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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 06:55 GMT
Sandeel fishing ban is extended
Puffin with sandeels - image supplied by Chris Gomersall/RSPB
Sandeels are a source of food for puffins
EU ministers have extended the ban on sandeel fishing for a further 12 months in an effort to protect the UK's seabird population.

It covers the north-east coast of Scotland to Northumberland and also includes the Wee Bankie off the Firth of Forth.

The ban was first introduced in 2000 to safeguard populations of puffins and kittiwakes.

RSPB Scotland said it "applauded" efforts to protect seabirds.

Puffins and kittiwakes depend on sandeels for food during the breeding season.

Commercial fish species such as cod and mackerel also feed on sandeels.

The ban was secured at December's European Union Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels, with the backing of the UK.

Research last year found that sandeels stocks in the North Sea were seriously depleted.

The sandeel quota for 2004 should have been slashed by Brussels here
Euan Dunn, RSPB Scotland
The Danish fleet, which dominates North Sea sandeel fishing, had a catch limit of nearly one million tonnes last year but could only catch 300,000 tonnes.

RSPB Scotland said this statistic should have been cause for concern but EU ministers went against scientific advice and agreed a catch limit of 826,000 tonnes for 2004.

Euan Dunn, senior marine policy officer for RSPB Scotland, said: "These are stormy and difficult times for our fishing industry and any shred of good news is to be welcomed.

"We applaud the government's efforts in securing the ban on sandeel fishing off our coast.

"However, the total lack of precaution towards catch limits for industrial fisheries in the wider North Sea is not good news for the seabirds or commercial fish, whose diet is crucially dependent on sandeels.

"If we are serious about promoting the recovery of our precious cod and haddock stocks and protecting our marine wildlife the sandeel quota for 2004 should have been slashed by Brussels."


SEE ALSO:
Ministers consider sandeel fishing ban
14 Dec 99  |  Science/Nature


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