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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 07:13 GMT

UK Politics

Fishermen's anger at moves to cut quotas

Fisherman say their livelihoods are at risk

British fisherman have reacted angrily to claims that they will need to cut the number of fish they catch by up to 40% in order to preserve stocks.

The BBC's Robert Pigott: "Scottish fishermen say they'll face a bleak future"`
Marine scientists have told the government that stocks of fish including cod, haddock and whiting, have become so low in the seas around Britain that there is no other option.

They are suggesting that quotas of North Sea cod are cut back by up to 40%, Scottish haddock by 30%.

Fisheries Minister, Elliot Morley talks to the Today programmeq
Fisheries minister, Elliot Morley, said: "We have no choice but to make cuts because if we didn't some fish stocks would collapse. We know that very well. We don't have a great deal of choice about this."

The government says that historically heavy fishing has helped to exhaust stocks.

[ image: Dwindling stocks means pricier fish and chips]
Dwindling stocks means pricier fish and chips
Modern boats are increasingly efficient and are catching more fish.

Fishermen say they want to reduce the pressure on stocks but insist their industry cannot cope with deep cuts in quotas.

Barrie Deas of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations said: "Well I think that if these recommendations go ahead as proposed it will be catastrophic for the industry.

"No industry can sustain that level of cut in their activity. We are hopeful that the politicians will intervene to moderate the level of cuts. Because at the end of the day there has to be a balance between rebuilding the stocks and keeping fishing vessels viable."

A shortage of stocks inevitably means higher prices for consumers.

British fishermen catch barely a third of the cod they were landing 30 years ago. The fish are smaller as well as being more costly.

They are the warning signs of a population of fish closer than ever to exhaustion.

David Pessell: "Many stocks are under threat"
Fisherman David Pessell told the BBC that although stocks were under threat, the quotas for boats in the south-west of England are already "very small indeed".

He said: "The French are allowed to catch six times as many cod as we are in the English Channel, so you will understand British fishermen's reluctance to undertake conservation measures when any thing they do, the French will just come in and clear up the residue every time.

"If you carry on cutting the quotas because of mismanagement of the fisheries what will really happen is that you will begin to erode the infrastructure of your markets."

Mr Pessell added: "You'll no longer have any fishing boats, you'll no longer have any fishing communities or fish markets."

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