To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the reduction in the number of offshore patrol vessels available for fishing protection on their meeting their responsibilities within the United Kingdom economic exclusion zone.
It is worth noting that what is also at stake is the equal observance of the many various rules. HMG in the shape of Lord de Mauley replied:
Responsibility for fisheries protection in English waters lies with the Maritime Management Organisation (MMO). Fishery protection services in English and Welsh waters are provided by the Royal Navy (RN) under a formal agreement with the MMO. The service is provided by 3 offshore patrol vessels of the Fisheries Protection Squadron.
The MMO has identified that the provision of 500 days at sea is currently sufficient to enable the UK to meet its obligations for at sea surveillance and inspection under the Common Fisheries Policy. This assessment is kept under constant review as enforcement obligations and priorities change.
As the following figures show this minimum commitment has been maintained for the last 2 years and is projected to be delivered again for the year 2014 – 15.
2012 – 13 562 daysbr/>
2013 – 14 512.5 days
2014 – 15 509 days (projected)
The financial contribution to the RN for this service has been reduced in return for a move from dedicated 24 hour fishery protection days to 9 hour days. These days enable surveillance and inspection of fishing vessels to be undertaken during key fishing periods. The minimum number of days required has been maintained during the current financial year despite the fact that one offshore patrol vessel has been deployed elsewhere for part of the year.
Well, that is very nice, of course but it does not precisely answer the question about the impact. We are merely being assured, as so often before, that whatever the government does is perfectly adequate. Past experience, on the whole, would indicate otherwise.