To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Answer of 3 October 2019 to Question 287578 on Navy: Fisheries, what estimate he has made of the increase in the number of (a) Royal Navy vessels and (b) sea hours allocated to enhancing patrolling capacity at sea.
As the hon. Member will be aware, fishery protection is a devolved responsibility, therefore within Scottish waters it is the responsibility of the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency.
The Royal Navy does not maintain vessels exclusively employed for fishery patrol activities; however, it does have and operate River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), which conduct fishery patrol tasking alongside their other Defence tasks. These OPVs are used to fulfil the Royal Navy's commitments under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Navy and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
As a part of Government's preparations to leave the European Union the MMO, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), The Royal Navy and other bodies assessed the probability of an increase in illegal fishing and the uplift required to patrol English and Welsh waters. The result was a predicted uplift of sea hours from 2000 to 6000, and an increase in presence around the UK. To that extent it is Defence's intent to have two OPVs at sea come 31 October conducting Fishery Protection/Marine Enforcement tasking. They will be joined by two further contracted MMO vessels and the Devolved Administration's own vessels. In addition, the Royal Navy maintains a number of high readiness forces in UK waters that could be called upon to assist if requested.