19 February 2003

S1M-3914 Fisheries

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): We move to the debate on motion S1M-3914, in the name of Ross Finnie.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): When I first came to Parliament, on 13 June 2001, it was to stage 3 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill. I made my first speech the following day, in a debate on the subject of fishing, and said:
"Taking too many boats out of the industry now will benefit only other countries' fishing industries."—[Official Report, 14 June 2001; c 1670.]
Today, our money is building Spanish boats and destroying our boats. Yesterday, Elliot Morley claimed as a victory the fact that the money being spent by the Spaniards must be spent by 2004 whereas, previously, they had to spend it by 2006. There is no reduction in the money, however, which means that Elliot Morley claimed as a victory the fact that the Spaniards must build their fishing fleet up even faster. The extremity of the situation in which our industry is in is perfectly illustrated by that difficulty.
There might be many ports around Scotland in which fishermen are happy with the EU result—I know of some—but the disastrous operation of the CFP will ensure only that their turn for misery has been postponed. We must not indulge in triumphalism because some local interests have a temporary victory. Ministers claim success in the renegotiation of the CFP and it is true that relative stability has been preserved, the Shetland box has been maintained and the Hague preference is continuing, but that is the case only for the time being. There are no guarantees and there is no permanence. The CFP remains absolutely and fundamentally flawed.
In 1975, I campaigned against our entry into Europe on the terms that condemned us to policies such as the CFP and, today, I believe that the CFP must be ended and that we must be out of it.
We must not allow ourselves to be blinded by science. As I said to Elliot Morley yesterday in the Rural Development Committee, there are many sources of science. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea is the paramount source, and Scotland contributes to it. National fishing reports provide evidence to the EU but, in many cases, that evidence is flawed—as we know, the Danes' industrial fisheries bycatches report grossly under-reported the white-fish bycatch as it was based only on the evidence of arrests in the last three months of the year. We must bear in mind the fact that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs released a report that showed that stocks of cod and haddock are separated to an adequate degree in the North sea.
We have to acknowledge that our view of the sea's ecology is akin to the knowledge of a room's contents that would be gained by looking through the keyhole. We have an incomplete understanding of what is going on. Our data are incomplete. To question the science is to question whether it can predict what will be, not to quarrel with what is seen. We must open the debate about the nature of extrapolation from the data that are known and about an environment with imperfect data and hidden variables. The Icelanders and Faeroese have used science differently and with huge success.
On 14 June 2001, I said:
"fishing is not just another industry. It is a way of life and a staple for many communities".—[Official Report, 14 June 2001; c 1670.]
Responsibility for fishery management must be delivered to those communities, which will then succeed or fail on their own efforts. The CFP has failed and must be ended in its present form.

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