§ Mr. Salmond
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what plans he has to control industrial fishing for sand eels off the British East Coast; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what representations he has made to his European colleagues concerning measures to control industrial fishing for sand eels in the North Sea; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) if he will ban the industrial fishing for sand eels in the Wee Bankie area; 262W
(4) if he will make a statement on the measures being taken to implement section 9.2 of the Statement of Conclusions of the March 1997 Intermediate Ministerial Meeting of the North Sea Conference. 
§ Mr. Morley
The Government believe that all industrial fisheries should be subject to the same requirement as other fisheries to operate on a sustainable basis. We remain concerned that the present restrictions on industrial fisheries may not adequately protect some particularly sensitive areas. As there have been no meetings of the Council of Fisheries Ministers since 1 May I have not had the opportunity to raise this issue there. However, discussions at official level with the Danish Ministry led to their facilitating scientific observation by the Scottish Office Marine Laboratory of this year's sand eel fishery by the Danish fleet off the British East Coast, where the observed catch was more than 99.6 per cent. sand eels.
The Sea Mammal Research Unit, along with the Danish Institute of Fisheries Research, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Scottish Office and others, is undertaking a collaborative three-year project (ELIFONTS), ending in 1999, to examine the impact of industrial fishing on sand eel abundance and the effects of variations in that abundance on predators in the Wee Bankie and neighbouring fisheries. The contractors have undertaken to give early warning of any interim results which show that the fishery is having adverse effects on the various species. We are also funding Newcastle University's research vessel to carry out sampling of sand eel populations within the study area as part of the project.
Section 9.2 of the Statement of Conclusions of the Intermediate Ministerial Meeting on the Integration of Fisheries and Environmental Issues, invites the competent authorities to consider (inter alia) restrictions on fishing in any areas where it is judged the ecosystem requires protection. The European Commission will decide in the light of the ELIFONTS project and other research, what action is appropriate to propose to the Council of Ministers. We would expect them to consider options for introducing quantitative restrictions or complete bans in particularly sensitive areas, always bearing in mind the need to avoid displacing fishing effort in a way that has a net adverse effect.
The Wee Bankie lies outside UK territorial waters and the Government are unable to take unilateral action to restrict fishing there.