12 December 2002

S1M-3700 Fisheries 2003

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-3700, in the name of Ross Finnie, on fisheries 2003, and two amendments to that motion.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I start on a consensual basis and thank the minister for seeing my SNP colleagues and me this morning for an hour. It gave us a useful insight into his thinking and his approach. I refer to the debate on 31 October, when I said to the minister that I wanted him to
"get out of the chamber and over to Brussels to build alliances not just at meetings, but before meetings."—[Official Report, 31 October 2002; c 14286.]
I acknowledge that the minister has indeed taken my advice—I dare say that it was in his mind in any event. It is important that the minister gets out and about to meet people in the corridors and I believe that he has been doing that. It is a matter of regret that that did not happen for many years, particularly, to be blunt, in the years when there was huge antagonism between the Tory Government and Europe as a whole.
So far, so good. I take no responsibility for what Mr Salmond might say about Mr Fischler, although I have to say that I have heard considerably worse said of him by people throughout Europe, not simply at Westminster. Even some Labour members have been heard to make the odd intemperate remark in recent times.
I want to develop some of the points that Richard Lochhead made about industrial fishing. In each of the past four years, Denmark has had 75.4 per cent, 72.1 per cent, 74.4 per cent and 75 per cent successively of the industrial fisheries. Jamie McGrigor underestimated the industrial fishing figure for Denmark in 2002—it is 1.485 million tonnes, which is a lot more than the figure of 1 million tonnes that he quoted.
Numeracy is not Jamie McGrigor's best stroke, because in his motion he regrets the possible decimation of the Scottish fleet. He fails to recognise that it has been nearly double decimated in the current year, as a result of a decommissioning of almost 20 per cent. That is simply a matter of debate.
Although Spain, which has 90 per cent of the anchovy allocation, is facing a 40 per cent cut in its quota, it will get the opportunity to have that quota revised later in the year.
I want to focus on industrial fishing. I have some translated summaries from Danish newspapers of 10 December. Jyllands-Posten reports that Jørgen Fredsted, the Danish director of fisheries, said that the Danish authorities have done much to defend the industrial fishermen, but have then seen the fishermen themselves endanger their own livelihood.
Jørgen Fredsted said that because, almost a year later, 12 skippers from Esbjerg are still waiting for a final verdict on an illegal landing that is alleged to have taken place in January. One of the skippers who was charged in January has again been caught with a huge illegal bycatch of herring, haddock and whiting. That bycatch, which made up 40 per cent of the total catch, was found in the hold of one of the largest trawlers in Esbjerg. Another newspaper, Jydske Vestkysten, reports Jørgen Fredsted as saying that it seems stupid and thoughtless that the industrial fishermen should carry on as they do. The leading article in Jydske Vestkysten calls for the illegalities to stop, because what the fishermen are up to is "simply too stupid".
We must address the huge disparity in enforcement in Europe. A fisherman in Ireland is being stung for €12,000, whereas a Finnish counterpart has been fined only £84 for a similar offence. That state of affairs is simply unsustainable. Making money available to other countries to build new boats at a time when effort must be reduced is also unsustainable.
We can discuss the technicalities for as long as we wish. The industry is about fishing and communities. I always come back to the people who are involved in the industry. As Jamie McGrigor said, we are dealing with a thousand years of history; we are also dealing with a thousand years of our future. We must address today's problems for the long term and we must ensure that our fishermen are able to sustain themselves until the stocks have recovered.

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