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SFF Welcomes Demanding Deal on Cod Recovery

UK - Scottish fishermen have welcomed the new cod recovery plan agreed at the EC Fisheries Council in Brussels today (19 November). It is hoped the new framework agreement will pave the way for a sustainable fisheries management programme that will conserve cod stocks whilst at the same time reduce discards.

According to Scottish Fishermen's Federation, the plan has set a tough target of 25% reduction in cod mortality in the first year – the amount of fish taken out of the sea – but in return fishermen should be able to land more, rather than dump dead fish back into the sea.

Under the new arrangement, control of how to meet the target will rest with member states and their industries, rather than centrally by Brussels. Responsibility, and with it the opportunity to properly demonstrate stewardship of the natural resource, will be in local hands.

In Scotland’s case, the reduction in cod mortality will be achieved by a variety of ‘cod avoidance’ measures including real-time closures of fishing grounds and technical alterations of nets to release unwanted fish. Such measures were spearheaded by Scottish fishermen this year and the EC took into account the success of this scheme by making it the framework of the new plan.

Bertie Armstrong, SFF chief executive, said: “The essence of this plan is to catch less by avoiding cod, with the payback being that fishermen are allowed to land more fish. The target is very demanding, but we have the benefit of a year’s worth of experience in cod avoidance measures.”

The deal is the first part of a three-stage process, with the second phase being agreement next week on North Sea quotas jointly managed with Norway (including cod), followed by the setting of the final quotas for EU states for both North Sea and West coast grounds at the December Fisheries Council.

“We will now be working hard to achieve our new 25% reduction target by further developing and refining the conservation measures that we have pioneered this year,” said Mr Armstrong.

“We hope that today’s deal will lead to a significant increase in the North Sea cod quota when the EU and Norway meet next week to decide upon catch allocations. Today’s agreement is significant in that we now have an EC plan that takes fish conservation seriously and gives the cod stock a realistic chance of recovery.”