Fisheries Management — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 13th July 2021.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 10:30 am, 13th July 2021

I will not at this time, I am afraid.

I had hoped to be able to raise a number of points. In the spirit of praising people when they get it right, I want to thank the supermarket Aldi for stocking British fish. They are mainly Plymouth-caught fish. Whenever we go down the meat aisle at a supermarket, we see flags aplenty—we see the heritage of where that meat comes from—but we do not see that down the fish aisle. Why is that? It is because we mainly export the fish we catch and import the fish we eat. At a time when the Government have made importing and exporting more complicated, more costly and more difficult, we need to buy and eat more of our own fish. Well done to Aldi for taking a punt on that. I encourage other supermarkets, which will no doubt have their monitoring alerts for this, to stop ignoring British fishers and to put British fish on their shelves.

The plight of the distant water fleet is often ignored. It is a sector of our economy that has been hugely betrayed. I pay tribute in particular to the Labour MPs in Hull, who have fought the case on behalf of our distant water fleet. Those fishers are a living, breathing example of the betrayal that has been perpetrated against them.

The Minister will know that Sir Charles, I and other Members of Parliament have an interest in the bluefin tuna catch-and-release trial, which will ensure that those wonderful, amazing fish are not simply caught and eaten when they are in our waters, but can be used to propel and support the recreational fishing industry. The announcement that the Minister was hoping to make about that is a few months overdue, so I would be grateful to her if she could touch on it.

We have not spoken much about non-quota species in the debate, but it is a really important area. Non-quota species are the financial foundation of our entire fishing sector, and the Government’s deal allows EU fishing boats to take and exploit our non-quota species. They have failed to negotiate a real-time transfer of data, so we cannot even see to what extent they are doing it. That needs to be resolved urgently, to support our small boat fleets.

On a point that I hope everyone in the House will welcome, the Minister for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage, made an announcement today that will be a real boost for Plymouth. The campaign to have Plymouth Sound designated as the UK’s first national marine park—a campaign launched by a Labour MP, supported by the then Labour council, and now supported by a Conservative council—now has the support of the Government, with a £9.5 million boost that will support marine jobs and help bring our oceans and seas closer to people living on land. If we have learned anything from the debate, it is the fact that what happens at sea matters. We need more people to understand the fantastic array of marine life at sea, the importance and fragility of marine coastal habitats, and the importance of those jobs.

I want a proper debate on fisheries on the Floor of the House when we come back from the recess. I want to see proper, robust scrutiny ahead of any annual negotiations, which were mentioned by MPs on the Government side. Most of all, with an impending reshuffle and uncertainty about whether the Environment Secretary will still be in his place, I want the Prime Minister to apologise to fishers for the poor deal. I want him to take a personal interest in ensuring that those businesses do not go bust and in protecting the future of this industry. It is a brilliant industry and full of fantastic, innovative people. They deserve a proper plan to support their sector.