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MP warns of 'menace' of Spain 'hoovering up' fish

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

  • Brixham's MP, Sarah Wollaston, warned that fishermen are under 'extraordinary pressure' picture: Ray Yardley

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Spain is a menace that is "hoovering up fish" from anywhere it can find it, a Westcountry MP has said.

Tensions between Spain and the UK have risen since the construction of an artificial reef by the Gibraltar government earlier this year, which the Spanish said interfered with their fishermen.

But Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, told the Commons no other country more than Spain "muscles in" when it comes to fishing.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee member was speaking during a debate on the fishing industry as discussion turned to reforms to the European Union's common fisheries policy (CFP), which seeks to improve fish stocks.

After Tory Anne McIntosh had referred to Spain having historic rights to fish in UK waters before 1973, Mr Parish told her: "When you talk about Spain and Spain getting access to basically what was historically our waters I think one of the problems is right back to the Common Fisheries Policy, because once you have a Common Fisheries Policy then everybody muscles in – and nobody more than Spain.

"Spain will hoover up fish not only off of our shores but off the shores of Africa, anywhere she can find it and she is a menace and I am quite happy to say that in this House."

The new CFP has yet to be agreed, but it intends to ban discards and give regions more say.

Elsewhere in the debate, Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, whose constituency includes vessels operating along the coastline from Bantham round to Torbay, warned fishermen are under "extraordinary pressure".

She said in 2011, 22% of fishermen's turnover went on fuel costs, but that increased to 27% in 2012. The MP also warned of "huge pressure from the impact of changes to quota", problems with fishermen in the region stopping catching haddock and reductions to catching western channel Dover sole that is "iconic to Brixham".

She said: "As the minister goes into the negotiations, I hope that he will consider the enormous economic importance of this export industry and do everything he can to support our fishermen as we go forward."

Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, who represents the port of Newlyn, criticised some quota cuts, arguing the reasoning behind some of the reductions was "unjustifiable and, in many cases, counter-productive because no fish are saved".

In response to the debate, Fishing Minister George Eustice said: "We have over 6,400 vessels, nearly 12,500 fisherman and we produce as the UK 627,000 tonnes of fish per year with a value of £770 million – so this is an incredibly important industry to the UK.

"I think the single biggest development we have had this year has been what I regard as quite a radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

"The reformed CFP includes three major UK priorities. The first is an end to the wasteful practice of discarding, the second is an end to the one-size-fits-all approach, with regional decision-making, and the final is a commitment to fish at sustainable levels.

"We aim to negotiate a fair and balanced package of fishing opportunities [with European neighbours], consistent with our high-level objectives – firstly, following the best available scientific evidence, secondly achieving best achievable yield and thirdly minimising discards."

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