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The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"The effects will go well beyond the fleet"
 real 56k

Friday, 1 December, 2000, 13:47 GMT
Fish quotas face drastic cuts
Cod boxes
Cod stocks are in danger of collapse
The European Commission is demanding a massive reduction in fishing quotas to protect dwindling stocks.

EU fisheries ministers will meet on 14 December to approve cuts in hake catches of 74%, cuts of 56% for cod and 35% for whiting.

The drastic measures will be another blow for European trawlermen, with the North Sea likely to be the most affected fishing ground.


There is no way around it - to have a fishing industry we need fish

EU Fisheries Commissioner, Franz Fischler
Britain's fisheries minister Elliott Morley promised that fishermen would be consulted before any changes were approved.

But the EU commissioner responsible for fisheries, Franz Fischler, said the measures were essential.

"There is no way around it - to have a fishing industry we need fish," he said.

"The Commission is very conscious of the problems that some of these measures are likely to cause the industry."

Continuing supplies of fish rely on a balance between the maintaining the livelihood of fishermen and conserving stocks.

Fisherman
Jobs are under threat
Improvements in fishing technology and techniques have led to more instances of over fishing.

Other factors influencing the reduction in fish stocks include the gradual warming of North Sea waters and the fact that cod are at the bottom of a seven year breeding cycle.

But measures are being introduced to promote their survival. Already certain zones have been "sealed off" to enable juvenile fish to grow.

This scheme is likely to be extended to several more areas of the North Sea.

Maximum levels

The severe shortage of fish has been illustrated by the fact that much of the British fleet has been unable to catch the maximum levels their quotas allow.

If the cutbacks are approved they are likely to have a serious impact on jobs in fishing ports along the east coast of Britain.

It is estimated that for every one fishermen at sea there are four people working in support industries on shore. The reduced quotas could result in the loss of several hundred jobs.

But the quota reductions are unlikely to have any direct impact the availability of Britain's favourite fast food.

The majority of cod sold in fish and chip shops is caught outside the European Union.

But for anyone who specifically wants to eat North Sea cod, there could be a steep increase in prices.

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See also:

30 Nov 00 | UK Politics
MEPs urge radical action on cod
26 Nov 00 | Scotland
Seals 'hit' cod stocks
17 Nov 00 | Europe
EU battles to save cod
17 Nov 00 | Scotland
Cod catch ban 'to be resisted'
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