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North Sea Cod Stocks on Increase for Sixth Year in a Row

02 July 2012, at 1:00am

UK - The situation with North Sea cod stocks is improving according to the latest ICES figures released on Friday 29 June in Copenhagen.

Upper confidence limits of estimated cod stock size (81,000 tonnes) have now passed the minimum desired level (Blim) of 70,000 tonnes for the first time since 1998, although the estimated level of 65,000 tonnes at the start of 2012 is still just below that figure. Anticipated stock size will pass the Blim level, if this year's predictions are correct.

Figures show that North Sea cod stocks have increased significantly in the past six years and that measures taken by the UK fleet in managing the fishing of cod are having a positive effect on numbers.

Seafish Chief Economist, Hazel Curtis, said of the report: "North Sea cod is now classed as being harvested sustainably according to the precautionary approach. The size of the stock has more than doubled in the last six years.

"However, there is mixed news here for our fishing industry.

"In the short term, fishing opportunities in the North Sea cod recovery zone could still reduce further, even if quotas increase again the permitted days at sea may not. This means that many businesses could continue to find it challenging to operate profitably.

"On the positive side, the sustained efforts of our fishing fleet to fish more selectively and allow the cod stock to increase have delivered steady increases in the stock size, so we can be more confident that a further increase will be achieved and that sustainable cod quotas could be larger in the medium and longer term. There is cause for optimism for businesses that can weather a few more years of tough restrictions."

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "We are committed to sustainable fisheries, supporting the stock recovery that will in turn underpin the future success of the Scottish fishing industry. If the scientific advice published today is followed at the end of year EU Council, it will mean both opportunities and challenges for our fleet.

"This advice demonstrates that that there has been a remarkable and welcome turn around from two years ago when there were quota cuts across the board. Im pleased that the advice points to continuing healthy increases in quota for most of our key commercial stocks, reflecting a positive picture in their sustainability and abundance.

"On cod, the stock is showing continued signs of recovery from previously low levels, however progress isnt fast enough. Thats why a reduction for 2013 is proposed under the long-term management however our cod quota would still be around ten per cent more than in 2007.

"The overall picture promises significant economic benefits for the Scottish fleet and could see around a 10 million increase in the value of landings, if all quotas are caught. However, we will need to work closely with fishermen to see how we can avoid a reduced cod quota leading to significant increases in discards.

"The mixed fishery of the North Sea makes it difficult to avoid cod, therefore we will need to find creative solutions that maximise sustainable fishing opportunities. In the coming months we will be engaging closely with industry on this.

The figures provide evidence that innovations in management practice, catch handling and reduction in discards made by the UK fleet, often on a voluntary basis, are beginning to have the desired effect on cod stocks.

The development of new gear selectivity, catch-quota trials and real time closures of areas with high concentrations of young fish have been at the forefront of improving stock size. If numbers continue to recover, the industry could be looking at a brighter future.

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