Council reaches long-term deal on fishing quotas

EU ministers have agreed on further restrictions for cod fishing, but experts say it is not enough to save the endangered fish from extinction.

EU fisheries ministers on 19 December 2003 reached a deal on EU fishing quotas, which aims to strike a balance between saving cod and other endangered fish while at the same time ensuring a way of life for the EU's fishermen and coastal communities.

While scientists and environmental interest groups had been calling for an outright ban on cod fishing in the North Sea, the Irish Sea and off Western Scotland, the agreement stopped short of such drastic measures. Instead, Commissioner Fischler succeeded in convincing governments to sign up to a long-term plan to boost stocks of cod and northern hake.

The Council also agreed on 2004 fishing quotas, which include doubling the maximum amount of haddock fishermen may catch, while the endangered fish cod and hake remained fixed at last year's level.

Another sticking point concerned the proposed limits on the days fishermen will be allowed to spend at sea. The Council decided that fishermen who can prove that they catch little or no cod will have the right to take their boats out more often.

Research has shown that cod stocks in the North Sea currently only reach 10 per cent of their 1970 levels.

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