Experts call for North Sea cod fishing ban

Ices, which advises governments on fishing quotas, has warned cod will die out unless stocks are allowed to recover, writes Hilary Osborne

Thursday October 19, 2006

Guardian Unlimited,,1926003,00.html

North Sea cod are being fished to unsustainable levels, Ices warns.

A complete ban on cod fishing in the North Sea is the only way to stop fish stocks running out, a group of international scientists will warn tomorrow.

Although cod quotas have decreased in recent years, research by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices) shows that stocks in the North Sea remain depleted.

This is the fifth year running that Ices, which advises governments on fishing quotas, has suggested an end to cod fishing in the region, but the practice has continued and stocks have continued to dwindle.

Article continues Numbers of plaice and sole in the North Sea have also fallen, so much so that plaice stocks are below the recommended level and the rate at which sole is caught is no longer sustainable, Ices said.

Ices is recommending a reduction in catches of plaice and sole and a complete ban on fishing of sandeel and anchovies to allow North Sea stocks to recover.

However, a ban on cod fishing in the region would not necessarily mean an end to the UK's traditional fish and chips as the Ices report shows cod stocks in other areas, including the Barents Sea and around Iceland, are large and growing, while other species are thriving.

Stocks of the Norwegian spring-spawning herring are at sustainable levels, and Ices will recommend that higher catches be allowed next year. Numbers of northern hake are recovering, allowing increased quotas.

Martin Pastoors, the chair of the Advisory Committee on Fishery Management which reviewed the Ices findings, said the figures showed that prudent management of fish stocks could rebuild them.

"The Norwegian spring spawning herring stock is at a high level due to a rational exploitation strategy. Also the apparent recovery of the northern hake stock is a positive signal.

"Unfortunately we have not seen clear signals of recovery for the depleted cod stocks. These stocks have a high growth potential, but the continued catches from these stocks in combination with very low recruitment have prevented a recovery."

Dr Tom Pickerell, fisheries policy officer for World Wildlife Fund UK, said the Ices statement on fish stocks "makes depressing reading".

"This is the fifth year in a row their scientific advice recommends a zero catch of cod in the North Sea, west of Scotland, and the Irish Sea. The question remains when will politicians follow the scientific advice," he said.

European Union fishing quotas for 2007 will be drawn up in December. Last year the EU ignored recommendations that cod fishing be banned, instead cutting quotas by 15%.

Ices will publish its full report on fish stocks in the north-east Atlantic tomorrow.

Informant: binstock


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