§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to carry into effect a Convention between Her Majesty and the Emperor of the French concerning the Fisheries in the Seas adjoining the British Islands and France, and to amend the Laws relating to British Sea Fisheries, said, it would probably be in the recollec- 1075 tion of the House that in the year 1866 Her Majesty the Queen and the Emperor of the French charged a Mixed Commission with the duty of preparing a revision of the Convention of the 3rd of August, 1839, and of the Regulations of June 23, 1843, relative to the fisheries in the seas between Great Britain and France. Of that Commission he had the honour of being one of the English Members. Associated with him was his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre), of whose unwearied assiduity he could not speak too highly, and who brought to the task the experience he had gained from having served for two years on the Royal Commission for inquiring into the Sea Fisheries of the United Kingdom. He had also the valuable co-operation of Mr. Goulburn, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Customs, and of Captain Hore, naval attaché to the Embassy in Paris. The Commissioners on the part of France were presided over by M. Manceaux, Conseiller d'Etat, and he should be guilty of a grave omission if he failed to acknowledge the unvarying courtesy and fairness exhibited by the French Commissioners during their somewhat protracted discussions. The chief points for consideration were—first, how far the regulations respecting times and modes of fishing in the seas beyond the territorial limits of the two countries might be modified. Under the old Convention there was a vast number of minute and elaborate regulations respecting size of meshes and other particulars which had always remained a dead letter. These the Commissioners of each country immediately agreed to sweep away. But there was one point upon which there was considerable difference of opinion—namely, in reference to oyster fishing. Under the old Convention the English and French bound each other not to dredge for oysters in the common seas between the 30th of April and the 1st of September. Constant complaints had been made of the oppressive effects of this law on the oyster fishermen of England by excluding them from the oyster grounds at the most favourable period of the season. The French attached very great importance to the restriction, not for the sake of the deep sea beds, but as a means of enforcing more completely the close-time on their own shores. The English Commissioners obtained, however, the important concession of an extension of the time of open fishing for six weeks— 1076 namely, to the 15th of June. The next point was the conversion of the cumbrous regulations respecting the conduct of the fishermen into a short and simple police code, in order to preserve the peace of the sea, to prevent collisions between the fishermen of the two countries, and to bring offenders to justice with all possible despatch. He believed that a satisfactory settlement had been arrived at on this head, and the most effectual mode of carrying out these desirable objects was allowed to be the enforcing of a greater uniformity in the system of marking, numbering, and registering boats for the purpose of ready identification. The third point was a more precise definition of the geographical limits over which the regulations should extend. There was considerable uncertainty on this point under the old Convention; and, in consequence, there was more than once exhibited the unseemly spectacle of the fishermen defying the authorities to enforce regulations they had issued. The English Commissioners agreed that while the ordinary police regulations should extend as far as they were concerned to all the seas surrounding the British Islands, the restrictive clauses respecting oyster fishing should apply only to the Channel. He might here state that the Convention applied only to the common sea beyond the limits within which, by International usage, the territorial jurisdiction of each country prevailed; that was to say, generally speaking, at a distance of three miles from the coast, and that neither under the Convention nor by the Bill did they interfere with the coast fisheries of Ireland. The last point on which the Commissioners agreed was the permission to the fishermen of both countries to sell fish on terms of reciprocity in the ports of either country, subject only to such regulations as might be necessary for the protection of the revenue. There was a difficulty with regard to bringing this arrangement into immediate operation, in consequence of there being still a duty, though much reduced, on foreign fish in France. They found, however, a strong wish on the part of the French Commissioners that this obstacle might soon be swept away. The Bill he asked to introduce was framed chiefly for the purpose of carrying this Convention into effect. It would have been brought in earlier, but that, owing to unforeseen delays in ratification, the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office was only 1077 able to lay the Convention on the table last Thursday. The opportunity had also been taken of consolidating and amending the laws respecting oyster fisheries in this country. As he hoped the Bill would be in the hands of hon. Members in a few days, he would only say further that the copy which was distributed last Session was merely a rough draft for consideration which was circulated by the printer's mistake, and was very different from the Bill he now asked leave to introduce.
§ GENERAL DUNNE
hoped he had correctly understood the right hon. Gentleman that the Irish fisheries would be protected by the Bill. If not, they would be thrown open by this Convention to foreign fishermen for the first time. Some of the oyster fisheries were much more distant from the coast than three miles, the limit from the shore, which had been reserved by the terms of the Convention—one of the oyster fisheries—namely, that of Arklow being nearly twenty miles from the coast. He hoped that they would not be thrown open to foreign fishermen, and that all the oyster fisheries of Ireland would be protected by the Bill. Indeed, he did not see why Ireland should have been mentioned in the Convention, seeing that while endangering her fishing interests by opening them to the French, no reciprocal advantage would be obained by her.
Motion agreed to.
Bill to carry into effect a Convention between Her Majesty and the Emperor of the French concerning the Fisheries in the Seas adjoining the British Islands and France, and to amend the Laws relating to British Sea Fisheries, ordered to be brought in by Mr. STEPHEN CAVE, Mr. EDWARD EGERTON, and Mr. SHAW-LEFEVRE.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 42.]