and its weight estimated. Over-10-metre vessels are exempt from having to log catches of less than 50 kg per species, which obviously reduces the problem of trying to estimate the weight of small quantities.

I have used the app myself, so I have seen some of the problems that fishermen encounter. My friend added that there has been a string of technical and practical problems with the app and the contact centre, which is open only during office hours. According to the app, some harbours and landing places do not exist, and it does not recognise that fishermen catch more than 10 different species. People have had problems getting through to the contact centre. As far as the app is concerned, the threat of criminal prosecution for estimating outside the 10% tolerance should be removed, and there should be a complete rethink about the new system.