On 19/12/03 European Union fisheries ministers
agreed to lower the annual catches of certain fish allowed,and introduce
new restrictions on how often boats can go to sea to fish in EU waters,
which seems to be an attempt to reverse the continuing decline in fish
stocks of certain species.
This new plan for the long-term recovery of
plaice ,cod and hake alleged to be the first ever agreed by a majority
of member states, which are facing the danger that some fish species
could disappear from EU waters altogether.
Such a disappearance of stocks would be very similar
to the experience of the Grand Banks in Canada's, where stocks of cod
failed to recover from over fishing and the local fishing industry was
almost entirely closed as a result.
Ministers agreed to a 66 per cent
cut in cod fishing, but the ICES (International Council for the Exploration
of the Seas) which advises the commission on such issues, has called
for a complete shut-down of cod fishing to protect stock levels, but
the compromise agreement reached by Ministers in Brussels allows fishermen
to increase catches of non-threatened species to keep their industries
EU agriculture and fisheries commissioner Franz Fischler,
said: "This decision shows that the reform of the fisheries policy
is not a 'paper tiger', or rather 'paper cod'. It takes account of the
social aspects - fishermen will be able to continue fishing at a reduced
level and will not have to stop altogether; but at the same time the
compromise is also justifiable in biological terms since long-term recovery
plans will be in force for the first time for endangered stocks."
Numbers of cod in areas such as the North Sea are causing
real concern, with some scientists pointing out that they are well below
safe and sustainable limits.
Marine scientists from ICES, have warned
that a complete collapse in cod stocks, with no eventual recovery, is possible.
new recovery plans, which have been customized to meet the diversity
of each region, will replace quota-setting, which has proved ineffective
in protecting and sustaining fish stocks.
The plans involve not only tighter
quotas and restrictions on the amount of days boats are at sea but tighter
policing to enforce these new regimes.
Illegal fishing in some areas has been
blamed as a factor in the decline of North Sea cod, so it seems that the
European Commission are going to force the UK to improve its enforcement
regimes, if it is not seen to be taking serous steps to protect fish stocks.
new cod recovery plan aims to increase stocks in the North Sea by around 30
per cent a year and reach sustainable levels over the next five to 10 years.