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The BBC's Janet Barrie in Brussels
"Lower quotas alone won't solve the problem"
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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 22:41 GMT
EU battles to save cod
Franz Fischler
Franz Fischler says tougher quotas will not be enough
The European Union has agreed "drastic measures" will have to be taken to save Europe's cod stocks from total collapse.

But the EU has stopped short of approving proposals for a year-long total ban on cod fishing in the North Sea.

The stocks have more or less disappeared, so we need very strong measures

Franz Fischler, European Commissioner for Fisheries

The total allowable catch (TAC) for cod will be drastically reduced and in some areas, cod fishing will be totally banned.

Previous EU-imposed catch quotas have failed to revive dwindling stocks of cod and other key commercial fish species.

Scientists have warned EU fisheries ministers that cod stocks in the North Sea and in waters west of Scotland will totally collapse without drastic action.

Bleak outlook

At a meeting in Brussels, ministers heard the outlook for all fish species in European waters was bleak.

"What the scientists are telling us is that we are confronted with a very serious difficulty and the stocks have more or less disappeared," said the European Commissioner for fisheries, Franz Fischler.

"So we need therefore very strong measures (so) that we can recover the stocks."

But he said lowering quotas would not solve the problem alone.

The BBC Brussels correspondent says EU fisheries ministers are also considering closing off some areas of the North Sea to protect young fish.

The number of days a year fishermen are permitted to fish could also be cut back. And she says a complete ban on cod fishing in the North Sea has not been ruled out.

Stolen quotas

But correspondents say tougher measures are likely to trigger calls to scrap the Common Fisheries Policy, which first carved up Europe's coastal waters.

North Sea cod stocks have collapsed

Sixty per cent of those waters are British, and UK fishermen say foreign vessels have been registering in the UK to "steal" the "British" annual quota.

British fishermen have accepted lower quotas for years without seeing a revival in fish stocks.

There is now so little cod left to catch that the UK has barely filled half its cod quota for this year.

The British fisheries minister, Eliot Morley, called for a balance between the needs of conservation and the needs of the industry.

The final details of the new measures are due to be agreed by EU fisheries ministers when they hold their annual quota discussions next month.

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