Belfast Telegraph

EC chiefs call for cod fishing halt

The European Commission has called for a halt to cod fishing for the whole of next year off the West of Scotland and in the Irish sea in a bid to boost conservation.

The crackdown is part of proposed EU catch allowances which signal the start of intense haggling over quotas for fishing fleets in the run-up to a final deal in December.

The Commission insists that, as usual, its annual quota recommendations are based on scientific advice on the state of key stocks and is calling on EU ministers to abandon the usual bidding war to boost national quotas.

The proposals include increased quotas in 2012 for nine stocks, among them haddock, hake, herring, sole as well as cod in some areas, and reduced quotas for 53 stocks.

The package, including the planned freeze on West of Scotland and Irish cod, amounts to an overall quota cut for all fish of 11% compared with this year - the right level, said the Commission, to help stocks recover and ensure sustainable long-term fishing in Europe.

It includes a 25% increase in the West Coast haddock quota thanks to stock recovery, but Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead attacked the rise as "meagre".

Scientific advice should be followed to safeguard valuable stocks, he said, and the first signs of haddock revival off the West of Scotland was welcome.

But he went on: "Seeing the haddock stock recover to sustainable levels should be a cause for celebration, yet the proposals announced today will only punish the fishermen who have worked so hard on conservation.

"Despite scientific advice recommending a 410% increase for the West Coast haddock TAC (Total Allowable Catch), the Commission have only proposed a meagre 25% increase.

"Not only does this penalise our fishermen unnecessarily, but it could also lead to an increase in discarded fish - something both we and the Commission have been working hard to reduce."

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