HL Deb 09 April 1975 vol 359 cc109-78

4.2 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, it is now my very great privilege to congratulate the last speaker in the main debate on his maiden speech—long deferred, but for admirable reasons—and to congratulate him on the very able and gifted contribution he has made. We do not expect to have a Rear Admiral sailing into these brackish waters, and one with the knowledge which he has displayed is all the more welcome. I hope that it is permissible for me to refer also to the fact that his grandfather twice occupied the Woolsack with great distinction and was a very great lawyer, a man of impeccable character—almost to the point of austerity—but known also for the lucidity of his speeches, for the logic which guided his judgments, and for the clarity of expression which clearly survives here today, 90 years after his death.

The noble Earl referred to Japan, and one of the warnings given is that we must not talk about fish farming in other countries because they have special advantages. But the landings of sea fish in this country in 1973, the last recorded year, were of the order of just about one million tons, to a value of about £150 million. This is almost approximately the same as France. But the figure for Japan is almost exactly ten times as much, and this is a matter for some cogitation. Japan has long been famous for its fish farming, but they have there the advantage of the presence of mulberry trees and of using the surplus pupae of the silkworm—which seems to be a particularly succulent and nourishing delicacy which can be used without undue expense. It is China which predominates in that field. The Chinese fish farms run to between 200,000 and 300,000 hectares. The Pearl River delta, where the tidal waters are used for the replacement and replenishment by a natural process, has figures that are almost astronomical in relation to production. Russia is not far behind. Borgstrom has said—and it is a helpful point to mention—that in Russia the fish farms extend extensively over large hectares, up to 60 degrees of North latitude.

Both noble Earls referred to the difficulties under which the fish farms operate at this moment. I hope that I will be permitted to recall to your Lordships' memory the important case of Tinrib and Rumble v. The King and Queen which appears in Sir Alan Herbert's reports, and which was the sad story of the dying whale which was swept up on the shores of Pudding Bay near Pudding Magna. Their Majesties graciously disclaimed their right of fish Royal. A long correspondence continued which terminated—after the Natural History Museum had said they already had three specimens of the Baleana Bascayensis and wished for no more—when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food declared that the whale was not a fish but a mammal, and therefore it was not a matter for action by them.

Sir Alan Herbert was something of a prophet, because, as I understand it, the position at the moment, so far as British fish farms are concerned, is that one Ministry declares that pisciculture is not agriculture; while another Ministry is declaring that pisciculture is not industry; and a third—in relation to at least one section of an Act—has asserted that the fish is not an animal, which would involve the rewriting of the whole of the first volume of the present Encyclopaedia Brittanica, and the destruction of the Linnean classification altogether. All this was at a time long before Ministers were permitted to speak in either a Pickwickian or a Wilsonian sense.

My Lords, it would be unfair if one did not say that the White Fish Authority has achieved some real miracles. When I thumbed over many of the volumes on fish which have been published in the past few years, I was rather filled with inhibitions about the difficulties, the dangers, the problems—the old story of the ecosystem which I first learned from Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge on his poultry farm, and which is now more and more emphasised as one of the matters which has to be considered. Noble Lords will of course remember the Tilapia, the pond and farm fish of the African countries, growing in the nilotic variety up to about 14 lb.—most substantial—and now being spread and taken into the countries of South-East Asia, too. There we had a particular example in the destruction of the hippopotamus—a very amiable and, as far as I know, uncontroversial animal, but whose habit of eating rather more than a hundredweight of grass each night is regarded as a burden. But it contemplatively sits in a pool throughout the day, and, incidentally fertilising the algae which feed the Tilapia. The destruction of the hippopotamus, destroyed the whole source of protein for large districts of East Africa.

I was surprised to find that lobsters moult and that during that period they are particularly vulnerable. This makes their production a rather special problem. But so far as the fish farmers are concerned, the work at Ard Toe and Port Erin, and the work of the White Fish Authority generally and the research stations in the universities is contributing infinitely to our marine knowledge—and it is extremely important that we should not forget this, which is perhaps the most fruitful aspect of it—to the newly-realised need of knowing something about the ocean and its contents and its ecology. In doing so, often by the expensive processes necessary in research, they have now produced fish of a kind that I do not think have been cultivated with success in any other countries which I have known.

My Lords, my tastes run to more humble fish. Fish and chips was one of the main foods of Oldham; but we are a little conservative about the kinds of fish and the prices which impose upon our pockets and the rationalisation of our eating habits, piscatorially speaking. When I told my fishmonger that we wanted whiting I was told that they usually fed that to cats. It is an admirable fish and, with first-class cooking, it makes an excellent dish. It is extraordinary that so little attention is paid to mackerel, one of the fish that can be served cold if it is fresh; while, in the shop I passed today, halibut and Dover soles were priced at £1.60 per lb. and Scotch salmon was priced at £2.50. Incidentally, we are importing £50 million worth a year of small tins of salmon "and other exotica", to use a phrase of the white fish lecture, which now retail at about 60p a piece.

My Lords, I said that I wanted to say a word about some simple things. Our oyster production is down by 95 per cent. since its maximum many years ago; but mussels—which formerly got a bad reputation in this country because of cases of infection; and these recollections die hard —are now easy to cultivate. In Galicia in Spain, the figures of production per hectare are quite astronomical. I hardly dare quote them. I found them difficult to believe. The use of the vertical system which is now almost universally used, means that this very delicious mollusc could be produced in immense quantities. The reason given for not producing, is that it does not command enough money to make it worth while or a profitable investment. I should have thought that it was one of the most promising of productions.

I hestitate to mention eels at all. They are still consumed in the Commercial Road East, where there are two large cafes where you can buy eel pies. I thought I should be told that eels are plentiful in every inlet, despite the exodus of 10 million elvers from Scandinavia who are seeking the lost Atlantis in the Sargasso Sea, and who perish on the way through constipation caused by the salinity of the waters. But there are lots of eels about and many of them are extremely edible. I turned up the figures of the commercial production of eels in this country and in the last relevant year it was 30 tons. We are importing about five times as much. I think that figure is approximately right; but certainly we are importing substantially more than we produce and I think there are opportunities, even in a country with a high population, of providing additional resources. My Lords, the great knowledge we have been able to contribute to the world, the necessity, now recognised, of pursuing the whole problem of the vegetation of the sea, the utilisation of seaweed—which is immense and still hopelessly unexplored —are matters that demand attention.

The noble Baroness who opened this debate so informatively and eloquently has done us all a service in calling our attention this afternoon to a subject of immense fascination. Now that we are travelling in Europe a little more, we can go to France with value and we can walk, at an appropriately decorous hour of the day, through the Boulevard de la Poissonière and see a whole variety of echinoderms on sale as luxuries; the succulent sea urchins—no one eats them in this country—palourds and other molluscs in great variety. We can go to Brittany and see molluscs and Crustacea being cultivated and providing rich additions to an area which can still gratify the most exacting gastronome; and along the coast, a little south of La Vendee and see in the brackish water the netting catching all sorts of fish over vast distances of the coast.

My Lords, I know that some speaker later will be saying that this is a very complex subject—and it is. He will say that there are many different methods and many difficulties. But, in conclusion, I thank the noble Baroness for introducing the subject so ably and giving us the chance to turn our attention to something which needs still more exploration, more thought, more consideration and knowledge—a subject where the whole of the world is becoming increasingly concerned about the ecosystem of the seas and of the rich resources which it can provide in so many fields.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, in speaking in support of my noble friend's Motion, it is an attractive and exciting concept to think that one day our children's children will be able to rely on food produced by farming our great lochs and rivers and oceans—more so when we know that three-quarters of the earth is covered by water. But in such a concept there is a deceptive half truth; for more than 90 per cent. of the ocean beds are as barren as the deserts and to render them fertile would be a greater task, and infinitely more costly, than irrigating the Sahara. Again, most of the fish we eat are largely carnivorous; un-like our main farm produce, cattle, sheep and venison, which are all vegetarian. Most fishes must be fed with other fish meat such as prawns, mussels, anchovy and sprats. These latter species are more valuable to us as food than they are to feed other fish.

Your Lordships will no doubt recall that yet another King, King Henry I, died from a surfeit of lampreys—which are still regarded as a delicacy in Europe —but nevertheless are a carnivorous type of fish and, incidentally, very indigestible I am told. An eminent marine biologist tells me that to farm a carnivorous species by known methods—that is feeding them with other fish products—would waste four-fifths of the food so used for farming purposes in converting it to other fish for us to eat. Nevertheless, fish farming has proved economic with certain species because the fish concerned have a high market value, such as salmon and trout, and by the nature of their habits constitute one of the most exciting and romantic stories of fish farming today. There are of course other marine creatures which are vegetarian, including oysters, mussels, certain species in Japan, and carp species in Europe, all farmed successfully and increasingly so.

There is no doubt that in the future fish farming will become a vital addition to man's farming activities. Fish being more remote biologically from man than conventional livestock makes farming methods difficult to control and expensive to operate. While the fanner can fence his field with relative ease, fences in the sea cost more than ten times as much. The marine farmer has virtually no protection of his stocks, and there exists at present no law to prevent other people interfering with his equipment or even helping themselves to his products. There are no grants of any kind which support him, nor any rate reduction on his premises—a situation that would be regarded as intolerable to a conventional farmer.

In supporting my noble friend I would add that, despite all this, there remain many dedicated people who are beginning to succeed in making modest profits from their marine farming enterprises, and this encourages me to feel they have a very worthwhile contribution to make to the world's economy. It is only to be hoped that in the near future the marine farmer becomes recognised as a farmer, with the same rights of ownership of his farm and his stock in the true sense, and not as a man rejected both as an industrialist and as a farmer.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to have the opportunity of speaking in support of this idea. It seems reasonable to assume that the population of the world will continue to increase fairly rapidly. The medical profession moves forward all the time in its fight against disease and malnutrition. Although it may be a slow process, educational and living standards, as well as general levels of prosperity, gradually improve everywhere. As the mortality statistics change for the better in the underdeveloped areas, so it follows that there will be more mouths to feed. There is therefore a need to ensure that they are properly fed so that the children will grow up into well-nourished, healthy and, let us hope, contented people.

Because we are restricted in size, there is only a limited contribution which we as a country can make towards a world problem such as this. The bulk of the agricultural land that we have available is farmed efficiently and intensively, which means that there is not a great deal of room left for further improvement. However, as a nation we could do more; certainly our rivers, lakes and reservoirs could be made more productive. Fresh-water farming on a reasonably large scale could be achieved in Great Britain and could provide a worthwhile additional contribution of food and protein, both directly in the form of edible fish for human consumption, and indirectly as animal feed and growing crop fertilizer.

Although this could go some way towards achieving the ultimate aim, we should look towards the sea if we wish to come to grips with the problem on a really large scale. Certainly intensive and systematic development of the inland freshwater areas presents many complicated problems which will be far from easy to resolve. Probably the major obstacle is the pure economics of the operation. Buildings, equipment, plant and machinery, Government grants, subsidies, derating—all these reflect on the ultimate success or failure, quite apart from labour, food, heat and breeding stock costs.

If these basic problems can be over-come, and the finished product can be retailed at a competitive price, there are still an endless number of secondary problems to be tackled. On the one hand, there are the scientific matters— genetics, inter-breeding, diseases— and on the other hand the legal matters. In conventional farming in this country we have a mass of agricultural legislation which has evolved over the centuries. The laws relating to landlord and tenant, poaching, trespass and planning. There is no reason why, with certain variations, a fish fanner should not be brought in on a par with, say, a large scale pig or poultry producer. We have seen that freshwater fish can be farmed. Probably trout are one of the most ideal edible species to produce economically under semi-artificial, intensive conditions.

Looking once again to the sea—and this must be ultimately where the true, vast scale answer lies, probably on an international rather than on a parochial basis—all the freshwater problems still apply to the salt water, but there are even more. First and foremost, we have the terribly complicated laws as they relate to foreshore rights and international boundaries. In some way or another these would have to be amended in order to give the necessary protection to the farmers, It must be more economic to farm in the sea where there is so much wasted, undeveloped space, rather than in factories or artificial salt water tanks on dry land. This leads on to a new crop of problems: water temperature and heating; stock control; cannibalism; deformities; disease; and in inshore sea pollution dangers.

Having overcome these problems and many others—and they are far from insolubles—there could possibly be some conflict of interests between the intensive producers of fish in captivity and the conventional fishermen. It might therefore be inadvisable or unnecessary to create a situation of direct commercial competition. If there are sufficient wild fish in the sea, and if these are harvested systematically so that the stock level is maintained and no shortage due to over-fishing ever occurs, then of course there may never be a demand for the artificial farming of the same species. There could alternatively, be a case for a compromise, the scientific breeding of fish in captivity to be released in order to boost and improve the wild stock.

However, the fact remains that if for example, the mass production within enclosed areas of the sea of fish, such as herring, were ever to be carried out successfully, this could prove to be a cheap means of providing protein on a very large and worthwhile scale. It may be too ambitious to attempt domesticating some varieties, but certainly flat fish, such as turbot, can be controlled. The small and somewhat specialised shellfish industry should not be overlooked and should be encouraged to expand. On the whole, shellfish are easier to deal with because they are reasonably or totally static. They are not free-swimming itinerants. Some of them at least lend themselves to domesticated conditions, just as, say, a pheasant does as compared to a grouse.

During the course of this century most shellfish have become luxury foodstuffs and so it becomes difficult to imagine, say, lobster production really making much of an impact on the world food shortage situation. Nevertheless, it is not necessarily out of the question. There are some puzzling facts connected with shellfish. Quite rightly, the Ministry are extremely cautious and strict on marketing regulations and hygiene. Mussels today are mainly imported from Holland because of the fear of pollution in our waters. Frozen prawns come from Norway. The bulk of the lobsters consumed in this country are imported live from Canada, yet our home-grown lobsters are exported to the Continent. Therefore it should not be impossible for us to increase home production and reduce our imports of these indigenous species.

I would suggest that fish farming appears to be a fairly harmless and straightforward subject at first glance, but the deeper one delves the more complicated and involved it becomes. It ceases to be an internal affair and becomes internationally entwined, legally, commercially and basically; that is, if we assume an expansion of world population which outstrips world food production by present-day conventional, though fairly intensive, methods. Thus, as there is more water than dry land in the world and as the land becomes more overcrowded, it would seem logical for us to look at the water with the aim of putting it to better use. I should like to finish, as I started, by suggesting that, however this proposal may work out in the years to come and in detail, one fact seems indisputable: this must be a good and thoroughly worthwhile idea in principle.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, I rise with particular pleasure to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Find-horn, on his speech, especially because he reminds me of his father, who did so much good work in Parliament and who was a valued friend to so many of us. It is good to have a Stuart of Findhorn—a James Stuart—back in Parliament again. I should like to congratulate him on his illuminating analysis of the situation. 1 had no idea that he had made such a careful study of the matter. Judging from what he said, I think that I should be right in deducing that he is involved in some way in fish farming. I hope that we shall hear him again in this House before long. If my memory serves me right, the first Lord Stuart of Findhorn played a large part in the work of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, if indeed he was not Master. Therefore it is an interesting coincidence that the two maiden speeches we have had today have been connected with the same Worshipful Company.

I must declare an interest in this debate, in that I am the President of the Scottish Fish Fanning Association; an Association which has been in existence for some years. "Protein" is the dominant word so far in this debate; the world shortage of protein and how this may be overcome. I do not want to go into details because the subject has already been very well discussed; but I should like to emphasise two points. The first point was mentioned by the noble Lady, Lady Sempill, about the use of fish for feeding other fish. There can be no question that the by-products of fish—whether they be the surplus catches of hunted fish or whether they be non-edible fish for humans—have a very large part to play in our economy in future, both for the feeding of farm livestock and also for fish feeding. I should like to tell those who think this a cruel and horrid procedure about the discoveries being made, with some success, in single cell proteins which are derived from the petroleum sub-states at the University of Strathclyde and one of the large oil firms. They have already been successfully incorporated into experimental diets for marine shrimps and rainbow trout. This may be a very far-reaching discovery.

The potentials of fish farming have been discussed, and I wish to give your Lordships only one example from Scotland. It is from the Unilever subsidiary, Marine Harvest, who are at present producing at Lochailort over 100 tons of farmed salmon a year. It is not too much to say that in Scotland we have within our grasp the possibility of an annual output of 10,000 tons a year representing some £15 million and 700 jobs. Of course, there are more problems ahead to be solved and more research is needed into nutrition, disease and engineering, which is a very important part of it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, said in opening this discussion, there are infinitely more fish being fanned in our neighbouring countries of Europe. Denmark, France, Italy and Spain each produce from 10,000 tons to 20,000 tons of trout per annum, let alone other fish; and as the noble Baroness told us, the United Kingdom is spending millions of pounds per year on farmed fish imports from Denmark and Japan.

Why are we so far behind? We have, especially in Scotland, natural facilities as good as anywhere in the world. Our research and development—very largely sponsored by the Government—is quite outstanding and is the envy of many other countries. We have men and women to run the industry. There are literally hundreds of applicants for every available fish farming job. We have these three basic requirements for fish farming's successful development. What, then, is lacking? What is keeping us back? We lack the bureaucratic will to make fish fanning happen. The past frustrations of the would-be fish farmer have been immense. I can speak only for Scotland, but there it is exceedingly difficult to acquire the necessary ground and portion of the sea-bed, with reasonable security of tenure. The Crown Commissioners own or have the rights in most of the sea-bed, but the Department of Trade and Industry is responsible for the water above the sea-bed. As the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, has told us, the cages float, as it were, between heaven and hell.

The district valuer now comes into it because he has to fix a fair rent, if the fish farmer gets this distance. As there are virtually no precedents, each valuer takes his own line. Some valuers actually want to include in their calculations the value of the fish being raised. If that were to happen in farming and every time he was carrying out a valuation the valuer were to add to his valuation the numbers of the cattle, sheep, pigs and so on being raised the position would be ridiculous. Then there are the planning authorities, the Countryside Commission and the Highlands and Islands Board. These bodies also are working without any guidelines, especially at the lower levels of administration. Anything to do with fish farming is new to people in these offices and the last thing they want is to have anything to do with it—on to Mr. Jorkins!

Your Lordships will all be aware of the difficulties that have been experienced in Scotland over procuring suitable sites for the construction of platforms for North Sea oil. Great as these have been, I assure your Lordships that it is easier for a consortium to get through the laws and regulations, than it is for a fish farmer to enter an enterprise to benefit humanity. In the long run, fish farming will be as important to Scotland as is the oil industry. As to the frustration of the farmer, let me give an example from England. Mr. Peter Morphew could not find opportunity to start a fish farm in England so he went to Ireland. In a little over two years he got a fish farm going —there does not seem to be the same red tape in County Wicklow. After two years he was producing half a ton of rainbow trout a week. In 1975, this year, he hopes to make it one ton a week. My Lords, that could never happen here.

There is also the great big bogey of rates. Farming is derated as regards both building and land, but the law of Scotland does not allow fish farming to be derated. The law is quite explicit on this—it has been tested—and the law must therefore be changed if this industry is to get going. Parliament must pass an Act for the regulation and encouragement of fish farming—or a much better term to use is aquaculture. Aquaculture includes the cultivation of seaweed and is a wider term. Aquaculture is now known throughout the world as an industry parallel with agriculture, and we must have an aquaculture Act. Fish farms should be licensed. The acquisition of sites must be controlled with Ministerial decision when interests clash. For salt water farming there ought also to be some form of regulating the activities of the seal, which at present can do an immense amount of damage on a certain type of salt water cage.

The Government—and I direct this remark especially to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes—should consider setting up an aquaculture authority. This would take a big load off Government Departments. It would help to get over this difficulty of determining which Ministry this subject should belong to, because such an authority would be able to liaise with all the Ministries, with the White Fish Authority, with the Crown Commissioners, and with the Department of Trade and Industry. The reason why I mention the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is that he was responsible for piloting through this House the Bill which set up the Meat and Livestock Commission. It is a body of that nature that I think is required to give the necessary encouragement.

I put forward this suggestion of a commission or authority entirely on my own initiative, having had no consultation with the Scottish Fish Farming Association on this point. I say that with my tongue in my cheek, because I know from experience that almost all fish farmers are pretty rugged individuals, much more so than ordinary farmers. This is a natural phenomenon, but it is aggravated by the tremendous element of risks in the fish farming business of today—risks of diseases as well as of bureaucracy, and also economic risks of price of feed and price of the end product. Every fish farmer is a potential bankrupt.

The chicken or broiler industry has in the present generation produced for us the cheapest form of animal protein that we can obtain in any quantity. Consider, my Lords, if the people who set up the broiler industry had had to face the difficulties which are facing fish farmers at the present day, the broiler industry might never have got off the ground at all. Here we are considering an industry, with a potential equal to that of the broiler industry, being hindered from getting off the ground because Parliament is sitting on it. I would conclude, my Lords, by expressing to the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, the gratitude of the very much frustrated and very rugged fish farmers of Scotland.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, may I add my congratulations and thanks to the two maiden speakers whom we have heard this afternoon. Their speeches have been of an extremely interesting character and the presentation of their case has been of such a nature as to make us feel that we want to hear them as often as they can possibly come to us and speak. It is, of course, usual in this House to thank and congratulate maiden speakers, but I am sure that everybody who heard our two maiden speakers this afternoon is convinced that their speeches will be a valuable asset and contribution to our discussions here. We are grateful to them for having spoken as they did. I am sure that your Lordships are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, as I am, for introducing this important Motion and for the efficient way in which she has done so.

There can be no doubt in these days of rising costs that every avenue should be sought and encouraged to meet human needs for food, particularly at prices which are as small as possible. Although, fortunately, we are not afflicted by the result of man's neglect of the natural resources available, as are some other countries in the world, we are still far from being free from blame in not having exercised the necessary resources and care in utilising to the full the potential for the provision of home produced foods, particularly dietary protein which has already been referred to and which is so essential for mankind. In this respect, adequate fish farming can make a very valuable contribution, as has been fairly demonstrated by the speeches which have already been made in our debate today.

Perhaps I ought to say at once that I was extremely interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, had to say, particularly in view of his position in the fish fanners' organisation, in outlining the difficulties. What I have to say may help him in the researches which he wishes to make into the best method of coping with the situation. I have been convinced of the importance of fish farming by what I have seen and by the information I have received here and in other countries, two of which I propose to refer to. I believe that the plea which has been made by the noble Baroness should be heeded and acted upon as speedily as possible. I refer first to the achievement of the remarkable pioneers of Israel in this direction. They are not confronted by the special difficulties of which the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, spoke. It might be of considerable value to the noble Lord if he got in touch with the Fish Breeders' Association in Israel, because they have achieved successful results by the avoidance of certain of the bureaucratic difficulties to which he referred. I have not time to go into details of this at present. However, they have set up a successful breeders' association and they control their own affairs very well indeed. Consequently, they are happy in their work and they are doing a good job.

I was referring to the remarkable achievements of the pioneers of Israel in this direction, which is consistent with their determination to provide for themselves and other inhabitants of land the utmost that toil, sweat and courage in facing the menace of malaria and other diseases which have brought death to so many of them can provide. In spite of these sinister obstacles—obstacles which happily do not confront us in respect of any project which we may undertake— they have succeeded in obtaining highly desirable and necessary results. Much praise has been given to their outstanding reclamation of land from centuries of erosion and to their general successes; but even many of their own people are not aware of the extremely important part that fish fanning has played in providing them with a valuable portion of their essential food.

From small beginnings in 1939, the fish industry has grown so that it produces an annual income of £4 million. That income may not sound very great to us, but in a small land about the size of Wales or even less, and remembering the number of inhabitants that they have, it is a considerable sum of money. It is nearly 10 per cent. of the total annual value of agricultural production in Israel. The first fish ponds were constructed on 15 hectares, which is about 37 acres, and they yielded at that time 1,000 kilogrammes per hectare for the year. In 1972, 4,500 hectares were in use, yielding an average of 2,700 kilogrammes annually, which is about 53 cwt. per hectare. This was done with the advice and assistance of scientists, some of whom are part of the personnel of the farms. The varieties of fish yielded by the ponds have been varied by continuous research. Different species were introduced in addition to carp, which was the original production and which is still the main production.

The monosex system and hybridisation are practised by more and more pond farmers. May I say also that perhaps we could learn from the fact that more and more pond farmers are practising these systems. In recent years, the silver carp has been introduced as a supplement, and monoplankton feeder in the pond turned out to be very advantageous. Not only does it not compete with other fish for its food, but it contributes greatly to the sanitary conditions of the pond. The main problem with this fish will possibly be consistent with similar experiments made with other fish, which prove that consumers' susceptibility has to be reckoned with. However, I think consumers can be invited, and ultimately induced, to accept some of these fish which are very tasty. I myself have eaten them there and I am sure that many Members of your Lordships' House have also done so with pleasure.

The conventional techniques employed are typified by the following features. Growth is based upon the maximum exploitation of the natural foods present in the water, in which the fish grow. Their culture depends upon the amount of oxygen which is present in the fish ponds. Fertilisers are applied to increase the natural food resources. Artificial feed-stuffs are added to the natural ponds in a suitable proportion. A polycultural stocking system is used, whereby several species of fish occupy the same pond. In view of the figures which I have already given, I think that using these techniques the highest yields obtained so far will be of interest to your Lordships. They have reached 4,200 kilogrammes per hectare. Your Lordships will realise that this is the impressive result of an effort which has not only been utilised in the ordinary sense, but has obtained—as, indeed, agricultural experiments in that land have always obtained—the help of scientists specialised in the sphere in which they are active.

I turn now to another land which I have recently visited. Some little time ago I had the privilege of leading a party from your Lordships' House to Japan to a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and naturally, as most of us do when abroad, we inquired about the products of the land and became interested in certain aspects. Fish certainly interested me, and I think it interested my colleagues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan said that the total Japanese fishing catch for 1968 was about 8¾ million tons. The total rise in the value of fishery products in Japan during the five years, 1963 to 1968, was over 55 per cent. That gives an idea of what can be done when proper regard is paid to research and experimentation in these matters.

Most of the rapid development was the result of expanding shallow sea culture of fish promoted by the Japanese Government. Perhaps this could be used as a hint that our Government might take hold of. Formerly, this culture was concentrated on pearls and oysters but more recently many new types of fish and seafood, such as the yellow-tailed prawn, have been successfully developed and are being produced at an increasing rate. Much of the big increase—millions of pounds sterling per year—in the value of Japanese fish products is derived from the shallow sea culture programme. As a major fishing nation, I think we in Britain should concentrate more on marine conservation, repairing the harm done by overfishing and the depletion of formerly rich fishing grounds, and thus increase our fishery resources. I think it will be clear from what I have said that we are impressed by Japan's achievements.

So far as Israel is concerned, I have been impressed for many years with their desire and keenness to develop as much as they possibly can for the benefit of human beings, by land reclamation and by the production of the necessities of life with the utmost help that they can get from the experiences of those emigrants in the lands from which they came, as they did in regard to those who had lived in Europe, in respect of the fishing industry. The production of food by fish farming in Europe has been going on for a considerable time but in Israel, the land to which these immigrants went, in spite of the fact that fish breeding there was a very ancient practice indeed, dating right back to pre-Biblical times, nevertheless it had been neglected for so many centuries that the Jewish settlers had to start again from the beginning.

I conclude by saying that I hope the result of this debate is that the Government will do whatever they can to assist such organisations as the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has referred to, and help our people in every way possible to get as much food as they can from the fish farming industry.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, I felt quite sure that the debate inaugurated by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, would be immensely interesting and important. Many debates are apt to become less interesting after the first few speeches, but this one has got more interesting, and I was quite fascinated by the account given by the noble Lord, Lord Janner, of what is going on in Israel. I have the highest admiration for the way in which they manage their agriculture, and no doubt their fish farming, too. Although I have not had the opportunity of actually seeing that, I have seen their agriculture.

I was most interested in the account given by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, of the difficulties besetting people who have the energy, enterprise and desire to increase food production and to utilise what at the moment is under-utilised. Unlike the land of this country, which I think is intensively farmed, the sea and the inshore lochs, and the areas where fish farming can be carried on, are obviously not being used to the fullest extent. Therefore it seems to me that we are all engaged in doing something of great importance today, since all speakers have agreed that the production of protein and of food which is acceptable to great masses of people is of enormous importance.

I was also extremely interested to hear our two maiden speakers. The noble Earl, Lord Cairns, spoke about the need to alter the law and the legal difficulties involved. I had not thought of that aspect, to which I am sure the Government will pay great attention. Also I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn. We all knew his father very well and remember what a splendid Secretary of State for Scotland he was. It is most encouraging that the noble Viscount should take part in this debate.

I am afraid I speak all too often in this House, and quite often on agriculture, in which I have some small expertise, In this particular form of agriculture I have no expertise. However, I have a great interest in it, and so I wanted to take part in this debate. I should like most strongly to emphasise what the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, said, that this is an agricultural industry and should be treated as such. Like agriculture, it provides food from natural resources and therefore in my opinion should be given the same treatment as is given to agriculture. It should be derated, it should be allowed grants for buildings and equipment in the same way as farmers are allowed such grants, and people should be encouraged to invest capital in this industry and to plan ahead. None of this can be done unless, as one speaker has said, we change the law and we have the will to do something which is worth doing and which we should all press any Government—whether the present Government or a future Government—to undertake.

I wish particularly to emphasise, as has the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, how valuable this industry could be to Scotland, with our enormous number of Highland lochs and many freshwater and seawater lochs. The advantage of this industry as opposed to the development of oil, for instance, is this. I am not opposed to the development of oil, but this industry is superior to oil in that it will not spoil the landscape; it will not entail enormous buildings or great outlays of iron, steel and God knows what else! and will not at any point incur the wrath of the National Trust in Scotland or any of the conservationists. Tanks in the sea are at sea level, and we need not spoil any of our great and beautiful areas; nor need we spoil fly fishing or any other sport, since the lochs and sea water can be shared with those who want to engage in those sports.

The industry about which we are talking is a very valuable asset to Scotland. In a Paper presented to the Royal Society in September 1974, Professor Kerr gives an encouraging account of the development of this industry, and of the hatcheries which are being developed. He gives an account of work at Port Erin in the Isle of Man, coupled with developments in Argyllshire where there are developments in the production of plaice, sole and turbot. At Hunterston in Ayrshire, trials have taken place in warm sea water provided by the South of Scotland Electricity Board. Here again, there is valuable co-operation in that one is able to bring together two industries. I was very interested in the speech of Professor Kerr. He says that turbot are more robust than sole, that halibut are also more robust than sole, and are more easily developed. On the other hand, as we all know, Dover sole is the most delectable of all fish. The Dover sole likes warm water, and can be developed in these tanks, in warm water supplied by the Electricity Board. The only trouble, apparently, is that in summer the tanks get too hot, which is very dangerous for the fish. Obviously, much skill and knowledge is required in the development of this industry. Difficulties have been encountered in experiments, when air has got into section pumps. As was mentioned earlier in the debate, damage can be done to sea tanks by bad weather, by seals, and also, no doubt, by careless people in motor boats.

My Lords, fish are no easier to produce than are animals on a farm. One must accept that as part of the developing industry. On the other hand, this is a very under-developed industry. In the crofting areas of the Highlands of Scotland there is opportunity, I would think, for teaching the crofters how to farm fish. In some areas they are at present producing salmon. Crofters in smallholdings have more time than others engaged in full-time agriculture. I hope very much that the help being given by the Highlands and Islands Development Board in the crofting areas will be encouraged. I am sure the Government will encourage it, and that it will pay a dividend. Crofters are paid by weight of salmon produced, which can be sold fresh or sold to the canning industry. Therefore, encouraging developments are reported from the Highlands and Islands Development Board, and also through a company called the Highlands Trout Company of Scotland. All these things are important because they bring new activity and new interest. As the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, said, there is an enormous demand among people to go into this industry. The White Fish Authority Report makes fascinating reading. The experiments of the White Fish Authority are valuable for this development.

My Lords, in summing up, may I put forward the hope that the Government will encourage this form of food production; that they will work out a policy on how the water resources of this country can best be used. I hope that the Government will treat this industry as an agricultural industry and provide derating and grants for equipment; that they will encourage the development of this industry in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland as well as in the areas now developed, and also that there will be a positive policy for controlling disease.

In reading the documents I was so kindly sent by various people, it seems to me that disease is one of the most difficult problems. This is a new industry. I am sure the Government will realise that here we have something we should all support in order to bring it to ful filment. We in Scotland have great faith in the noble Lord who is to reply to this debate. He is one who understands and knows Scotland from end to end, and has worked for Scotland all his life. I suggest that he would earn the gratitude of all Scotsmen and Scots women if, in winding up, he gives us some encouragement for the future.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with the well-merited congratulations for the two maiden speeches we have heard this afternoon. The noble Earl, Lord Cairns, who has held high office in the Fishmongers Company, comes to our debate with a wealth of knowledge, from which I am sure we shall all profit on future occasions. May I say also that it gave me great personal pleasure to listen to the maiden speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn. Like many other noble Lords, I served under his father, who was Chief Whip in another place for many years, and where he was held in respect, in admiration and affection. It is good to see his son coming to join our debates today.

My Lords, the word "encouragement" was a word used by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, in opening this debate, but more encouragement is needed from the Government. It seems to me that from this debate one thing will be clear to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who is to reply; that is, that action is now required by the Government. I would summarise the need for that action in four different directions, all of which have been mentioned by previous speakers. First of all, it is quite clear that a fish farm at the present moment is no one's child so far as Government Departments are concerned. No one really knows whether it is industry, fishing or agriculture. As was rightly said by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, valuation officers—ordinary men in the field, as it were, who are not members of the higher echelon—are in confusion because they do not know how they are to value fish farms. Equally, in the administration of Government higher up, as it were, it is not clear whether the Government have a view, as yet unannounced, as to which Department fish farming should belong. Personally, I hope the consensus of views expressed in this debate today, that fish farming should be agriculture, will be the one to be adopted by Her Majesty's Government. That is the first of the four areas where I think we need Government decision.

The second area has already been mentioned; that is, the need to amend the law to give sea fish farmers, using the new techniques of rafts and other machines off the bottom of the sea, the same legal rights and protection as the Act of 1868 originally gave to shellfish farmers. That was subsequently amended by the Acts of 1967 and 1968, where poaching from the bottom of the sea was made an offence. This amending legislation is needed particularly for the existing new development of sea fish farming, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno—the artificial production of salmon, about which I should like to say something quite briefly. It is really a dazzling prospect. Your Lordships have spent many afternoons debating the conservation of the wild salmon in the seas and in the rivers. Would it not be splendid if, as a result of the salmon sea farming, there was no need for further debates in your Lordships' House; that the supply of salmon was adequate and that the price of salmon came down. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, who spoke about the new era of fish and chips—no longer cod; it might even be salmon and chips in the future.

Let me say at once that I have no financial interest in any direction, but I must express my admiration for the Unilever concern, private enterprise at its best, who in 1963 embarked on a 20-year programme for the development of salmon by artificial means. I believe they have spent something over £1 million on it so far. They expect, and have obtained as yet, no economic return on their capital; it is indeed a long-term project. Now there are no fewer than six other large first-class industrial concerns of the highest order developing along ten-year plans the same project for artificial production of salmon. There has been some degree of success, too. About 1,000 tons of Atlantic salmon go through Billingsgate Market every year. In the year 1973, none of that 1,000 tons was from artificially produced salmon. In 1974 60 tons of that 1,000 tons, 6 per cent., was produced in salmon fish farms. This year the percentage will be 10 per cent. and the curve is going up all the time. Therefore, it is very necessary that this dazzling prospect—and I use no exaggerated term—for the development of salmon should not be impeded by lack of amendment of existing legislation. That is really the second need: to amend the law in order to give security to salmon fish farmers in the same way as bottom of the sea shellfish farmers have.

The third area for Government action has again already been mentioned, and I mention it again. It is the alteration of the Immature Sea Fish Orders, because for salmon these were made before salmon farming, sea farming, or indeed any other form of sea fish farming. They were made, and quite rightly made, to conserve the wild stock, but they are not applicable to the development of artificially reared stock. The turbot has already been mentioned. The experts tell me that in two years they can produce by artificial means what they call a good plate turbot. But it is illegal to sell it because it comes at present under the Immature Sea Fish Orders. Lord Balerno said that small lobsters are having to be kept in captivity because it is illegal to sell them. I am sure that no noble Lord would criticise in any way the introduction or the existence or continuation of Immature Sea Fish Orders, provided that they are applicable to the wild stock and not to the developed stock.

The fourth and final area of requirement for amending legislation is a law to allow reserved areas in the sea for expansion of marine sea farming. Under the Treaty of Rome, in ten years' time members of the EEC will be able to come and fish right up to our beaches, except in reserved areas. Therefore, surely now, while the opportunity exists, is the time for the Government of the day to corns forward with powers to make reserved areas.

I have tried to summarise those four areas of decision where I think we must ask the Government—and this is no Party matter, thank goodness!—to consider the urgent need for legislation. I very much hope that today the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will tell us that the many points put forward so forcibly by so many speakers in this debate, so wisely and well initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, will be taken note of with a feeling of urgency—and I repeat the word "urgency"—and that the Government will consider each and every one of them.

5.27 p.m.

The Earl of RADNOR

My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, for bringing to our notice the possibilities of farmed fish as an important addition to the national and in fact to the international protein larder. At the same time, I should like to congratulate our two maiden speakers, the noble Earl, Lord Cairns, and the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn, on their excellent and interesting contributions. I think we have all learned a great deal from listening to what they had to say. Finally, I must declare an interest, because I am currently running a sizeable fish farm in the South of England, producing rainbow trout for the table, to the tune of about 200 tons a year or 5 tons a week, and I have a financial interest in it. I think the importance of this debate is underlined by the fact that I am one of a small number of people engaged in this occupation. That is really part of what we are talking about.

I must leave it to others—and indeed the question seems to have been very thoroughly covered—to talk about farming fish in the sea, whether they be fin fish or shellfish. There is obviously a vast potential here, and equally obviously it seems from what various noble Lords have said that there are various legal and maritime difficulties which should perhaps be ironed out. In this country, even this year, we are blessed with a high rainfall, an equable climate, not too many extremes of altitude, and a reasonable number of water courses left unpolluted by our forebears. We are, on the face of it, a country ideally suited to fish farming—particularly of the salmonid family—and by inland we mean the farming of rainbow trout for food. Yet we have no fish farming industry comparable to say Denmark, France or Italy, and we import trout into this country from Denmark, Japan and Ireland in considerable quantities. This, on the face of it, would seem to be a waste of our foreign currency, to my simple way of looking at it. It would perhaps be better to fulfil our national need for this type of fish from our own resources.

Perhaps this is too simple a view to take. The ultimate purchaser of the fish naturally wants them cheaper, and it is desirable that he should have them cheaper. It is a sad fact that fish from Ireland and Japan tend to come on to our market cheaper than we ourselves can produce them. The same, to a certain extent, is true of the Danish fish, but here there are complicating factors. The Danes have a tremendous continuity of supply and a very high standard of packaging and grading. If we lived up to this ourselves, we might be able to do better in competition with them.

It has already been said that about half the tonnage we consume—and I am not sure of this figure, because it is complicated by gutted fish or wet round fish—comes into this country from abroad, and we are not fulfilling our own needs. In the long run—and this is really the key to the whole matter—expansion of inland fish farming in this country must be dependent upon being competitive in relation to the imported article. It is worth examining some of the ways in which this might be achieved. Here I shall be as brief as possible, because I think I would be repeating what many other noble Lords have said. But I want to start—and make no apology about it—by saying that it would be helpful, to put it mildly, if fish farming were thought of in a broad sense as a farming operation, because that is precisely what it is.

Fish farmers themselves, in England anyway, are beginning to make a move in this direction by forming their own association, which is coming under the umbrella of the National Farmers' Union. But, my Lords, I would not suggest that any feeling that fish farming was farming should necessarily imply requests for capital grants, as has been the practice in farming circles for many years. I believe quite strongly that there is a danger that, even without these inducements, people will embark on fish farming ventures which are doomed to failure and which, after a while, will add absolutely nothing to the general supply of fish. They will be time-consuming and expensive, and ultimately distressing to the people involved. It has always seemed to me —this is a personal view—that one of the great strengths of our emerging fish farming industry is that it has grown up without direct Government financial aid. It has had the advantage of growing up without many of the hampering rules, regulations and standards that almost inevitably go with such aid and often lead an operator—blinded by the promise of riches—to over-capitalise the whole operation and spoil the business. It would be a pity if we got into what I think is known as the "broiler syndrome", where so many people, having started, have to drop out through bankruptcy, and so on.

There are, however, certain areas where your Lordships might feel it reasonable that fish farmers should be treated on an equal footing with other farmers. Here the rating matter has been mentioned so frequently that the message must have got home that there really is no difference between rearing a broiler or rearing a trout, except that one is cold-blooded and does not have feathers. It seems absolutely sensible that the 1971 Act, in the appropriate section, should be looked at in order to avoid the completely haphazard way in which fish farmers have been rated up and down the country, and to obviate the necessity of the various test cases which seem to be passing through the courts at the moment.

There is another area which might prove to be of great value to the fish farming industry, and this falls into the realm of research. Any ordinary farmer will acknowledge the great aid that Government finance, research and experimentation has given to his industry over the years, particularly in areas of research which lie outside the knowledge and scope of even the most experienced farmer. In the same way, it would be a great advantage to the inland fish farming fraternity if there were an extension into the area of fish nutrition of the experimental work practised by the Ministry at Weymouth on disease. If the pattern of expertise and helpfulness which people have come to expect from the Ministry establishment at Weymouth and elsewhere were duplicated in the field of nutrition, it would be of great advan- tage to the industry, particularly if this extension was made in consultation with the industry itself.

Nutrition is of importance because hall the cost of the production and delivery to market of a trout goes straight down its throat and, as has already been said, what goes down its throat is usually another fish. It is a wasteful world, and it is rather unsatisfactory that we are feeding a low grade fish to a high grade fish for us to eat. I think that research here—with a possible look at the recycling of animal waste products— might lead nowhere, but it might also just lead to the kind of breakthrough to vastly cheaper fish food which fish farmers need; this would lead to expansion and cheaper fish for the housewife. Research of this nature is always dull and apparently uneventful, but if it is not undertaken no progress can be made.

I feel that a small outlay here would stand a very good chance of helping this country to produce not only more fish but fish that is cheaper and is capable of competing with countries which are able to benefit from feeding their trout, or being allowed to feed their trout, on the vastly cheaper wet foods. Your Lordships will appreciate that wet foods in this country would be considered a polluting factor; they leave an oily scum on the surface of the river and would be unsatisfactory, but it gives some of our competitors abroad an edge over the home producer.

Before I finish, I must say a word or two about our Water Authorities and their relationship with the fish farming industry. As I have already said, we are an emergent industry and we are few in number. The new Water Authorities are responsible for our water courses. They are responsible for extraction and for the control of pollution, and for seeing that our rivers are kept in a proper state. They are responsible for seeing that sporting interests are kept happy and that drainage interests are properly controlled, and they are very powerful people. If there is to be an efficient commercial expansion of inland fish farming in this country, it would be essential that these authorities look with at least a kindly eye on such expansion, because—and I do not mean among the authorities—there are many people, possibly not always too well informed, who would rather that this industry was not allowed to grow. There are those who fear pollution. There are those who fear the spread of fish disease, and there are those who fear that the countryside would be spoiled visually. On the whole, I think that these fears are really unfounded. Treated with care, pollution should never be a great issue. I will cite a personal example. The effluent from the farm with which I am concerned is as pure after a short run as the water at the intake end. That has flowed through 1½ million fish. I go even further—although it might be an obtuse argument—and say that the presence of fish farms on a river system would be one of the greatest guards against pollution that one could possibly imagine, because the fish farmer is so entirely at risk. As it comes to him he himself will monitor the water with the greatest care.

Again speaking from personal experience, the laws governing disease, the movement of fish and the importation of fish eggs seem entirely adequate, and, in practice, to work well. Many of the doubts cast upon the fish farms in this respect are possibly unfounded. One point which is always missed is that people will make the assumption that it is the fish farm that is giving the disease and not the native stock in the river. They never perhaps think that it may be the other way round because we have never in any way efficiently tested our native stock. It would be impossible so to do for some of the diseases which we say are not in this country when they might well be.

So far as the planning and visual aspects are concerned, I maintain that a fish farm is almost invisible because it is a series of holes dug in the ground. I cite an example. I wished to have photographs taken of the fish farm which I run and I had to send someone up in a helicopter to take them. It must of course be desirable to produce more fish in a controlled manner, particularly in view of the fears which have been expressed that the oceans are being over-fished. I am sure these are real fears. I feel that in this country any such expansion should not be too expensive so far as the Exchequer is concerned. I put it this way, that what is needed is the absence of discouragement—and there is some discouragement lurking about—and then I think it will happen in an orderly and efficient manner.

5.43 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to support the Motion of the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley. We know how hard she always works. In view of the large number of speakers taking part in this debate, I think she would have made an excellent Whip. If I am not too presumptuous (as I have been in the House only a short time), may I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn on his maiden speech. I had the pleasure of knowing his father. He is so much more experienced than I and is obviously an expert. However, I have been interested in this subject for some time on the research side. In Plymouth we have the Marine Research Laboratory, and many people from overseas have come to study there to find out how different varities of fish in our waters can be acclimatised in their waters. I once asked an Indian student why he was in this country. He said that he had come to study the love-life of a shrimp, meaning that he wanted to find out how they could propagate in the warmer waters around India. This subject is of importance to many Indian students, and I hope that this type of research work will be allowed to continue. It is not only useful in this country but also overseas, particularly in some of our Commonwealth countries.

The noble Baroness kindly loaned me a briefing note which I thought was absolutely excellent, except for one point. She said that the reason why freshwater fish farming is treated as a Cinderella is that the traditional influence of fly-fishing has been dominant. Perhaps I should declare an interest, because I run a small syndicate on a river for fishing trout. I assure her that if it had not been for the hatcheries, both the salmon and trout in rivers would have been denuded by private enterprise and private owners. Many rivers in other countries have no fish in them because they have been excessively poached. More water could be taken from some of these rivers for fish farming without doing any harm. I support what the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, said about the water authority. We have had difficulties not only in Wilt-shire, but also in Devonshire. One danger is that they pump too much water from the heads of rivers which lower the rivers to such an extent that, in one river we thought that a disease had developed when it was in fact due to lack of oxygen which caused fish to die. I hope that this point may be considered by the Water Authorities, who, as the noble Earl said, are powerful bodies.

The noble Lord, Lord Hale, said that we should not talk about other countries, and then proceeded to do so. Perhaps I may be excused, therefore, if I emulate him. When I came to this House I was warned that it contained many experts, and that in a long debate you needed to produce two speeches. I shall therefore refer to fish farming in China. I had the opportunity of visiting China in 1961 and again in 1973, to see something of their fish farming. It is remarkable what they have achieved in a short time. Last year, China's total fresh water fish rose by 1.4 times over the 1965 figure and the total catch went up by 11.1 per cent. compared with 1972. In many areas their climate is similar to ours, although China, being a much larger country, has major fish producing provinces. In the first quarter of 1974 production went up by 6.7 per cent. I mention these statistics because it is encouraging when you see that the production of fresh water fish was 1.4 times that of 1965 and has risen to such a large extent in 1974. Of course, China is fortunate in having more inland water resources—lake, reservoirs and ponds— and for years the Chinese have been fish farmers in a small way in small areas. Now they have gone into fish breeding in a large way.

In 1973 I had the opportunity of visiting some of these farms in Shanghai. I think we can compare them with what could be done here. On one of these rural communal farms there were 24,000 people. They were able to be fed entirely by the fish they bred as well as selling the surplus to the surrounding neighbourhood. They have a great advantage, because in these farms the fish are drawn in by nets. I hope that this method will prove to be the way in which we can catch our fish. By this method the breeding fish and the smaller fish can be returned to the water and therefore you do not harm either. This helps greatly in the quick reproduction of fish.

Reservoirs and lakes have been dredged so that fish can be bred in a planned pattern. In the West Country I have tried many times to get some of the reservoirs either dredged—particularly one on Dartmoor—or planned properly. If fish are put in—and at one time 10,000 fish were put in as a gift from the water authority—they mostly die. If it is to be done, I would agree with the noble earl that it must be planned and that areas must be properly dredged. But I do not see why we cannot use the reservoirs in this country to a greater extent.

The question of the canals has not been mentioned so far, and the fact that we have a great deal of fish called grayling. They are a good-tasting fish, especially in the autumn, and what we do when we clear them out, because of interference with the trout, is to put them into the canals, where they breed quite happily. The fishing clubs use them for their activities and, of course, they also eat them. As I say, they are quite a nice fish, with a pink flesh, and particularly in the autumn they taste very nice if they are cooked well.

Herbal medicines are used to prevent and treat diseases which are common among domestic fish and I suggest that we should get in touch with the Chinese to learn more about these herbal medicines. They have been very successful with them and these medicines have been considerably effective in controlling the death rate. There is one lake, called Taihu, which last year produced 2.5 times more fish than in 1973 because aquatic plants were used to produce artificial breeding, a development which has proved most successful. In this country we have a great many gravel pits. We have in Cornwall, for example, china clay pits which could be used for breeding fish and, as I have said before, I cannot see why we cannot make more use of our reservoirs.

In order to raise fish densities, research has been carried out by workers in Shanghai and Wusih to increase the oxygen in various waters. Many fish die from a lack of oxygen and not from a lack of food. Of course they need food, but the oxygen has to be augmented into the water. I believe that all fish, what-ever their kind, can taste very nice if they are well cooked. One of the troubles in this country is that we do not know how to make nice sauces which make these various kinds of fish tasty, and that is why many people do not eat them.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, I have been to Wicklow and have seen the excellent trout farm. I understand that all the fish from that farm come here. I gather that it is a very easy place to run, although I believe that they had a small accident some time ago when the water broke over the banks and some trout were lost for a while. If they can farm successfully there and send all their fish, packed in ice, to London, it proves that we have a very advantageous market in London and that we can perfectly well, if we concentrate on the various suggestions which have been put forward today, make a success of this form of farming. But we must also heed the warnings which have been expressed by the experts who have put forward their views. I therefore hope that the Government will support my noble friend Lady Emmet, who has a very clever method of getting her own way, and I hope that this debate will represent another success in her very successful political career.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, for giving us this opportunity to discuss what I believe is a young and thriving industry, one which does very much for rural areas and which utilises all our rivers, lakes and reservoirs—and, as I heard the noble Baroness say this morning on a radio programme, our gravel pits as well. This is an admirable use for what may be unsightly blots on the countryside. I also have great pleasure in congratulating the two maiden speakers on their notable, concise, relevant and well-informed contributions. I hope that we shall hear a great deal from both of them in future, and I know that I echo the views of all noble Lords when I say that we welcome their views.

I have learned a great deal from this debate in which it has been generally agreed that fish farming is very much an industry,, one which up to about five years ago was relatively insignificant. Since then, it has been placed in a some-what anomalous position so far as various financial and legal factors are concerned. I understand that fish farming is not mentioned specifically as an agricultural operation within the meaning of the 1971 Act; fish are not classified as livestock, a point which has been made clear by several speakers today. Thus, fish farms are unable to claim the reliefs and benefits to which they would be entitled if they were following any other form of food production, agriculture or anything else. I have also been given to under-stand that the United Kingdom is the only country in Western Europe which treats fish farming in this way. But worse still within the United Kingdom, as a result of various court decisions, English and Welsh fish farms are not rated whereas Scottish farms are. This is a sad and, I believe, avoidable anomaly, and we look forward to hearing the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on this subject in reply to the debate. More sympathetic financial treatment would be very welcome for these small but very efficient operations, particularly as fish farms in general are small, employing, in the main, perhaps 30 or 40 people, depending on the season.

It is important to encourage support for the industry for a number of reasons. First, the demand for rainbow trout, brown trout and, of course, for the delicacious salmon and salmon trout, which I believe we call sea trout, is very large and, as several speakers have made clear, is increasing each year. One example I have unearthed is the fact that we in the United Kingdom eat approximately 2,500 tons of rainbow trout each year, and according to information given to me, this represents about 100 million rainbow trout, each weighing half a lb.— or, under our new metric guise, 226 grammes give or take one or two. This is an operation of quite considerable complexity and it deserves close attention by the Government.

The second reason why I believe the Government should help in this matter is that for sporting purposes fish farming is eminently valuable as a means of restocking rivers, reservoirs and lakes. Where, for various reasons, the natural population of reservoirs and rivers has been decimated or has been reduced by pollution or disease, fish farming can provide the basis for restocking. It is not the whole answer, but at least it provides the basis for the population to increase.

Thirdly, as we have heard from virtually every speaker, fish as food is very rich in protein. I am told that fish are cold-blooded—certainly I do not know of any hot-blooded ones—and that they live in what is called thermal equilibrium with their habitat, which is water, which tends to indicate that their body temperature is the same as the area in which they live, something which does not apply to mammals. I am told that this is very important in that fish do not require such large amounts of protein to keep themselves warm or alive, or to put on body weight. Instead, such protein as is fed to them can be converted to edible weight. I understand that fish use protein far more efficiently then the next in line, the common domestic hen, and we heard from the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, the protein conversion rates. Now that proteins and feedstuffs are so expensive and scarce in the modern world, it is more important then ever to succour the most efficient and thrifty use of these valuable foodstuffs. I believe that it is in this field that we can reap real benefits by encouraging fish farming. We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, how large quantities of fresh fish are imported from all over the world.

There are. of course, different methods of raising fish. In some countries various antibiotics and concentrates are added to the fish food. In this country these antibiotics and concentrates are considered dangerous, or at least inimical to health. Naturally, different nations have different criteria for feeding or raising fish, much of which ends up on the British table. I would ask the Government to consider restricting imports from countries which have these problems of pollution, or which are unwilling to use concentrates which we consider safe. The noble Earl, Lord Cairns, pointed out that Japan, which is a very considerable producer of trout for the British table, has great problems of pollution in its seas and in its fresh waters. While we sympathise, I do not believe that we should condone any relaxation in the standards of the fish which come into this country. That is why I ask the Government to ensure that fish which are imported from all over the world, whether it be from Japan or elsewhere, meet the standards of fish which are produced in our fish farms here. I have heard that up to half our potready trout are imported from Japan and elsewhere.

My Lords, so far as my personal position is concerned, I have no interest in fish farming, though I own a stretch of freshwater fishing in Scotland which at various times has suffered from disease and from pollution. Nevertheless, through the efforts of all the owners of the river and of the inshore fishermen, steps are being taken to build up the stocks in the river as far as is possible. I would, however, ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to use all his influence with his colleagues in the Government to ensure that this burgeoning industry can provide continuing and profitable employment in areas which are remote and which are often unable to provide alternative employment for the population. We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, that fish farming can present problems, but it is far more suitable and better based for these remote areas—and I am thinking particularly of Scotland—than the ephemeral, noisy, pollutant, unsightly and often unwanted operations in connection with offshore oil exploration. We all appreciate that there is a necessary evil here, but I believe that many of us would agree that such operations will tend to slacken off and possibly disappear in thirty, forty or fifty years. However, I believe fish farming will be a continuing industry and will have a most beneficial effect on the countryside and on the working population. It is a very valuable import saver. It is a welcome and appropriate employer in those remote rural areas to which I have referred, and it is a most efficient user of proteins. I also believe that it is one of the means by which our sporting fisheries can be restocked. In conclusion, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, for giving us an opportunity of discussing this important issue and of being able to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for his comments.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations on the two notable maiden speeches which we have heard. Although I have endeavoured to educate myself a little prior to the debate, I cannot pretend to have the profound' knowledge of fish farming—or "aquaculture", as my noble friend Lord Balerno said it should be called—displayed by so many of the speakers this afternoon. My participation stems from my concern about how this country is to feed itself between now and the end of the century, when the population of the world will have doubled, or very nearly so. It will go up from 3,600 million at the present time to nearly 7,000 million in 25 years.

My Lords, as a result of depending for so long on cheap imported food to feed an ever-expanding population—it is still expanding, notwithstanding the falling birthrate—we have placed ourselves in an extremely vulnerable position. The food is no longer cheap, it may not always be available and because of our high population density we depend on it to feed roughly half our inhabitants. For example, in 1972–73 imports provided over 50 per cent. of the bacon, ham, mutton and lamb and over 40 per cent. of the wheat which we consumed. The figures for beef and veal were more favourable; only some 10 to 15 per cent. was imported, but this was because so much of our home grown cereals was fed to beef to increase production. I understand that British cattle now consume 5 million tons of grain a year— an increase of 50 per cent. in 20 years —and pigs and poultry consume another 8 million tons. To see the matter in perspective, 4 million tons would, according to a recent article in The Times— and that is what we import—suffice to feed 20 million people in other countries who might otherwise die of starvation.

My Lords, the moral of this is fairly clear: grainfed beef is an extraordinarily wasteful way of providing protein. As a nation, we should aim to change our dietary habits, to eat less meat and to develop other sources of protein. That brings me to the subject of fish farming and I should like to say also how indebted we are to my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley for introducing the subject this afternoon. It is a subject which I believe will grow enormously in importance in the future. If carried out on a sufficient scale, fish farming could release grain to those countries which are in greater need than ourselves. It would reduce the balance of payments deficit. It would make us more self-supporting in foodstuffs and, thus, Jess vulnerable to outside pressures. It has the further immense advantage, which has been referred to by other speakers, that it can be carried out in areas of the sea, reservoirs, disused gravel pits, and so on, which might otherwise be unproductive.

Moreover—and this was a point brought out by the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley—the conversion ratios of fish compare very favourably with those of other forms of protein. The noble Earl mentioned poultry. I believe he said that the ratio was 2. to 1. As I brought up the subject of beef, I can say that an average bullock consumes three tons of feedstuffs to reach a body weight of 10 cwt., which is a ratio of 6 to 1, whereas for the carnivorous rainbow trout the ratio is 1. to 1, and for the vegetarion carp it is 1 to 1. The carp was, after all, cultivated in stewponds by the monks in the old days and, when we are talking about changing our dietary habits, why should we not think about the carp? As the noble Baroness has said, 250,000 tons of fish are produced annually in East Europe and I believe that it is mainly carp. I feel that we have a good deal to learn there.

My Lords, it is of course important not to become starry-eyed about the possibilities of fish farming production. There are immense difficulties to be over-come, especially where marine fish farming is concerned, before it can be practised on any economic scale. But there are at least some encouraging portents. Some of them have beeen mentioned, but some have not. For example, there is already evidence that farmed flat fish produce a higher fillet yield than wild fish. We know that at higher temperatures, which can be provided by warmed seawater emanating from coastal electricity supply stations, various species can be grown to market size in less than half the time required by nature. We know that no major disease problem has yet been encountered which cannot be controlled. We know that the marine environment is hostile to viruses, which are so detrimental to some of the freshwater fish, and so on.

All these and many other factors would seem to justify a continued—and I hope, perhaps, increased—Government investment in research. But the Government should not confine their resistance to research. Support for the industry should be given in more immediate, and more tangible, form. My noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley, and my noble friend Lord Balerno both indicated some of the difficulties which are being faced by fish farmers today: difficulties over rating; difficulties over the legal definition of "fish farming"—to give it the protection it requires—and difficulties over capital grants. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will be able to tell us that the Government are prepared to adopt a new and much more encouraging attitude towards the industry than has been adopted in the past, and possibly to bring in a Bill on the lines suggested.

Unlike China, which the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, mentioned, where it has been practised for many centuries, and unlike Japan and Israel, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Janner, where intensive efforts are being made, as they are, I think, in the United States, the industry in this country is in its infancy. By European standards its production of 2,500 tons a year is derisory. At present a small number of individuals are staking their livelihoods and their future on a business which is inherently risky because of the disease factor, but which is of great potential benefit to the country. They are, in fact, performing a public service and as such they should be backed by the Government, up to the hilt. If anything, fish farmers should be treated more generously by the Government than conventional farmers, and they should certainly not be treated less generously.

My Lords, there is a natural tendency in Whitehall to look askance at imaginative new ventures which have not yet proved their worth; to emphasise the difficulties and the expenses of development, while not perhaps taking full account of the long-term benefits. It is a mistake which we have frequently made in the past to our cost, and I hope that we shall not make it again with fish farming.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my gratitude to that expressed by other speakers to my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley for inaugurating this debate. I also wish to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cairns who spoke with such tremendous experience. I should particularly like to say a word of congratulation to my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn for his cogent and well-informed speech. Like other noble Lords here, I had the honour to call his father a friend. I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary in the early 1950s, and his Under-Secretary, and I was his friend until he died. He was, as the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, said—also like Lord Cairns—a Prime Warden of the Fishmongers' Company. As I heard my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn speaking, it seemed to me a sad disadvantage for hereditary Peers in this House that they cannot have the pride and pleasure of hearing their sons make their maiden speeches. How glad James would have been had he been able to be here this afternoon.

This debate has made me, as it will have made many other Members of this House, aware of the tremendous success in other countries, and it will have put in our minds the position of fish farming in Britain. The noble Lord, Lord Vernon, made it perfectly clear what our needs are here. I wish to speak very briefly about the place of fish farming in Great Britain. Noble Lords now know that of the total fish consumed here the proportion of farmed fish is very small, because today farmed fish are—to use a trade term —at the top end of the trade. They are at the expensive end. They cannot compete with the cheaper fish taken straight from the sea. There have been successes. Trout, which has been mentioned by many speakers, has indeed largely replaced the wild fish on the market, and there are considerable prospects. Salmon were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who spoke of the successful growing of trout in Lochailort, which is an enclosed loch, and my information, too, is that it is both satisfactory and now profitably grown.

But there are limits at present to these salmon, because they can be taken out profitably only when they weigh between six and eight pounds. This limits the sale of fanned salmon. On present information, farmed salmon will never completely oust the larger wild fish, nor will they ever be an inexpensive protein; though they might be less expensive if the closed season for salmon—which I understand is from 11th February to 31st August— could be eliminated. It seems about as irrelevant to have a closed season for salmon as it would be to have a closed season for growing battery hens. But that having been said, both these expensive fish, which are not at the moment a very important export can, and will, become a highly desirable export for this country, because they have two points in their favour. One is that they have continuity of supply, and the other is that they have continuity of quality. In fact, they can be like Scotch whisky—expensive to sell and independent of the weather.

My Lords, mention has been made of the other farmed sources. We eat some farmed species of oysters, although a great many Natives are still eaten. We eat a certain amount of farmed plaice, and, as everybody has told the noble Lord, Lord Hughes—and I am going to tell him in a moment—we would be able to eat more plaice if they could be given better legal protection. The situation about turbot seems to me to be not so satisfactory. We have a long way to go. Probably when the housewife does get it, if it is legal, it will be a whole turbot instead of a whole grilled sole or a whole grilled plaice; but from the point of view of the fishmonger it is a real marketing job to sell to the housewife and to you and to me the idea of eating not the great piece of turbot that we are used to, but a small fish. This is going to make turbot, like so many other farmed fish, expensive. Then there are going to be exciting, fast-growing, palatable hybrids, known, I understand, as the "halibaice", the "turbrill" and the "plounder". We shall see them all in due course but they will be expensive. So that an occurrence like the recent glut of cod is an occurrence that will never be relieved by more farmed fish which, in my view—do what we can; and we are going to do a great deal—will always be in the more expensive bracket. Farmed fish have a great benefit based on continuity of supply and controlled conditions when they are grown under the proper controlled conditions.

What can the Government do to help? Basically, it is legal protection that they need to make it worth while to invest in a wide variety of farming activities. As the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, pointed out, at present farmed fish are not livestock, because livestock is defined as "mammals or birds", so fish farming is an industrial process and not an agricultural one. Technically, fish farmers do not own their own fish until they actually farm them. Like the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, I like the title "the aquaculturist". The aquaculturalist should be placed on the same legal footing as the agriculturist. Should he obtain the same financial aid? Or would the noble Earl. Lord Radnor, prefer that he did not get any financial aid at all?

The aquaculturalist needs exclusive rights to specify sea areas as well as specified seabed areas. He needs the same security for his property in floating mesh cages as the land farmer has for his implements on his land and in his enclosures. The fish farmer needs the same legal redress against poachers and vandals; and for his farmed area and farm property, the same protection from speed boats and other craft as does the farmer now from passing motor vehicles. As some noble Lords have pointed out, this would call for some reservations or enclosures of the land or the sea shore and interference with public rights. But this is no new principle; because there is the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1976, which already gives a wide measure of protection for oyster and mussel fisheries. Similarly, there are restrictions already made by the Minister of Defence and by the port authorities for the protection of marine works and other purposes. All these last points that I have been making are, as the noble Earl, Lord Cairns, said, in the 1970 Report made by Lord Cameron as Chairman of the Scottish Inshore Fisheries Committee. All that is being said today was said in 1970 by Lord Cameron.

My Lords, there are other ways in which the fish farming industry can be helped. As marine fish are carnivorous, the manufacturers of the necessary pelleted foods have a problem—and this has been mentioned—of finding a suitable edible protein at the right price and to save us the necessity for imports. I realise, because what I have been saying may be read by some of those manufacturers, that finding the right price when talking about supplying even an inedible protein is the great difficulty they have. But it is the feeling of many that nevertheless they could do more to find fish farmers a cheap source of protein food. Again, as warm water improves the conversion ratio—the conversion of unacceptable protein eaten by the fish into palatable edible protein—then, as the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, has said, the electricity undertakings could do more to provide warm water for this purpose. We thank and congratulate the South of Scotland Hydro-electric Board for the example they have set at Hunterston.

We have been told about the farming already taking place in Japan and of how successful they are; and of the carp farmed in Eastern Europe and Israel. I wonder whether we should eat more carp in this country. One problem is that the fishmonger, mentioned by one noble Lord, will tell him that, as has been found all over the world, in trying to give people fish that is good for them, or even food that is good for them, you cannot persuade them to eat what they do not want to eat. I do not know whether British people will eat carp; but if they were to do so then, because carp is a converter not of edible protein but of vegetable matter, it would be very satisfactory to grow carp in this country. Catfish in the United States is a success; and we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Janner, a great deal about Israel.

My Lords, a great deal is being done; but although fish can be in these ways helped to grow into a palatable, edible protein food, they are basically poor converters of protein. As the noble Lady, Lady Sempill, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, said, even for a nation fanning fish locally, with present knowledge, farmed fish cannot be a significant contribution to the nation's protein; that is, for a nation like us. Internationally it has not been, and may never be, demonstrated that farmed fish or fish farming or fish products will make any wide or significant contribution towards the protein for a growing world population in need of it.

The nations of the world who are short of protein must find it within their own borders. They cannot find it outside their borders—for one reason only, if for no other. It is that they have not the hard currency to buy it. Whatever food the rest of the world can give the starving nations, they have not the hard currency to buy it; and this is the great difficulty. Therefore, what is the obligation of the free world to feed the starving world' —and I am not talking about the nations who have available proteins themselves. I disagree entirely with people who say that a chicken is a worse converter than a fish; because if you take a fish turning an inedible protein into an edible protein, of course, it is a good converter; but I suggest that starving nations would do better to grow hens which can eat the available food in the country whatever that may be. I suggest that our job as free nations is to teach each nation how to grow the most suitable indigenous protein themselves in their own country. Help them if you like by giving them the equipment; but the answer to the world food programme is not fish farming at all. It is the farming of whatever is suitable for that country.

Finally, it might be suggested that instead of growing cattle and ruining the country in which they live, they would do better to take the indigenous animals that have evolved in the country and eat the wild animals which are there and which will continue rather than to ruin their land with cattle. Apart from the last part of the Motion of my noble friend Lady Emmet, nothing I have said in any degree reduces the need for more protection and encouragement for fish farming in this country. I should like to finish by repeating what the noble Earl, Lord Cairns, said, that we are on the verge of a revolutionary advance.

6.30 p.m.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate and, like everybody who has taken part in it this afternoon, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, for introducing this subject into your Lord-ships' House. Before I go any further I must declare my interest, with which I am sure your Lordships are only too well acquainted, in fish, fish farming and fish hatching. It is interesting that this debate, like so many debates in your Lordships' House, has produced its own patterns of thought. Although each speaker has played their own particular "tune", all these "tunes" together orchestrate into a theme which is well worth listening to. I should like to try to point out the situation to your Lordships as I see it.

First of all, there is a great enthusiasm for the use of fish farming and fish raising in one way or another as a means of adding to our protein in our diet and, indeed, the diet of the whole world. With this of course I agree. But we should not be too carried away by some of the apparent attractions of fish farming. I liked the admirably short and cautionary speech of the noble Lady, Lady Sempill, in which she referred to the half truths and the costs of fish farming. It is perfectly true that in certain circumstances you can raise 1,000 tons of protein per acre from a fish farm, but you have to throw on it 1,500 tons of protein first. This is something we have to remember. Something else we have to remember, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, is that this is the top end of the trade in this country. We are not in fact producing ready-made fish fingers in our fish farms; we are producing expensive forms of fish which are delightful and which, as we have been able to develop the standard of living of people in this country, have become more and more common on the tables of everybody's home in this country. Smoked trout is something which you can buy in the supermarket; trout is something that you find in many restraurants, it is not just something you find in the top restaurants of the West End.

But in whatever form the fish farms of this country are operating, they are, on the whole, producing high-value fish and, as such, they are not yet making great inroads into the problems of producing large quantities of cheap protein. Certainly they depend as much as anybody on a high price in order to be able to sell their products. Indeed, the people who are producing salmon at Lochailort would be as horrified as anybody—even probably more than me!—if the price of salmon dropped below a certain level. Their fish might become uneconomic and their whole operation might become difficult.

So we should not think that by encouraging fish farming we shall necessarily get cheaper fish; but we might well examine how the trade in trout, and particularly smoked trout, grew up. It did not really grow up in this country, but in Denmark. Denmark first managed to produce trout effectively and they built up the trade in trout on two things. One was the right supply of water, which they happened to have, and the other was a supply of commercially-fished fish, many of which came out of what we might regard as our waters around the Shetlands. Commercially-fished fish formed the basis of the wet fish diet which was the basis of their whole trout industry. We in this country do not and cannot fish for this kind of fish, because we choose to conserve sea fish by mesh size. Therefore it is not legal for us to build up a fishing fleet of the kind which fishes out of Esbjerg and brings in the commercial fish which produces the fish meal and trout food that we have heard about. We are inhibited by our own regulations from developing the trade to the extent that the Danes have developed it.

On the other hand, for various other reasons, the United States of America, Japan and certainly also Denmark, have developed pellet foods for stewpond fish which have certain advantages, in that you can feed the fish automatically by setting guns which fire pellets into the ponds at regular intervals and therefore cut out much of the labour requirements. It is the development of foods of this kind that has helped us with the development of trout farming and salmon farming in this country. It is upon the use of pelleted foods that we shall probably establish a fish farming industry in this country. None of these things, such as the possession of the water, the know-how or the ready supply of commercial fish on which to feed the trout, would have developed the industry as the Danes developed it if they had not marketed their fish extremely skilfully. It is very much the skilful marketing of the trout which has made the smoked trout the success it is, which has made fish farming in this country look attractive and which has indeed initiated this debate.

When it comes to talking about fish like carp which are not carnivores but herbivores, you simply could not start to think of developing a fish farming industry based upon carp until you really made a go of marketing carp as a fish for the housewife to eat. I am not saying that this could not be done, but you would have to overcome a certain amount of inherent prejudice; you would have to educate and spend a great deal of money. Therefore I do not think there will be any quick result in this matter. But running through the whole of this debate has been a recognition of the value of what is being done, a recognition of the possibility of using by-products, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, pointed out, using single cell proteins, which is a most interesting new possibility as a basic fish food.

The people who are interested in the production of fish would like to see fish farming given a fair chance. Here again we come to another of the threads running through the whole debate. The debate was enlivened and enriched by two top quality maiden speeches to which we were all privileged to listen. The noble Earl, Lord Cairns, pointed out in his maiden speech that fish farming does not get a fair deal at all. This is true because it is nobody's child. During the debate we have heard many speakers asking for fish farming to be put under somebody's wing; we have even heard people asking for it to be called "aquaculture" and given a status, perhaps through a new name. I should like to think that we would recognise at the same time the importance of the interplay of all forms of fish production. If we are to regulate fish farming it should be given a status and legal rights, which would be best done by putting it under a Ministry dealing with fish production from the sea.

The marketing of fish will be important. What is done in the way of producing fish from the sea will have a bearing on fish from the fish farms. Similarly, what is done by way of producing fish from fish farms will have a bearing on the marketing of fish produced from the sea. I think that nowadays we ought to co-ordinate the production of fish, whether wild-caught or from hatchery-reared stock, and perhaps devise more logical ways of trying to conserve our fish by means of net size, and by recognition of the fact that perhaps we ought to have a commercial fishery operating out of our own shores, catching the commercial small fish that grow in our territorial waters for feeding to fish in our own fish farms.

During this debate we have been asked to consider and to press upon Her Majesty's Government the idea that they should legislate for ownership of fish, to make it legal for people to own various fishes of what at the moment are illegal size—because at present anybody engaged in the farming of sea-fish is in danger of breaking the law. The moment any-body lifts a fish out of the water he breaks the law, if it is a fish of an illegal size. I think we should consider putting fish farming on a basis equal to either agriculture or industry. Here, again, I like the idea of putting fish farming under the wing of a fishery Department so that it would be getting the kind of help that might be given to sea-boats— or the sort of derating one might give to enterprises connected with sea fishing; also, the kind of capital grants, and so forth, that might be considered necessary in connection with sea fishing.

We have also heard during this debate about research. The quality of research in this country is second to none, and we ought to make certain that this quality is properly spread and used. We must see that there is a proper "come and go" of ideas between the research institutions and the people actually on the ground or on the water, who are working at the job. Perhaps such a cross-fertilisation of ideas might be achieved by giving help to the larger organisations which are researching on their own account. This might be done by seconding scientists to people who are already engaged in fish farming and who already have a facility, so that the scientists might come in "on the side" and use that facility for research projects of a practical nature.

I feel that if, through this co-ordination of sea and fish farm produced fish, we encourage more research into customer taste, this would be most helpful. I know this has already been very well done by some research institutions, and the research done by the White Fish Authority in particular has been very well done, because they have discovered how to turn almost any kind of fish into a fish finger. However, I do not think they have done research upon freshwater fish in the same kind of way. It would be helpful, if we are going to develop fish farming to the full, to do the same kind of research in relation to the fresh-water fish and the ways in which they may be used by the housewife and the consumer.

If I may sum up my reaction to this debate, my Lords, I feel it has been useful to hold it, because it has put down on paper some conflicting attitudes. I think we can look to fish farming for a considerable and growing contribution to our supplies of fish and high quality protein. But we cannot expect miracles. We must look at fish farming with a thoroughly critical mind. We should not let it suffer from undue disadvantages. We should certainly consider legislating so as to legalise those aspects which are desirable to make fish farming effective. We should try to put this under the aegis of one Department of State; and personally I would prefer to see this under a fishery Department, properly designed to co-ordinate the activities of both fish farming and sea fishing.

6.47 p.m.


My Lords, I agree so much with the very first words spoken by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and indeed with most of the rest of what he has said, because this has indeed been a fascinating debate. It has been illuminated by two maiden speeches which I think everyone was delighted to hear. If it is not presumptuous of me, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cairns, who said that he had to wait for 25 years—for reasons which are thoroughly commendable—before speaking to your Lordships. All I can say is that his speech was very well worth waiting for. It is not often one has the privilege of hearing a maiden speech delivered without a note in a manner which, if I might say so, was quite beautiful, and in language which was very agreeable to listen to. As regards my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn, many people have already said that they are glad, as indeed I am myself, to see among us the son of a person who played such a distinguished part in public life. His was a speech of much clarity and knowledge, and also of great common sense. Both those speeches added greatly to the level of this debate, and I am sure that everyone will be looking for- ward to the times when they next address your Lordships' House, whatever the topic may be.

I am sure that my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley must feel very pleased with the result of her Motion, because it has turned our attention to one aspect of food production which is relatively embryonic, and about which relatively little is known. I am bound to say that I am astonished at the amount of knowledge about this subject that has emerged this afternoon. My noble friend Lord Vernon was concerned as to how the world was going to feed itself. Of course, the extraordinary thing is that over the last 25 years we have seen huge technical advances in agricultural production, and yet the increase in agricultural production from the under-developed countries in the world has merely kept pace with the increase in population which those countries have sustained. Therefore, we have to look elsewhere.

It is of course to the sea, and, as the psalmist would say, all that therein is, that we have to look. The curious fact is that in comparison with the development of food from the land, our efforts in the oceans and on the ocean beds have been astonishingly small. Our basic aim is still simply to hunt the fish. It is perfectly true that the methods by which we hunt fish are almost totally scientific, using echo sounders, laiser beams, freezer ships and so forth; but the fact remains that we still hunt and try to catch what-ever happens to be there. As we have developed our agriculture, so I believe we shall have to develop our fish food crop beyond the stage of taking out of the earth's mass what nature happens to grow there for us.

As my noble friend Lord Balerno said, this business of fish farming embodies just the same principle as broiler chicken production which has resulted in a massive increase in chicken meat production and the lowering of its selling price to the public, and the loss or gain (whichever way one looks at it) of the status of the meat in the public diet from one of a luxury food to that of a cheap food. My noble friend Lord Cairns said that in fish farming there was a parallel revolutionary advance. My Lords, I believe that he is right. The potential to do with fish the same as has been done in broiler production is enormous. But do not let us delude ourselves: so are the problems.

I do not agree with my noble friend Lady Emmet of Amberley, and I think with my noble friend Lady Sempill, who I think visualise the production of fish by fish farming to be a means, as the Motion suggests, of providing cheap protein for the growing populations of the world—if by that is meant it is a method by which the underdeveloped countries of the world can expect to see their supplies of protein increased. I believe we should be deluding ourselves if we felt that fish farming has that particular contribution to make to food production. What it may well do for those who have the capacity to pay, is to make more available species of fish to eat which are at present scarce and therefore a luxury and expensive, which by this method will become more plentiful and therefore cheaper. In that sense fish farming has an important part to play in the total food production of a country.

The most obvious example of what has been done is that which my noble friend Lord Radnor gave from his personal experience of trout. It used to be a great rarity, only fished by the angler, and now it is produced in considerable quantities in fish farms and is relatively commonplace. Whereas trout can now sell for about 60p a lb. in a shop, salmon can be in the region of £2 a lb. But, as my noble friend Lord Balfour said, there is little reason why salmon cannot be produced, or mass produced, in the same way as are trout. But I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Radnor would hope that the adage or the legendary advice which I think hoteliers give themselves when dining out and inspecting the menus of other hotels will not be continued, which is, "When in doubt don't touch the trout".

The real interest for the future development of fish farming lies I believe in part with salmon and trout, in part with shellfish, but mainly with marine fish and sea-water fish such as have been mentioned—Dover sole, turbot and halibut. An extraordinary fact is that a Dover sole will produce hundreds of thousands of eggs over a period of three weeks; the turbot will produce millions of eggs over the same period. Yet, to keep the balance of nature right, all one requires is two of those eggs to come to maturity to replace its pair of stock. Nature has therefore provided a massive over-supply of potential fish. If this potential, or even part of it, can be harnessed, fish production can be increased enormously; and this is precisely what the White Fish Authority and the Sea Fisheries Laboratory at Lowestoft, which is part of the Ministry of Agriculture, and others, are trying to do.

In the natural state in the sea it is supposed to be a fact that only 5 per cent. of the eggs which are laid actually hatch, but I have often wondered who has popped down to count them. But in scientific and laboratory conditions, and under scientific control, up to 100 per cent. actually hatch. The fish then emerge as round larval fish and stay like that for a matter of some 10 weeks until they turn into the metamorphosis stage and become a flat fish. The scientist can achieve survival rates of 50 to 60 per cent. in Dover soles up to this stage, but thereafter the problems are huge and research workers have found no easy way to rear and fatten soles after they have become flat fish. Here I am bound to say that my particular knowledge is at variance with some of that which has been expounded this afternoon. My information is that once Dover soles become flat fish they become extremely difficult to rear because they are nocturnal feeders, are very timid, and if they are fed food they just do not eat it; the food crumbles in the water, the water turns sour, and before you know where you are the fish have died. My information is that the mortality rate is about 95 per cent. after that particular stage.

With turbot, however, the situation is totally different. If they can be got up to the metamorphosis or flat fish stage, then the problem is relatively easy because they are voracious feeders; they fatten well and their food conversion is extremely good. They feed at all times of the day. But the difficulty with turbot is in the larval stage. The eggs are tiny, being only a millimetre in diameter, and a food must be found which is small enough to feed to these larvae. This problem has been solved by cultivating minute fish, called rotifers, which are so small they can be seen only through a microscope; and then they are fed, as the noble Earl, Lord Kimberely, said, rather larger fish from America which are called brine shrimps, but even then they are so small they have to be looked at through a microscope.

The point of these observations is to show that up to 1972 no one had reared turbot eggs from the eggs to the flat fish stage in captivity. But now this has been done at the Sea Fisheries Research Laboratory. I would pay tribute to them and would pay tribute indeed, with the noble Earl, Lord Cairns, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, for all the work these research workers have done. In 1972 they succeeded in getting 100 of these tiny eggs up to the metamorphosis stage. In 1973 the figure was 1,000. In 1974 it was 2,000. This year it is hoped to get the number up to 10,000. When it is got up to 100,000 the problem will be overcome because that will not then be on a laboratory stage but on a commercial stage. The best results so far have been with only a 5 per cent. livability, and the hope is that if a 25 per cent. livability can be achieved then the project will become commercially viable.

Of course, whether the growing of fish is commercially viable depends upon the price received. At the moment only about 1,000 tons a year of turbot are produced and therefore there is scope for producing this fish. But any fish costs about £800 per ton of fish to produce, and so it is clear if we are speaking about turbot, which may sell at £1,200 a ton, or sole, which may sell at £1,600 to £2,000 a ton, that if these can be produced at £800 a ton it is commercially viable; but if, as with plaice, the price is lower than that then it is not a commercially viable operation. If it is possible to reduce the price of growing these fish there is scope for enlarging the types of species which can be commercially grown. Research is still being done to lower the costs. As my noble friend Lady Emmet said, one way is to use warm water from power stations. The odd thing is that plaice and sole react to this warmed water, but turbot apparently do not. Experiments are being done by growing trout in salt water conditions, and indeed for lowering feed costs by feeding cheap whole fish like sprats as opposed to using fish meal which is imported.

We are always being told that protein will be in such short demand that soon we shall not be able to eat meat but will have to eat synthetic protein. Therefore, I asked a respected source whether, as fish are primarily protein eaters, we could feed synthetic protein to fish. I was told, "Oh, no; that wouldn't work". When I asked why not, the answer I was given was that "the fish might not like it"! I am bound to say that this could be undesirable, because the synthetic proteins have a high Deoxy Ribose Nucleic Acid content. I have no idea what it is, other than that this substance can be mutogenic—and has been in experimental organisms—and, as I understand it, it could be, but not necessarily is, carcinogenic. Therefore, my view is to go along with the fish and say that so far as synthetic proteins are concerned, let us not have them.

It is said that fish farming produces the biggest amount of protein per acre. That is not, of course, strictly true. Fish are carnivorous, and in order to achieve this output per acre you must feed fish to them; so you have to go out to the sea in ships to catch the fish in order to make fish meal to feed the fish which you are farming. Slightly cynical people might say, "Why mess about with fish farms? Why not let nature do it for you?" But one cannot escape the fact that if you produce the right conditions you can achieve some astonishing results.

My noble friend Lord Vernon referred to carp in Europe. It is perfectly true that many European countries eat and use carp and we do not. The Russians carried out some experiments with carp and found that a natural pond will produce about a cwt. of carp per acre. If you have a man-made pond of the right uniform depth, with plenty of sun, you can double that output to 2 cwt. per acre. If you then add some fertiliser and control the acidity, the output can be doubled again to 4 cwt. per acre. If you then supplement their diet with waste vegetable material and protein, the out-put can be increased to 2 tons per acre. Therefore, you can move from a natural production of one cwt. per acre to one of 2 tons per acre, and more, under controlled conditions.

The productivity of static water is limited by the level of oxygen in the water to a maximum of about 2 tons per acre; but trout farming, which, as many noble Lords have said, has been practised by Japan and Denmark for many years and more recently by us, employs a much more intensive stocking rate. The oxygen problem can be overcome either by having continuous water flowing through or by putting the fish in cages in the sea. In Japan they have achieved an average productivity of 67 tonnes per acre, and from our own results it seems not unreasonable to expect turbot outputs of 40 tons per acre.

Here I am bound to join in what might reasonably be described as the clamour of protest with regard to the present legal position, which not only is inadequate but is most unclear. If one wishes to cultivate fish in the sea one has to obtain several fishing Orders to do so. These Orders are frequently given to those who cultivate shellfish, and they relate to an area of land on the seabed. But if you wish to grow your fish in a cage or on a tray which rests on the seabed, you are entitled to do so. If you were to put the cage on a couple of bricks in order to lift it two inches off the seabed, I suppose that you may do so; but what is perfectly clear is that if you were to suspend the cage or to float it so that it was two inches off the seabed, you would not be entitled to the contents—or you may not be entitled to them. As the lawyers say, it depends on whether the fish was "reduced into possession" or whether it was still "wild as it swam within its confines". The mind boggles at the idea of two lawyers arguing over that particular point; it really is an absurdity.

I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye when he said that scientific progress with turbot—I think that the same was said by the noble Earl, Lord Cairns, about lobsters—is such that now you can have small turbot and small lobsters, but that you are breaking the law in having them. As my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye has said, the Immature Sea Fish Orders prevent you from having small turbot. Also, it is an offence to have in your possession lobsters under nine inches. This was a perfectly sensible law which was introduced to prevent people from over-fishing; but it is an absurdity nowadays when fish farming of all kinds is becoming a commercial venture, and when research into it means that research workers, who are operating with hundreds of thousands of these creatures, are operating outside the law. Apart from dealing with the novel hazards—and, heaven knows, there are plenty of them—of this particular enterprise, those who are involving themselves with fish farming are having to wade through a legal morass which is usually to their disadvantage and which is certainly to their very great discouragement. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will be able to give them some hope this afternoon that their prospects will be improved.

It has been said by others that the Department of Employment classifies fish farming as an industrial process, not as an agricultural process; therefore, it determines that fish farms are rateable. However, the Department of Trade and Industry says that fish farms are agricultural and, therefore, that if they are in development areas they are not eligible for development grants. Then the Ministry of Agriculture comes along and says, "Ah, but fish farms are not agricultural; therefore they cannot have recourse to capital grants." This is an absurd situation which I hope that the Government will try to put right.

We now have the situation where this industry has emerged extraordinarily over the last 10 years, and especially over the last five years. It can only change and it can only become even more important over the next 10 years. It is a producer of valuable food. It has a contribution to make to national food production, even to exports and to import savings. I think that the Government ought to encourage it and not, even unintentionally, to discourage it. The law governing fish farming ought to be altered and clarified and possibly even brought into line with EEC law where agricultural provisions include the farming of fish. There is some urgency over this, because action, especially on that part of fish farming which takes place within the sea, needs to be taken before the period of derogation which we have been allowed over fishing comes to an end.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Craighton, referred to the 1970 Report of the Scottish Inshore Fisheries Committee which was headed by Lord Cameron. May I remind the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, of what the report says. No doubt he has seen the report, but it will not be unhelpful to remind him of its contents. The report says this: There is a probability that within the next decade"— and we have already gone halfway through it— the cultivation of some species of free-swimming sea fish on a commercial basis will become a practical proposition. The law as it stands at present is uncertain as to the extent of the power and right of the Crown and the public respectively in the matter of grants of the exclusive rights over areas of the sea bed for fish farming purposes and is unsatisfactory as a means of granting, protecting and controlling the exercise of these rights. The law on these matters, including the law governing the right to take shell fish, requires restatement and extension … ". I very much hope that the Government will take that advice. This is a new industry and an exciting one, even if my guess is that it is a financially hazardous one, and at least it needs encouragement.

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, it would be the usual courtesy if I were to start by saying to the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, how grateful I am to her for having introduced this Motion today. However, I must go on to say that when, yesterday, I found that I was to reply to the debate rather than speak in the early stages, I was somewhat appalled at the length of the speakers' list and I was not at all certain that I would, in fact, have any cause to thank her. But events have proved that the normal procedure was perfectly accurate. I have sat through many debates to which I was to reply; I have sat through many debates in which there were a number of very good speeches; I have also sat through many debates where there were a number of speeches which would have been very much better if they had never been made! That has not been the case today. I do not think I have ever heard a debate in which everyone made a contribution which was so worth listening to, and I have been absolutely fascinated throughout. So we are doubly grateful to the noble Baroness for having made this possible for us.

Some time ago I was interviewed in connection with a programme about the House of Lords which was subsequently broadcast in Scotland by the BBC, and in the course of my interview I said that I had viewed with a certain amount of doubt a remark which was often made before I came here, that whatever was discussed in the House of Lords, no matter how unusual or abstruse the subject, an expert would be produced. I do not know whether or not this debate has produced 17 experts, but if each of those who has spoken has not been an expert in his or her own right, obviously there has been very close contact with experts, and I have the feeling that almost any of those who have taken part in the debate would be better able to reply to it than I am myself, even although I have had at my call my own experts. Incidentally, some of the statistics which were produced about turbot by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, indicated either that there was duplication of experts or that we have been speaking to the same people!

The debate today has been very wide ranging. We are grateful for the opportunity it has provided to clarify the Government's attitude towards fish farming in general. It falls into a number of related but separate compartments. Of course, the expertise applicable overlaps, but in fact there are three—or perhaps four—distinct areas of interest: marine fin fish farming, shellfish cultivation, the rearing of game fish for restocking or for the table, and coarse fish rearing, which is more wholly related to angling than the others. It is against a background of these different areas of activity that we need to consider the extent to which they can make a contribution, both toward shortfalls in the supply of protein and as an aid, even if small, to our balance of payments.

It may help your Lordships if I mention a few figures. We consume nearly 4½ million tons of meats of various sorts and a comparable amount of cereals each year. The total fish supplies landed in this country, including imports, amount to nearly 1.3 million tons. Fish farming produces in Great Britain slightly more than one-thousandth of this figure, of which about two-thirds is produced for the table. The economics of fish farming at present appear to dictate the concentration of its efforts on the more expensive end of the food market. One obvious conclusion to draw from the very small part of the market which is served by fish farming is that the potential for increasing its proportion is obviously greater.

The noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, has drawn attention to the volume of fish production in Europe— 325,000 tons—but the breakdown of this figure shows that about three-quarters of it is carp. Very little carp is sold in this country for the table market—and more than one speaker has referred to this fact—and at this stage I welcome the cautionary notes entered by the noble Lady, Lady Sempill, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. It would be un-wise to encourage production of a fish for which as yet there is no obvious demand. We have only to look back at the efforts to persuade the people of this country that snoek was desirable to know how unwilling they are to eat something that is new to them. I am quite certain that many people go abroad and enjoy eating fish which they would never see on the market, and many times one asks what it is and finds that it cannot be translated into English because we do not have it in our waters and do not bring it into the country. We enjoy it there, but I am quite certain that if it appeared on the fishmonger's slab it would eventually finish up in the dustbin.

The rainbow trout farming industry in Europe is very much involved in prestige advertising and promotional marketing. There is no similar development in the United Kingdom. This might well be a priority for our trout farmers and would do much to stimulate the growth and prosperity of their industry. In this connection, I should like to refer to the remarkable speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Radnor. This was obviously a case of producing the expert. He is certainly an expert and I never imagined for one moment that someone would actually take part in the debate and would say, "Yes", this is what I am doing ".

A number of speakers referred to fish farming in different countries. My noble friend Lord Hale and the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, referred to it as far afield as China. My noble friend Lord Janner referred to what is being done in Israel, and if I were to visit the various countries in Europe which were mentioned, and Japan, just to get first-hand knowledge, it would be a welcome relief from the legislative burden of the next few months. I doubt very much whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would approve. However, the last time I had a similar opportunity was on an official visit to Denmark about ten years ago, when for the first time I saw rainbow trout farming on a really large commercial scale.

With reference to what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, said about getting action, I was so impressed by what I saw and by some of the information I was given—for instance, about fishing for sand eels and conservation which went beyond what we were required to do under international regulations—that I pressed hard for some changes. While it would be totally wrong for me to take credit for anything that happened, I can say that I had some influence, and perhaps the two pieces of legislation which were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, were not unrelated to the pressures which I exerted on my return from Denmark.


My Lords, may I suggest to the noble Lord that he goes abroad again as soon as possible?


No, my Lords. I have a cheaper suggestion to make, if the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, will accept it. I should very much like to see what he is doing in this country, and then use that as an example to press inside the Departments.

Referring to feedingstuffs, the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, has mentioned the volume of our imports of fishmeal and suggested that we should be able ourselves to produce the raw material for the input into fish farming. This is a point to which the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, also referred. Obviously, it makes good sense to be able to do so, but we have to remember—and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, warned us about this—that industrial fishing itself poses problems. If everyone had done what the Danes did to enable them to build up their industrial farming, I think our problems of conservation would have been very much more serious than they are at the present time.

Inevitably, other species of fish are caught in the small mesh nets used for this type of fishing, and problems of conservation are real indeed. None the less, the use of industrial fishing to provide additional feed for fish farming is something to which the industry should direct its attention. There are perhaps sections of the ocean, 200 miles out in the Atlantic, where one can safely fish for certain species, which probably the housewife would be quite unwilling to buy for cooking in her own kitchen, but which might be suitable for this particular purpose, and which would not create a conservation problem. I am happy to say that this is being seriously investigated by the Departments at the present time.

My Lords, the Motion before the House refers to the need to encourage fish farming in this country. The Government consider that they can play their part in this by the encouragement and undertaking of research and development work. A great deal is undertaken by the fisheries Departments to assist the development of freshwater and marine fish farming in collaboration, where appropriate, with the White Fish Authority, marine stations of the NERC and universities. On the marine side, research work on fish cultivation in Departmental laboratories began about 15 years ago in Lowestoft with attempts to rear plaice. Since then, work has been carried out at Port Erin in the Isle of Man in collaboration with the White Fish Authority who, in 1968, moved their base to Hunterston in Ayrshire. The current programme is aimed at providing the biological, engineering and economic information required for the establishment of a viable industry for the cultivation of marine fish.

My Lords, the prospects of major supplies becoming available from this source are at present slender. Of course, it is possible that techniques of marine fish cultivation will be developed and the existing problems overcome to enable us to tap an additional source of high quality fish, for which there is a consumer demand in this country and Western Europe. The work is essentially long-term. It is necessary to overcome the problems associated with obtaining a uniform stock of breeding fish to produce high quality eggs and larvae. A reliable system of rearing them into juveniles has to be established and, perhaps most important, cheap feedingstuffs will have to be available to ensure that enterprises can be economic.

Under the normal conditions of fish farming, it will be essential to ensure adequate disease control and prevention of depredation by pests. The marine fish upon which work is being undertaken are plaice, sole, halibut and turbot. I do not know the extent to which there is any mixture of these along the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and the variety of possible names which were put in. It seems to me that if anything of that kind emerges, I hope they do not produce these names, because it will certainly put me off them. The idea of eating something and not being certain whether it was a survival from the French Revolution and those vehicles that went along to the guillotine fills me with horror. It is almost akin to the reaction of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, to the synthetic protein. When the noble Earl talked about something that had to do with possible mutations from DNA, I wondered whether he was going to make the suggestion that there might be a fish with feathers, or a hen with fins!

The White Fish Authority is developing the technology on sole and turbot at Hunterston (utilising warm water from a power station) and in a sea loch at Ardtoe. We know that several commercial firms are also interested in this activity, and are either planning an entry into the business, or have, indeed, started work. Considerable progress has been made in developing means of successfully rearing plaice and sole. Unfortunately, however, plaice would not be economically viable in commercial terms if reared by fish farming methods. Sole, one of the traditionally high-priced species, can also be reared from the egg to marketable size, but the young fish are timid feeders and highly skilled husbandry is needed with attendant high labour costs.

Turbot have distinct advantages over sole because they are better feed converters, and adapt readily to domestication. Noble Lords will notice that although the language is different, the theory is the same as that put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, it shows the confidence which he ought to have always in whatever I happen to say.


No, my Lords; it simply reminds me that when the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has access to the same experts as I have, I can accept what he says, but when he is putting it forward on his own initiative, I must treat what he says with a reasonable degree of doubt! The noble Earl is like me; sometimes he is bound to be right, but it is then only by accident. That was once said of me at local authority level, that I must be right sometimes, even if only by accident.

My Lords, the problems of rearing the young en masse from the egg remain. I do not want to repeat the statistics used by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, except to say that the survival rate at present is less than 1 per cent. If this problem is solved, turbot might be the most suitable fish for cultivation, particularly as their present market price is high.


My Lords, if I might be allowed to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, he will realise that there must be the same difficulty in feeding between two kinds of fish as there are between two sizes of individuals like the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and the noble Lord, Lord Lyell!


My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, tempts me into embarrassing comparisons. Halibut appears to be almost equally promising, but there are problems in maintaining the very large breeding fish required. Some investigation has been made into marketability of cultivated marine fish. Although they differ in colour from the same species caught in the sea, there is no reason to believe that they will be less acceptable to the consumer than sea fish. In this connection, tests carried out show that more than half of the people asked did not know the difference. Those who did detect a dif- ference said they did not like it. Research has also been carried out on feedingstuffs, both live and artificial, and work on disease has identified some causes of serious loss. Work on this is proceeding.

Shellfish farming has been commercially exploited with considerable backing from Government and White Fish Authority research and development work. Sea mollusc hatcheries are in operation, and production of seed oysters is substantial. I saw this being carried out in Scotland a little over a year ago. Commercial interest is being shown in prawn cultivation, as a result of the successful rearing techniques developed by one of the Ministry's laboratories. In a sense, the problems of shellfish farming may be separated from the generality of problems which I have already touched upon. These creatures obviously differ in characteristics from those of other types of fish—most markedly in that they are largely sedentary. There is already a background of legislation specifically designed to cover some of the problems arising in the cultivation of shellfish. Of course, the Government understand the anxieties of those undertaking this activity, who feel that the legislation should be updated. This is a matter in which action can be taken when a suitable opportunity presents itself. In the present state of the legislative programme, your Lordships will not expect me to go any further than that tonight.

My Lords, turning to salmon and freshwater fisheries, there is no doubt that the number of trout rearing farms is increasing every year. The great majority of these are privately owned, and there is every appearance that they are a profitable undertaking. This was the only point on which the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, did not specifically inform us, but I assume from the way he is still smiling that he is not losing a fortune. Many of these farms rear rainbow trout for restocking waters for angling. In this sense, the trout rearing industry is ancillary to angling. Also, there is an increasing number of rainbow trout farms which rear fish for food, but, as I have already made clear to your Lordships, the tonnage of protein produced is small, especially against the total intake of food in this country. There would have to be a most spectacular development of the industry if it were to be able to play more than a minor role in the provision of food supplies. Nevertheless, there has been an increasing investment by commercial undertakings in the development of salmon and trout farms.

As the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, did, I particularly wish to pay tribute to what Unilever have done. Perhaps this is the best encouragement in the long term. They have felt it worth while from the long-term point of view to make a massive investment in this particular development. There are not many firms or companies which can afford to do this sort of thing, but one of the benefits which must inevitably flow from it—when it has been shown how successfully they can do it— is that others will follow in the field without necessarily having to lay their hands on a similar amount of money at the out-set. The investment in salmon has been concentrated on sea fish farms in Scottish lochs. The fisheries Departments maintain liaison with them and do all they can to assist in their work. Recently, specific proposals have been worked out under the auspices of the Departmental Fisheries Research and Development Board for increased liaison on these matters. My Department is also planning a new research programme on salmonid farming covering important areas such as genetics, husbandry and nutrition. I am sure that these steps cannot but enhance the prospects of continuing the successful development work which has already been initiated.

My Lords, in replying to these debates I like to reply to most, if not all, of the points which have been raised. There have been so many expert points raised in this debate that this would be quite impossible, unless your Lordships are prepared to listen to me for the next two hours and unless I am prepared to stand here for the next two hours, which I am not. I am equally certain that your Lord-ships would not be prepared to sit there. I want to touch on one or two points. First of all, the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, spoke about action. I do not know whether I laid a trap for myself by saying that perhaps some action had flowed from what I had done on a previous occasion, but certainly I can assure him that we are anxious to do something about the legal position; that the anomalies under existing legislation should be removed, and that the Government should reserve areas for sea farming. These I have particularly noted, and I found it desirable to emphasise the matter because the two previous winding-up speeches (if I can so refer to them) by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, both touched on the same point. Obviously it is unsatisfactory that the legal position should be as it is at the present time. While I cannot guarantee immediate action on the legislation, I can guarantee early action on its consideration.

On the subject of the way this has expanded, the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, referred to the growth that could take place, and the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, referred to the way in which this had expanded in China. I think we ourselves are entitled to take a certain amount of satisfaction in the way in which our own people have gone ahead with this. Since 1965 the United Kingdom fish farming industry has increased its output from under 100 tons a year to roughly 1,500 tons in 1974. So while the figures are small, the rate of progress is really remarkable, and if it goes on at anything like that rate the wishes of the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, may come about much more quickly than the more cautious among us may have thought possible.

The noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, my noble friend Lord Hale, the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and others, said that fish farming ought to be the responsibility of one Department. It is. It is the responsibility at the present time, on this side of the Border, of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Whether we call it fishing or agriculture, it still lies in that Ministry. In my own country it is the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. I may say that all the people that I had meetings with on this matter were fisheries experts, but they are part of the combined Department. But, like other things, there are parts of it which are affected by other Departments.

When it comes to the question of valuation, it does not matter whether it is a beef farm, a poultry farm or fish farm, it becomes the responsibility of that Department to decide on valuation and rating. On that aspect the Department of the Environment comes in in England and the Scottish Development Department in Scotland. The White Fish Authority, to which so many wellearned tributes have been paid in this debate, are a body linked to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Highlands and Islands Development Board, which plays an important role in this connection in Scotland, is a regional body covering not only fish farming.

The question of derating came up. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, made a comparison with the broiler industry. This is, of course, the only part of the agricultural field which does not get any grants at all, so it was not a terribly good comparison, except from the point of view of the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, who did not want grants; what he wanted was the removal of disabilities and discouragement, as I think also did the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. On the question of derating there is a difference, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, knows this well, because he and I corresponded about this some years ago. If a broiler industry is an operation associated with the land, it is subject to derating; but if you were sufficiently foolish to take a warehouse in the middle of Edinburgh or Leeds and do your broiler rearing there it would not get any derating at all. This has already been established, not on quite that scale, but where it was not on the land itself; derating was not available. So there may well be a comparison on this level.

What I would suggest, if it has not already been done, is that the industry, or any of those of your Lordships who would wish to intervene on its behalf, might wish to direct the attention of the Layfield Committee to this aspect, because they are considering all aspects of rating, and it must include the question of derating. This might be a worth while way of having this looked at reasonably early, because we expect this Committee to report before the end of this year.

There is one other point to which I should refer (and I am just inside my time limit) and that is the training facilities for fish farmers, to which the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, referred. I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that the Hampshire College of Agricul- ture is setting up a special two-year course for fish farmers dealing with salmonids and coarse fish. That is, at least a start in this direction. There are so many other points to which I would have wished to refer. What I should like to do, as is usual in these cases, is two-fold; I should like to write to noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have spoken, and to the noble Lady, Lady Sempill, who in Scottish terms, of course, is not a Baroness, on any points on which I have not touched.

I should also wish to assure your Lord-ships that I will make certain that my right honourable friends are made aware of the terms of this debate, particularly those points where the Government are being asked to look into aspects of the problem. The importance of a debate of this kind from the Government's point of view—and I hope from the point of view of your Lordships—is not what the Minister says in reply, but the use which the Departments make, in due course, of the material to help to form their attitudes. In this case, we have had a debate which I am certain will have as great an influence on Government thinking as any debate it has ever been my pleasure to take part in.

7.41 p.m.


My Lords, this has been an extraordinarily interesting debate. If one promotes a debate in this House, it is rather like going out in a trawler deep sea fishing and wondering what is going to come up. This House is the most remarkable place from the point of view of experience of out of the way subjects. When I started on this debate I wondered whether I should have one or two speakers, or three, instead of which we have had 18 expert and absolutely first-class speeches. I feel a certain maternal pride in having two maiden speakers—though perhaps so far as age is concerned it might be that I could not consider them from the maternal point of view. I sat under Lord Stuart's father in another place, and I was very touched that the noble Earl, Lord Cairns, should have come because he is only just recovered from an operation on his hip and he should not really have been here at all. His speech was admirable. I should like to thank them, and the other speakers who have supported this debate.

I have learned the most extraordinary amount. Four month ago I knew nothing about fish fanning at all, and I have learned about it and become thoroughly immersed in it. If I was 20 years younger, I would start tomorrow. I was tremendously impressed by the study that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, had put into his speech. What he has learned in the last week is quite phenomenal, and I congratulate him. I should like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and tell him that when I started my speech I said that I felt that fish farming should be complementary with deep-sea farming. We should work it in together, and there should be no rivalry of any kind. We should help each other so far as possible.

So far as carp are concerned, in the Middle Ages everybody had to live on carp. You would not get any game in the winter. During the war we had to live on whale steaks, and the question of getting the housewife to take on new types of fish is not quite so problematical as it might seem. I should like to conclude by saying that I was very much consoled by the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. There were little gleams of sunshine. He said that there might be legal action taken when the opportunity is suitable. I do not say that that is very concrete, but it is certainly something. Then, again, what he said about his Department really taking to heart what has been said today in detail will be helpful to our fish farmers. I do not know whether noble Lords realise that our galleries were full of fish farmers in the early part of the afternoon. I think that they will have been very pleased with the interest shown in this debate. I know that this is a young industry—it has growing pains—and that there are many problems about legal changes which will have to be made. But I feel that we have made a start today, and I should like to thank everybody who has helped. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.