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The BBC's Janet Barrie in Brussels
"Cod is disappearing fast from the North Sea"
 real 56k

Fishing industry consultant Libby Woodhatch
"Something had to de done"
 real 28k

Elliot Morley, UK Fisheries Minister
"We've pulled back around 20m worth of opportunities for the fishing industry"
 real 28k

UK fishing industry spokesman Barry Deas
"Quotas are a very blunt tool"
 real 28k

Friday, 15 December, 2000, 16:18 GMT
EU slashes fish catches
Fishing fleets will be hard hit by the new quotas
European Union fisheries ministers have agreed huge cuts in fishing quotas in the waters of EU countries.

Utterly disastrous - the European Commission has ignored the science and the impact on industry

UK fishermen's spokesman
The decision, which fell short of European Commission proposals, was welcomed by Spanish and Portuguese officials as a reprieve for their fishing industries.

But it has alarmed fishing industry representatives in countries like Britain, where coastal communities will be hard hit by the quotas.

And some environmentalists are saying the cuts do not go far enough.

Iberian delight

The agreement came early on Friday morning after 12 hours of talks.

This result will assure the survival of fishing in Portugal

Portuguese fisheries minister
"These are the most drastic cuts we've ever had since quotas were introduced," EU Farm and Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said.

But Portuguese Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Luis Capoulas Santos said he was pleased with the outcome, which had exceeded his government's hopes.

"This result will assure the survival of fishing in Portugal," he said.

Click here for table of fish stocks

Portuguese fishermen benefited because species considered endangered in northern waters were more numerous in the south, he added.

And Spanish Fisheries Minister Miguel Arias Canete, who fought to keep reductions to a minimum, said: "The scientific data shows that the situation is critical. Spain has tried to modify the efforts so the reduction is not so traumatic as to shut down the fleet."

Industry woes

Ministers believed they had to take decisive action to stop once-common species such as cod and hake from dying out, but the fishing industry has been horrified.

They've been nibbling away at the figures instead of putting conservation at the forefront

WWF specialist Julie Cator
British representatives warned that severe quotas in the North Sea could wipe out traditional fishing communities.

"The plans would be utterly disastrous - there are so many vessels that are already barely economically viable," said Barry Deas, head of Britain's National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations.

Conservationist groups, on the other hand, said that by diluting the cuts ministers had failed to put the environment first.

Julie Cator, fisheries specialist at the World Wildlife Fund's European policy unit said: "I'm disappointed. They've been nibbling away at the figures instead of putting conservation at the forefront."

Cod crisis

The EU ministers stuck to their planned quota for cod - reducing the catch by nearly half for 2001 - but the UK Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley negotiated less severe reductions for other species.

The proposed Total Allowable Catch (Tac) for North Sea cod has been reduced to a proposed 48,600 tonnes.

Total allowable catch cuts
North Sea Cod - down 40%
Other North Sea species - down 10%
Northern hake - down 40%
But cuts in Tac for other species in the North Sea were limited to 10%, instead of the 20% originally planned by the European Commission.

North Sea cod numbers have been falling steadily since record-keeping began in 1963.

EU officials say there are now some 70,000 tonnes of adult cod in the area, far below 1970's level of 250,000, and about half the minimum that scientists say is needed to guarantee the survival of the species.

Elsewhere, the permitted catch for the northern hake stock, in waters north of the Bay of Biscay, will be cut from 42,000 to 22,600 tonnes. The commission's had proposed a reduction to just 11,000 tonnes.

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See also:

15 Dec 00 | UK
Jobs fear over fish cuts
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'
01 Dec 00 | Europe
Fish quotas face drastic cuts
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