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Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2006, 17:51 GMT 18:51 UK
North Sea cod fishing ban urged

Cod stocks will not make a full recovery even with a total ban
A complete ban on cod fishing has again been recommended by experts until severely depleted stocks recover.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices) has said there should be a total ban for 2007.

Ices' Advisory Committee on Fishery Management (ACFM) said a zero catch was needed for the next two years for North Sea stocks to reach target levels.

The committee's recommendations will go to European governments, and fishing quotas will be set in December.

Lowest level

Its report for the area which includes the North Sea and eastern English Channel said a ban for 2007 would see stocks rise above the minimum desired level of 70,000 tonnes.

Fish spawning grounds

However, it would not be enough to reach the target of 150,000 tonnes agreed by the European Union and Norway in 2005.

Any catches that were taken in 2007 would prolong recovery to the target level, the report warned.

It said that the stock had been reduced to a stage where productivity was impaired, and that it was at or near its lowest observed level.

Advice rejected

The report said stocks of cod, sand eel and anchovy remained below sustainable limits, but recommended an increase of about 75% in the quota of Norwegian spring spawning herring.

Smaller quota increases are urged for mackerel and hake, while small reductions are called for with plaice, blue whiting and sole.

A complete halt to cod fishing in the North Sea has been recommended every year since 2001, but each time European fisheries ministers have rejected the advice.

Quotas have ranged from 49,000 tonnes in 2001 to 23,000 tonnes in 2006.

"Unreported fishing" also exists - where cod are discarded either because they are too small to be landed legally or the quota has already been fulfilled.

Dr Tom Pickerell, fisheries policy officer with environmental charity WWF-UK, said the question remained over when ministers would follow the scientific advice they were given.

Dick James, of Northern Ireland's Fish Producers Organisation, said the problem of low cod stocks was down to climate change rather than overfishing.

The Scottish Fisherman's Federation said "draconian cuts" to allowances would have a serious impact on the Scottish fleet.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "Following the advice offered by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea to the European Commission and member states, a dialogue will be opened with the fishing industry to discuss future implications.

"Decisions on how much can be caught in 2007 will be taken at the Council of Fisheries Ministers in December.

"This will be on the basis of proposals from the European Commission which have not yet been formulated."

Commissioner gives fishing pledge
19 Oct 06 |  North East/N Isles
Europe's cod puzzle hard to crack
18 Oct 06 |  Science/Nature

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