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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 04:15 GMT 05:15 UK
Call to slash fish quotas
Deck BBC
Emergency measures to protect hake stocks are expected
By BBC correspondent Patrick Bartlett

The European Commission (EC) is proposing fishing catches be cut by up to 50% in an effort to safeguard threatened stocks of cod and hake.

EC scientists say overfishing in the North Sea is now so severe that just three out of 10 cod reach maturity.

Brussels says a long-term plan to scale back fishing fleets is the only effective response to the crisis - but admits this will lead to job losses.

Earlier this year, a large swathe of the North Sea was closed to protect cod spawning grounds - the first time such a drastic measure was taken.

This week, the commission is expected to announce similar emergency closures of hake fishing grounds.

Some of the worst-affected areas are in the North Sea and the Irish Sea.

Recovery period

Fisheries Commissioner, Franz Fischler, says long-term cuts in catches are needed to allow fish stocks to recover.

Last December, EU ministers reluctantly agreed a 45% reduction in cod and hake quotas for the current year.

Environmental groups warned that was insufficient, and now the commission says the cuts should be extended indefinitely.
Cod BBC
Cod stocks have already plummeted

As a result, it warns, some fishing businesses will go bust, leading to significant job losses.

EU funds to help fishing communities are available, but officials say countries like Britain have failed to use all the money because under EC rules they must contribute too.

The commission hopes its conservation plan - which must be agreed by ministers - can be introduced by the middle of next year at the latest.

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See also:

13 Jun 01 | England
Fishermen condemn quota cuts
20 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Fish and chips under threat
08 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Warm water threat to North Sea cod
17 Nov 00 | Europe
EU battles to save cod
07 Sep 00 | Scotland
Plenty more fish in the sea?
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