European Fishing Quotas Slashed To Save Species

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 5, 2001 (ENS) - Too many European Union fishing boats are competing for too few fish, resulting in what the European Commission is calling the "alarming state of fish stocks." The commissioners have proposed steep cuts in fishing quotas for 2002.

Quota reductions are the first step in a multi-annual strategy to help the recovery of a number of fish species, in particular cod and hake, "whose capacity to replenish themselves is threatened," the Commission said.

All European Union Member States with fishing fleets will be affected by these reductions in Total Allowable Catches (TACs). Some TACs which were substantially reduced last year will be maintained at those reduced levels this year.

Among the TACs which the Commission proposes to reduce significantly for the first time is the cod TAC in the Kattegat by 58 percent, haddock in the Irish Sea by 52 percent, sole in the North Sea by 25 percent and langoustines in the Bay of Biscay by between 45 and 50 percent.

Scientists also warn that the level of fishing is far too high for haddock in the Irish Sea. In the case of west of Scotland whiting, and sole in the western English Channel, the amount of adult fish able to reproduce is well below the levels required for the regeneration of these species.

The Commission's proposal does not include catch quotas for a group of fish populations that the European Union co-manages with Norway which is not an EU Member State. These 2002 quotas must be decided in the Fisheries Council December 17 and 18.

Commissioner Franz Fischler, who is responsible for agriculture, rural development and fisheries, said, "I am well aware that this is another black day for European fishermen. The Commission is anxious to limit the hardship for fishermen as much as possible. But if we want to avoid the complete extinction of some fish stocks, which would spell the end for our fishermen, decisive action is the only way forward. We have to preserve what our fishermen make their living from - fish."

Fischler called on EU Fisheries Ministers to "show courage and resolve to refrain from political horse-trading and set the TACs at levels that ensure sustainable fisheries."

"We can now see the results of too many years of excessive fishing due to the substantial overcapacity of the EU fleet," Fischler said. "We now have our backs to the wall. The stocks are down and fishing pressure is too high. If we are serious about securing the future of the European fisheries sector, there is no way around significant reduction of catches and fishing."


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