Russian Trawlers Flout Cod Quotas in Arctic
OSLO, Norway Russian trawlers are flouting cod quotas in the Arctic in a threat to the last major stock of the fish, the WWF environmental group said Friday.
It said figures based on Russia's own accounting indicated that Russian trawlers were catching 70,000-115,000 tons a year more than the 480,000-ton quota set for the entire Barents Sea under an agreement dividing it 50-50 between Russia and Norway.
"The over-fishing is jeopardizing the future of the cod stock," said Maren Esmark of the WWF, attending a conference in Murmansk, northern Russia. "A fifth of the fish caught is above the quota."
The WWF estimated that Russian overfishing of cod was worth about $150 million. Esmark said the Russian violations were worst, but that Norwegian fishermen were also to blame.
"Russians are far from alone in illegal fishing in the Barents Sea," she said.
No estimates were available for possible Norwegian violations in the Barents Sea, but a Norwegian report in 2004 indicated that over-fishing of all species, from herring to cod, along the Norwegian coast was worth about $120 million a year.
Stocks of Atlantic cod off Canada collapsed in the early 1990s and stocks in the North Sea have also plunged. More than half the total Atlantic cod catch of about 800,000 tons a year now comes from the Barents Sea.
"Russian overfishing is destroying the image of the Barents Sea. It's reasonably well managed compared to the North Sea or Canada," Esmark said.
The WWF said that ports in European Union nations including Britain and the Netherlands had landed Russian cod caught in violation of quotas. Esmark said ports and supermarkets should be stricter in checking the origin of imported fish.