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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 December, 2003, 12:56 GMT
Brussels stops short of cod ban
Rules to protect cod exist, but are ignored by some countries
The European Commission has called for tighter restrictions on cod fishing but stopped short of demanding a ban.

Scientists say stocks are at an all time low and want an outright ban on cod fishing in the North Sea, Irish Sea and off the west coast of Scotland.

But the Commission, the EU's executive arm, said stricter short-term measures should be put in place first.

These proposals further reduce quotas and the number of days that fishing fleets can be out at sea.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said his plan was to avoid the complete closure of some fisheries next year by stepping up protection measures.

A statement from the Commission said: "Until long-term recovery plans are in place, stricter short-term measures involving low total allowable catches (TACs), direct limitations of fishing - days vessels can spend at sea - and control measures to ensure that quotas are not overshot must be applied."

Key stocks continue to be in a precarious state and the whole industry pays the price
Franz Fischler
EU Fisheries Commissioner
It said the measures were aimed at increasing quantities of adult cod by 30% in targeted zones.

The European Union already has strict rules about the amounts of fish that each country can catch, but scientists claim they are not effective enough.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, or ICES, is putting pressure on the EU to enforce a cod-fishing ban in areas where cod stocks continue to decline.

Years of over-fishing have seriously depleted numbers, leaving some species under threat of extinction.

But the Commission is not totally ignoring the scientists' advice.

It says that where the ICES recommends a fishing ban, the Commission is calling for reductions in allowed catches of up to 65%, including a 50% cut in hake and sole.


Last year's catch reductions for North Sea cod were so severe that the Commission is recommending no further cuts - but no increases either.

Mr Fischler said: "The results of unsatisfactory enforcement of conservation and recovery measures are plain for all to see."

He said the choice was between another round of severe restrictions on fishing next year or agreement on longer term recovery plans which might permit less drastic cuts in catch allowances.

Mr Fischler said he favoured the long term approach, but until recovery measures were agreed by the member states, immediate short term restrictions in fishing were crucial.

Recently the European Commission has threatened Spain and Britain with legal action for ignoring existing EU rules.

The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby said a ban was unlikely because of the social and economic problems that such a decision would provoke.

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