From: Jan M. Olsen, Associated Press
Published October 17, 2006 12:00 AM

North Sea Herring, Hake Stocks Good, but Cod, Flatfish Still Depleted

COPENHAGEN -- Norwegian herring has reached healthy levels and the Northern hake is making a comeback, but stocks of flatfish, cod and sand eel are still depleted in the North Sea, an international marine research group said Monday.


The Copenhagen-based International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, or ICES, was slightly more upbeat than in previous years as it offered a glimpse into its annual report on northeast Atlantic fish stocks to be released Friday.


The advisory body recommended allowing higher catches of Norwegian spring-spawning herring in 2007 because the stock has reached "sustainable levels" in the North Sea.


The Northern hake also appeared to have recovered after being depleted in the 1990s, ICES said, and recommended allowing slightly higher catches in 2007.


But other species, such as cod, anchovy and sand eel were still depleted and ICES recommended zero-catches next year.


"Unfortunately we have not seen clear signals of recovery for the depleted cod stocks," ICES spokesman Martin Pastoors said in a statement.


ICES also called for a reduction in catches of plaice, sole, blue whiting and suggested that no catches be allowed for sharks, which it said are depleted.


The organization has no legislative power but advises European governments on fishing quotas to protect North Sea stocks from overfishing.


EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg welcomed the "positive elements" in the ICES report and said it showed that the "long-term approach to the management of EU fisheries is starting to bear some fruit."


The European Commission warned last month that deep-sea fish stocks in European waters were in danger of collapsing and said such catches should be cut by a third next year and another 33 percent in 2008.


The 25 EU fisheries ministers will decide on new limits at a meeting in December.


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