Cod stocks can recover, says Cook –

Cod stocks can recover, says Cook Published:  09 March, 2007

Barrie Deas

THE view that some cod recovery can be achieved was voiced today by a leading scientist.

Speaking during a press conference after the initial session of a cod recovery symposium being held near Edinburgh, Professor Robin Cook, Director of the FRS Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen, said the majority of cod stock biomass was below safe levels and exploitation also tended to be above safe levels.

But the message from that morning’s opening session was that none of the cod stocks are beyond recovery.

“So we are in a situation that provided we can find the correct management regime, we can achieve some recovery.”

But earlier, Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations said the message from the Commission on recovery had been very much in line with the strategy applied in the past without notable success.

“The Commission have stuck to an approach of restrictions applied top down and the message seemed to be that these have not been applied with sufficient rigour in their view.

“I think the signal coming through is that they will apply them with more rigour and rigidity in future which is not a welcome message.”

But, while he was not surprised at this approach, this made the symposium all the more timely. And he stressed that the environmental changes which were going on must be understood within a new context of cod recovery strategy.

Now he was looking to the next stage of the symposium for alternatives to counter the hard-line approach from Brussels.”This reinforces my view that this symposium is timely and appropriate and as we go to its next stage, we will want to hear alternatives to the current, restrictive and depressing approach which can balance good recovery with the survival of the fishing fleet.”

Mike Park, the Executive Chairman of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, said he would agree that if the Commission stuck to a hard line in their new strategy approach mixed fisheries would be in jeopardy even more.

And what was missing at the moment was the absence of a socio-economic factor in Commission thinking and this had to be put right. “We have to get socio-economic aspects fed in there and I think it is up to us to come up with sensible input to the Commisson.”

MEP Elspeth Attwooll, said she was concerned at what appeared to be a perpetuation of a blanket approach to cod recovery by the Commission.

But there had to be flexibility of policy taking regional differences into consideration.

The symposium continues tomorrow.

*In a special message to the event, Scottish fisheries minister Ross Finnie said that developing an effective and equitable cod recovery plan remained one of the biggest challenges facing the Common Fisheries Policy.But time was short and ideally a new plan was needed by December.

“A new cod recovery plan will only work in practice if it addresses the complexity of the issues at stake and if it has been developed in close collaboration with the sector as a whole,” he said. This was why the symposium was so crucial.