§ Lord Gallacher
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What action is being taken to improve the effectiveness of fisheries enforcement in the United Kingdom. [HL899]
§ Lord Donoughue
The Fisheries Departments and the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency are currently spending some £25 million a year on fisheries enforcement, primarily on monitoring the application of the Common Fisheries Policy and ensuring that measures designed to conserve fish stocks and to safeguard the long term interests of the fishing industry are respected.
Our present enforcement arrangements are highly regarded and the Government would like to pay tribute to the dedication of our UK fishery officers on shore and those at sea, including the Royal Navy and the SFPA Marine Service. There is, however, no room for complacency. Enforcement must be effective and since taking office this Government have made clear their determination to tackle the problems created by undeclared landings of fish.
Last year we announced that we would be introducing a new licence condition prohibiting the discarding of stowed fish. That took effect from 1 January this year. We also advised that we would be assisting the Marine Safety Agency with checks for vessel safety certificates and crewing certificates. Checks by British Sea Fishery Officers on vessel safety certificates will begin in April and those for crewing certificates in June.
Progress is being made with the requirements for the introduction of satellite monitoring. The Fisheries 10WA Departments expect to award a contract for the establishment of a vessel tracking system in the next two months. That system should be operational by mid summer and within 18 months will monitor the movements of all UK vessels over 24 metres as well as those from other member states operating in our waters. This will allow us to make more effective use of the resources we devote to aerial surveillance and inspections at sea.
Similarly, we need to make the best use of the resources we devote to port surveillance. We believe that the effectiveness of our land based inspectorates would be significantly improved by introducing a system of designated ports and discharge times for all non pelagic landings made by vessels of 20 metres overall length and above. These vessels account for over 70 per cent. of the total tonnage and 65 per cent. of the total value of non pelagic landings into the UK made by the over 10 metre fleet, and the ports that will be designated will cover over 90 per cent. of such landings. Nonetheless, we recognise that there are some vessels which are based at or land into non-designated ports. We shall continue to permit this subject to these vessels providing a minimum of four hours' notice of the discharge of their catch. A consultation paper setting out our proposals is being issued to the fishing industry and copies have been placed in the Library of the House. These arrangements, which will be subject to clearance with the European Commission, will complement those which already exist for the landing of pelagic species where the operation of designated ports, coupled with more rigorous surveillance at sea and separate area licensing has had a significant impact on addressing undeclared landings in the pelagic sector. The new control measures will be kept under close review by the Fisheries Departments to ensure that they are effective and practical and that they are meeting the desired objectives.
Apart from introducing designated ports, we continue to keep under review other measures for strengthening enforcement in the UK. These include improving the arrangements for the submission of sales note data, which has been a Community requirement since 1994. Further consideration will also be given to the adoption of a system of administrative penalties for fisheries offences. Such arrangements, which would need to be the subject of consultation with the fishing industry, would depend on changes being made to existing legislation so that action could be taken in respect of offences other than breaches of licence conditions.
Although action is being taken to improve the effectiveness of our national enforcement arrangements, the Government are equally committed to raising enforcement standards throughout the Community. If the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to succeed, it is essential that fishermen should be subjected to the same level of control wherever they land. To this end we have been intensifying co-operation on enforcement with other member states. Also, we are pleased to say that the Commission has now issued a report on fisheries monitoring under the CFP in time for discussion at the March Fisheries Council. That report reviews the operation of the existing fisheries enforcement 11WA arrangements in the Community and sets out a programme of action to improve control leading to a fairer and more effective enforcement regime. We will seek to take this work forward during the remainder of the UK Presidency.