Fisheries Management — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:45 am on 13th July 2021.

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Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney 9:45 am, 13th July 2021

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Sir Charles, and I congratulate Mr Carmichael on securing this debate, which I believe is the first fisheries debate that has been held since the signing of the trade and co-operation agreement at the turn of the year. Taking into account the fact that fisheries was centre-stage in the Brexit debate, it is long overdue.

Normally, we have fisheries debates immediately before the annual fisheries negotiations with the EU; straight afterwards, there is invariably a statement in the main Chamber when the Minister announces the outcome of those negotiations and Members have the opportunity to ask questions on behalf of their communities. This year, these particular negotiations, which were historic because they were the first conducted by the UK as an independent coastal state, were understandably concluded only last month, yet it appears that they have been conducted behind a wall of silence. There was no opportunity for colleagues to raise concerns beforehand and there has been no formal and full Government statement since.

The main headline seeping out of the negotiations is that it was agreed that the tonnage limits for the total allowable catch for non-quota species would not be enforced this year. That primarily advantages the EU fleet, it will lead to increased effort in fishing grounds that are already under enormous pressure and it will damage the English inshore fleet. That is hardly an auspicious start to the management of our own waters and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will address that concern in her summing up.

Brexit provides an opportunity to manage our waters in a better and more responsible way, for the benefit of both the marine environment and local people in coastal communities, such as Lowestoft. Around the UK that can play an important role in levelling up, and internationally we can be a global exemplar.

In East Anglia, the fishing industry came together with local councils, Seafish and the New Anglia local enterprise partnership to produce a report—the Renaissance of East Anglian Fisheries study, or REAF. The recommendations of that report have been adapted as a result of the disappointing outcome of the Brexit negotiations and I shall briefly highlight some of the revised proposals.

First, it is important that our fishing stocks are sustainably managed to bring economic benefits to local coastal communities. In the short term, the management of the under-10 metre pool system should be improved to better support the inshore fleet. That requires the Marine Management Organisation to change its approach to trading and valuing quota for the pool.

Secondly, the Government must ban bottom-trawling in marine protected areas, especially on the Dogger Bank. They should also look to restrict engine power in MPAs, which would not only safeguard our fisheries for future generations but reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Thirdly, the southern North sea should be managed as a mixed species fishery, with quota allocations and catch limits in line with the requirements of the discard ban. Funding and practical support should be provided to enable fishermen to trial new types of gear designed to minimise by-catch.

Finally, we need to make more use of data to better manage conflicts between fishing and other marine activities, such as wind farms. That can lead to arrangements that better manage the impact of displacement, which can have devastating impacts on local communities.

In conclusion, we have the opportunity—a golden opportunity—to put in place a world-class system of fisheries management. We have not yet grasped that opportunity. However, I hope and anticipate that, in her summing up, my hon. Friend the Minister will lay out the route map that will enable us to do that.