Sea Fisheries (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) (Amendment) Regulations 2024 Debate

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Department: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Sea Fisheries (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) (Amendment) Regulations 2024

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Excerpts
Tuesday 13th February 2024

(4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comprehensive and detailed introduction. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, went into some detail about what is in the SI, so I do not need to go over it all again.

As the noble Lord mentioned, it is important that tuna catches are managed sustainably—so it is important that we have this SI—and that must be done while we fulfil our international obligations. We have heard that bluefin tuna stocks in our seas have increased recently. That is incredibly important, but it is also important, as the noble Baroness said, that that recovery is properly protected. It is good that we are debating those aspects.

I will raise two brief points. The noble Baroness talked about quotas. Paragraph 7.7 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to the tuna catch quota. As she said, we did not previously have a separate quota because we came under EU rules. It would be good to understand what our quota is now and how it is operating now we have left the EU, because it is not clear what kind of catches will be allowed. If we are to manage the increase in stocks, it is important that this is clear to everybody.

Paragraph 10.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to the targeted consultation. I thank the noble Baroness for going into such detail about this, because when I clicked on the website link it would not work.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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It did not work for me the first time either.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock Portrait Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab)
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Perhaps the noble Lord can take that away and make sure the link works properly in the future. It was a bit frustrating that I could not get any detail on it. Having said that, we completely support this legislation and we need to move on with it.

Lord Douglas-Miller Portrait Lord Douglas-Miller (Con)
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I thank both noble Baronesses for their interest in tuna fishery. I was led to believe that the record for an SI is seven minutes; I was hoping that we might have beaten it, but BFT is obviously a long phrase and takes a bit of time to get through.

A few questions were raised. First, I will look at the consultation link and make sure that it works. Secondly, the management of our quota and the sustainability of the fishery are interlinked. We are governed by ICCAT, so it is not a European or a British thing. We do not say, “We’re going to take 50, 100 or 200 tonnes”; we have joined this organisation, which has an overarching responsibility across the whole of the bluefin tuna fishery and that of related species. As such, it does a lot of the research work that gives us some indication of how the bluefin tuna fishery is developing. It has been intricately involved in the management plan over the last 10 or 15 years.

We look to ICCAT for the quota, which it allocates across all other European countries, as well as ours. We get what we get, and then it is up to us to decide how we allocate that between the commercial and recreational fishery. This is all a bit new, not just to me but to most fishermen, I think. Not many people out there fish for bluefin tuna. The current plan is that all the recreational fishery will be catch and release. We will catch the fish, tag it and take information to feed back to ICCAT, which will help inform its decision-making. That may change over time if the fishery grows and we feel that there is a market.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked about objections. I am not aware that we have had any objections at all on this issue. If we bump into lots, we can feed that into our thought process and see where it takes us. I take her point about giving people clear instructions on catch and release. Tuna is a very big fish. I am a fisherman and I have some experience of catch and release; it is absolutely not as easy as it sounds. If we are doing catch and release, there is a real need to ensure that there is clear guidance on how it is executed and that we do not damage fish in the process of releasing them. That guidance and those details need to be fleshed out a bit.

Finally, I am afraid that I am unclear on the parity of permit charges, so I will write to the noble Baroness on that point.

I think that covers all the questions, so I will wrap up. I hope noble Lords share my conviction about the need for this instrument to make the necessary provisions outlined in the Sea Fisheries (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) (Amendment) Regulations 2024. The regulations ensure that the UK can continue to meet its full international obligations under the convention which governs ICCAT, supporting the sustainable management of Atlantic bluefin tuna. With that, I commend the instrument to the Committee.