EU proposes increased cod quotas

Posted: 29 November 2007

Under proposals on fishing quotas in European waters for 2008, by the European Commission, the North Sea cod quota could be increased by 11 per cent. This follows a fisheries deal struck between the EU and Norway on Monday.

This larger quota has been proposed as a partial solution to the increased amount of cod discarded in 2007. It has, however, met with an angry response from environmental pressure groups.

If this is based on business as usual in the North Sea, then it is a completely irresponsible move says WWF. It says that increasing quotas will do nothing to assist cod recovery since the fundamental problem is that too much cod is being caught in the first place.

WWF believes cod stocks will only recover through a package of measures, including the use of more selective gear - such as sorting grids, separator trawls and large square mesh panels - to avoid catching cod in the first place, and the avoidance of fishing in areas with large concentrations of cod. Independent observers on boats, as currently being trialled in Scotland, will be vital to monitor the impact of the fleet in the North Sea throughout 2008, it says.

Critical year

"2008 is a critical year for North Sea cod," said Helen McLachlan, Senior Marine Policy Officer for WWF. "We have a real opportunity for long term recovery - but this will only be achieved if fishermen avoid catching cod in the first place. This means avoiding critical areas for cod and government and fishermen working to implement more selective gear. Onboard observers need to be part of this package.

"Fishermen, governments, scientists and environmentalists agree that cod mortality needs to be reduced. Business as usual is not an option. We can't afford to repeat the mistakes of yesteryear by fishing out cod before they have a chance to recover."

On hake, plaice and sole, the European Commission proposes to reduce the quotas by 15 per cent, following the management plans. However, it clearly recognizes the immense proportion of illegal fishing and that "real catches may be as much as 75 per cent above the level" authorised.

WWF is calling on EU Ministers to agree on sustainable quotas for 2008 at the EU Fisheries Council on 17-19 December.

Related links:

Cod hit by North Sea warming

Fish quotas are bad news for cod

Other fish in the sea, but for how long?