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WWF: North Sea Cod Stocks Hung Out to Dry

by the Fish Site Editor
12 November 2008, at 12:00am

EU - WWF today welcomed proposals by the European Commission to cut back on fishing for North Sea sole and prawn (nephrops) in 2009, but expressed disappointment at the lack of protection for recovering North Sea cod stocks.

Negotiations between the EU and Norway will now be critical in ensuring enough cod are left in the water for depleted populations to recover.

“The Commission has set out some encouraging proposals, especially for North Sea sole and nephrops,” said Giles Bartlett, Fisheries Policy Officer at WWF-UK. “But it is disappointing that it could not set out clear recommendations for North Sea cod stocks, whose recovery is jeopardised by the high level of discarding.

“WWF hopes that this delay in issuing recommendations means that the Commission is seeking a solution to this issue. Every year thousands of tonnes of North Sea cod are needlessly thrown overboard, making a mockery of the whole quota system.”

Quotas cut

The Commission proposed a 25% cut in the fishing quota for cod off the west of Scotland. But WWF has warned that stricter regulations are needed to preserve cod stocks in this and other parts of the North Sea.

We have called for all North Sea fisheries to use selective gear that avoids catching cod in the first place. We also want fishing to be stopped in areas with large concentrations of cod.  

Opportunity

Last week WWF released a report showing the positive results such technical measures can bring. Norway’s cod and groundfish fisheries have benefited from the mandatory use of selective fishing gear such as sorting grids, which reduce the likelihood of catching cod unintentionally. Key spawning areas have also been closed to fishing, allowing stocks to recover.

“Now Norway has an opportunity to drive a deal on tackling discards through its negotiations with the EU over fishing rights in the North Sea,” added Bartlett.

“Last year the EU agreed to cut its huge discards to 10% and we are calling on Europe’s fisheries ministers to honour that commitment.”

the Fish Site Editor