HC Deb 29 June 2000 vol 352 cc611-2W
Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what changes are proposed in the licensing and quota management arrangements for the under 10 metre fleet; and if he will make a statement. [128756]

Mr. Morley

The under-10-metre fleet is an important part of the UK fishing industry and I am concerned to promote and ensure a stable future for our inshore fishermen.

Last year the Ministry and the other Fisheries Departments invited comments on measures to improve the management of the under-10-metre fleet. More than 250 replies have been received from fishermen's organisations and individual fishermen. The majority of those commenting were opposed to further constraints being placed on this part of the industry such as a prohibition on weekend fishing, regional licensing or species specific licences.

Although we have been successful in limiting the closure of fisheries, we do need to safeguard against the consequences of further increases in fishing effort. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in the construction of vessels between 9 and 10 metres. This trend prompted the Fisheries Departments to introduce monthly catch limits for North Sea nephrops last Autumn and to extend these arrangements to Area VII and West of Scotland nephrops for the year 2000.

In our view it would be prudent to adopt further measures to constrain future growth in fishing effort within the under-10-metre fleet. Consequently, from 1 January 2001 it will not be possible to aggregate licences from vessels under eight metres onto vessels between eight and 10 metres and a limit of 70 vessel capacity units (VCUs) will apply to the aggregation of licences onto vessels below eight metres. Additionally, the Licensing Review Working Group, comprising representatives from industry and Fisheries Departments, has been asked to consider whether any changes should be made in the capacity penalties applying to the transfer or aggregation of licences within the under 10 metre fleet.

The Fisheries Departments will continue to manage quota allocations for the under-10-metre fleet with the objective of providing fishing opportunities throughout the year. Steps have already been taken to underpin the main stocks of interest to under-10-metre vessels and special arrangements have been made for low impact fisheries such as handlining for mackerel. In future any surplus that arises on underpinned allocations will be utilised to acquire additional quota for this part of the fleet. Greater use will also be made of EU provisions on end year flexibility enabling quota to be borrowed from the following year and for certain stocks for any surplus to be banked. Consideration will also be given to whether suitable arrangements might be possible that would enable Producer Organisations to manage quota in respect of under-10-metre vessels within their membership.

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