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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Report pushes for zero cod catch
Haddock (BBC)
Haddock stocks are doing well
Fisheries scientists have released a report calling for a ban on cod fishing in the North Sea, the Irish Sea and west of Scotland in 2005.

Experts from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices) say the species is at historically low levels and should not be exploited.

Ices intends for the report to assist governments in setting fishing quotas.

It also recommends zero catches for hake in the waters of southern Biscay and sharp cuts for plaice and sandeels.

"There is still no clear sign that cod stocks in the North Sea, Irish Sea and West of Scotland are making a recovery. It also seems that fishing effort on these stocks is still too high," David Griffith, general secretary of Ices, said.

"A further problem that scientists face is substantial under-reporting of catches of cod which makes it difficult to get a true picture of the state of these stocks."

Mixed fish

The Denmark-based Council, which monitors about 135 types of fish, estimates cod stocks in the North Sea (including the Eastern Channel and Skagerrak) to total about 46,000 tonnes - less than a third of the recommended minimum of 150,000 tonnes.

In the Irish Sea stocks are thought to be about half the minimum recommended size; and to the West of Scotland "limited data indicate stock remains at [a] historical low level".

In contrast, Ices says haddock in the North Sea is at its highest level for 30 years, with an estimated total of 460,000 tonnes.

But the scientific body, which can draw on the expertise of 1,600 researchers from 19 countries, has advised fisheries be managed so that fewer cod are taken as bycatch; as it is well known that cod tend to mix with haddock.

The council also recommended that fishing for hake in the waters of southern Biscay be stopped next year because of depleted stocks.

Ices said the North Sea plaice stock was estimated to be 190,000 tonnes - below the minimum recommended level of 230,000 tonnes, and it would be recommending a 55% reduction in fishing effort.

It also called for the harvesting of sandeels in the same waters to be cut by more than 40%.

'Not do-able'

The news has been condemned by fishing industry campaigners. Carol MacDonald, leader of the Scottish Cod Crusaders campaign, said: "These results are not what we have heard; as far as we have heard [cod stocks are] growing.

"We've got a cod reproduction area. We seem to be the only country that is adhering to measures. In 2005, if the British fleet gets cut again, I think there will be militancy.

"It's about time that [Ices] started working with the real scientists, the fishermen, to see what the stocks are like. If there were no stocks in the sea, they wouldn't have cod tied up in their catch."

And Lorcan O'Cinneide, of the Irish Fish Producers' Organisation, told Reuters news agency: "The [Ices] advice is as useful as an ashtray on a Harley Davidson." He added: "It is simply not do-able."

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