From: Christian Wienberg, Associated Press
Published October 19, 2004 12:00 AM

Expert Panel Recommends Sharp Cuts in Fishing for Some North Sea Stocks

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Catches of cod and other fish stocks must be drastically reduced or even stopped in the North Sea to help populations recover from years of overfishing, an independent expert panel said Monday.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and its 1,600 scientists from 19 countries monitor the North Sea and adjacent bodies of water and make annual recommendations to governments and the European Union for setting quotas.

"There is still no clear sign that cod stocks in the North Sea, Irish Sea, and west of Scotland are making a recovery. It seems that the fishing efforts on these stocks are still too high," said the council's general secretary David Griffith.

The E.U. has already imposed some restrictions on cod fishing, as certain waters are closed off temporarily during spawning and quotas have been cut to historic lows.

A statement issued after the group's meeting in the western Norwegian city of Bergen repeated past recommendations for a complete halt of fishing for cod in the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and west of Scotland.

It said cod stocks were seriously depleted, with 46,000 tons estimated for 2004: less than one-third of the recommended minimum of 150,000 tons.

The council said its full report would be released to governments on Friday to assist in setting quotas. It can been difficult or nearly impossible for governments to shut down large sectors of the fishing industry despite recommendations.

The recommendations were largely in line with those of recent years.

There is some good news in the report, including that North Sea haddock stocks are estimated to be at 460,000 tons — a 30-year high and more than three times the recommended minimum.

However, the council warned that cod is often caught together with haddock, and the industry needs to find ways of avoiding such by-catches.

The council also recommended that fishing for hake in the waters of southern Biscay be stopped next year because of depleted stocks. It also called for catches of plaice in the North Sea to be cut 55 percent and the harvest of sand-eels in the same waters to be cut by more than 40 percent.

The council's Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management prepares its recommendations based on input from scientists, fishers, and samples taken from fish markets, fishing boats, and open ocean research.

The Copenhagen, Denmark–based group monitors about 135 types of fish and makes its recommendation twice a year.

The members of the council are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Source: Associated Press

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