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Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
Cod faces extinction threat
Cod 'n' chips
The traditional takeaway could be a thing of the past
Cod and chips could be off the menu for good unless urgent action is taken to replenish falling stocks, environmentalists have warned.

Current fishing methods are depleting stocks and risk driving cod to extinction, the World Wide Fund for Nature has warned.

Cod and chips has even joined the panda and tiger on the WWF's list of endangered species, in an attempt to highlight the threat.

A WWF spokesman said the move was meant as a warning signal to the UK fishing industry to take urgent action or risk thousands of job losses.

Cod and chips could be a thing of the past if we are not careful

WWF spokesman

The jobs of 15,000 full-time and 3,500 part-time fishermen could be threatened if cod became extinct.

Scotland, where more than 70% of the UK's fishing fleet is based, would be hardest hit.

The announcement came with the launch of the WWF's Oceans Recovery Campaign (ORCA) to raise awareness of the plight of the UK's marine environment.

Serious concern

WWF figures show that numbers of mature cod in the North Sea are half those of the early 1960s, while stocks of young cod, haddock and plaice are also down by as much as 60%.

Notably, Irish Sea fishermen failed to meet their quota this year, even though it was cut from 1999 levels by 80%.

Fishermen with nets
Modern fishing methods are blamed for depleting stocks

Although the move was not as drastic as placing an animal such as the panda on the endangered species list, it highlighted the possible consequences of depleting cod stocks, the spokesman added.

He said: "In all seriousness, cod and chips could be a thing of the past if we are not careful.

"We are not just an organisation that is just concerned with protecting the environment at any cost. The jobs in the fishing community are of great concern to us.

"The UK is one of the few countries in the world which recognises the need to manage fish stocks responsibly. Now we need action."

Up to half the UK's fauna - around 40,000 species - are found in the sea, according to the WWF.

But only 1% of the country's seas are protected compared with up to 10% of land.

Campaign director Matthew Davies said: "Unless we take action to regenerate fish stocks, including the piloting of Fish-Free Zones, traditional fish and chips may soon become a dish of the past."

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