Bad news for whiting, herring, cod and other stocks, says Commission –

Bad news for whiting, herring, cod and other stocks, says Commission Published:  08 June, 2007

Joe Borg

THE European Commission today underlined that the health report for some key fish stocks is “rather bad.”

Commenting on the publication today by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) of a report on the state and perspectives of certain fish stocks, the Commission says it looks forward to studying this report in detail with a view to making the necessary proposals for action over the coming months.

The news is “rather bad,” says the Commission regarding the state of a number of important commercial European fish stocks, in particular for herring in the Celtic Sea and Northwest of Ireland, for both Baltic cod stocks, for herring and whiting in the North Sea and Norway pout. ICES has again advised the closure of fishing for cod in the North Sea and in the Kattegat. It has also called for the establishment of fishing possibilities at levels closer to scientific advice and for improved effectiveness of the days-at-sea scheme for fishing vessels to help bring more stocks to sustainable levels.

Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs said: “The Commission is grateful to ICES for making its advice on a number of stocks available much earlier in the year than is normally the case. This will provide more time for in-depth consultation with Member States and stakeholders before the Commission tables its proposal for fishing opportunities on these stocks towards the end of the year.”

The Commission says it has begun consulting stakeholders and Member States concerning appropriate levels of total allowable catches (TACs.) Yesterday, it published a Communication reviewing decision-making in the past few years, and opening a consultation process on ways to improve the setting of fishing opportunities. The idea, it says, is to develop agreed guidelines for setting fishing opportunities in a way that will allow the recovery of fish stocks but will still provide the highest possible stability for the fishing sector. These guidelines could then be used to translate the scientific advice on fish stocks into specific proposals from the Commission.

The Commission says that in general, the picture painted by ICES confirms the need to continue the move towards long-term planning and managing for maximum sustainable yield which the EU has started. The phasing in of a ban on discards, as proposed by the Commission in March, should also make a contribution towards restoring these fisheries to sustainability. The positive state of the saithe stock demonstrates the benefits of fishing at a low and stable rate under a long-term approach. There is also some good news for eastern channel sole, for sole in the Skagerrak and Kattegat and for North Sea sprat.

Concerning specific stocks, the Commission says it expects that fishing on North Sea whiting will have to be reduced. Although the industry’s advice on North Sea herring has been followed, the stock continues to deteriorate and more reductions in catches will be needed. The Commission will be consulting Norway on these topics because the stocks are managed jointly.

While the fishing mortality (proportion of fish killed by fishing) of North Sea cod remains far too high, the 2005 year class remains strong, and if these young cod can be protected from overfishing until they reach spawning age around 2011, they could potentially provide the foundation for the recovery of this stock. This confirms the positive message that emerged from the cod recovery symposium in Edinburgh last March, that North Sea cod is ‘recoverable,’ he Commission adds.

The Commission circulated a technical paper on cod recovery to the Regional Advisory Committees and Member States earlier this week, outlining a more finely-targeted approach to reducing fishing mortality on cod from all the fleets concerned, and looks forward to receiving stakeholders comments. The Commission’s proposal to help cod recover will only be made after this consultation has finished.

In the perspectives for 2008 fishing quotas published yesterday, the Commission pointed out that, in recent years, the Council of Fisheries Ministers has consistently set total allowable catches substantially above the levels recommended by scientists. The impact on fish stocks has been made worse by the fact that these total allowable catches have regularly been overshot. Furthermore, the days-at-sea scheme has not acted as a constraint on the fishing effort of the fleets which have used less that 75% of the allocated time. The Commission is therefore anxious to work closely with Member States and stakeholders to effectively tackle these problems, a move that would go a long way to help the recovery of fish stocks.

The report will now be studied by the Commission’s own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF), which will provide the Commission with detailed advice. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.