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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 15:05 GMT
Europe slashes fishing quotas
Fish
Processing plants face an uncertain future
Europe's fishing ministers have agreed drastic new cuts in fishing quotas after more than 26 hours of negotiation in Brussels.

But the reductions, which range from 25% to 58% in next year's catch quotas, were still lower than those wanted by the European Commission.


If they accept these measures to enable stocks to recover, that effort will be rewarded in future

Franz Fischler
Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler warned that supplies of main fish species, particularly cod and hake, were close to extinction.

But he was upbeat when he emerged from the marathon meeting, declaring it a triumph of reason.

"We are still of the view that it is better to go through this difficult period and see fishing stocks restored in the future rather than taking risks."

He insisted that there was hope for struggling European fishermen.

"We have lighted a small light for them. We want to send the message that if they accept these measures to enable stocks to recover, that effort will be rewarded in future."

'Alarming'

The negotiations were the toughest for years as ministers from several countries argued that the cuts should be no higher than scientific recommendations.

Franz Fischler
Franz Fischler: 'We must fish less'
Some areas faced severe cuts, for example in the Kattegat strait, cod quotas were reduced by 55%. In the Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay they were cut by 18%.

The catch cuts are coupled with reductions in the number of days at sea allowed to fishing vessels, as well as EU funding for scrapping trawlers and temporarily laying up others.

Mr Fischler admitted the EU was calling for fresh sacrifices, but warned: "The situation is alarming. We have our backs to the wall."

Before the meeting Mr Fischler said he hoped the ministers would show courage and refrain from political horse trading.

He has called the state of fish stocks "alarming".

"If fishermen accept the measures to let stocks recover for a certain period of time, that effort will be rewarded in the future," he said.

Jobs at risk

In Mr Fischler's view, the crisis is the consequence of overcapacity - the EU fleet is estimated to be twice too big for the available stocks.

"Our fleet is still much too large for the available resources. Courageous measures are needed," he said.

But the UK Labour Party's fisheries spokesman in the European Parliament, Catherine Stihler, warned: "These EU cuts would go well beyond what the science requires.

"With jobs and livelihoods at stake in the some of our most rural and peripheral areas, every necessary cut must be justified by robust science."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"The oceans need protecting"
The BBC's Angus Roxburgh reports from Brussels
"Britain seems to have come out of this rather well"
See also:

18 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Analysis: The EU fisheries dilemma
18 Dec 01 | Europe
Q&A: Europe's fishing row
17 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
EU fisheries 'face collapse'
29 Oct 01 | Scotland
Cod stocks on EU agenda
23 Oct 01 | Scotland
Oceans summit tackles sea stocks
17 May 01 | Scotland
Call for EU fisheries overhaul
17 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Fish stocks 'failure' attacked
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