EC catch plans come under heavy fire –

EC catch plans come under heavy fire Published:  08 December, 2004

FISHERMEN’S leaders and UK Government ministers alike today vowed to fight European Commission catching plans, which they said were out of date and too extreme.

The Commission’s proposals were unveiled in Brussels this morning.

As in previous years, the Commission said it proposes a “systematic” approach to fish stocks for next year’s catching according to their biological state.

For the most depleted stocks or those associated with them, the Commission proposes:

* For stocks subject to recovery plans: cod in the North Sea, Kattegat, Skagerrak,eastern Channel, west of Scotland, Irish Sea – “necessary” increased restrictions on fishing effort mainly through the establishment of closed areas.

* Stocks for which recovery plans are in the pipeline: southern hake, Iberian-Atlantic Nephrops, Bay of Biscay and western Channel sole, eastern Baltic cod and North Sea plaice – adapted TACs and associated measures in anticipation of recovery or management plans.

* For stocks in mixed fisheries, such as haddock and whiting in the North Sea and west of Scotland (caught with cod) or sole (plaice), the Commission proposes restrictions to protect the associated depleted stocks.

Scottish Fisheries Minister, Ross Finnie immediately restated the Scottish Executive’s opposition to closing areas of the North Sea to fishing activity where there is no evidence of conservation benefit.

He said: “Advice on some valuable stocks is more helpful this year and this is reflected in the Commission’s proposals published today. We will be pressing the case for increased quotas on monkfish and prawns.

“However proposals on closed areas have already been overtaken by the advice from the Commission’s own technical advisers and fly in the face of representations by the newly formed North Sea Regional Advisory Council.

“We will always take account of scientific advice on threatened stocks while pushing for greater opportunities to fish healthy stocks. There is no case for this closed area and we will oppose it unreservedly.”

George MacRae, the secretary of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association said that they had been told not to pay too much attention to the Commission’s closed area proposals, which were based on science now superseded.

“These plans are totally unacceptable are not based on up to date science – where is the economic assessment of these proposals?

“Significant strides have been taken already to assist cod recovery and the maintenance of other stocks which are in good heart and in these circumstances,closed areas are a sign of desperation on the part of the Commission who have apparently run out of ideas and have a mindset that you have to have management and control or nothing can happen.

“It is quite clear there have been significant reductions in cod and haddock mortality and there is no justification for closed areas.”

Significant points from the Commission’s catch recommendations are for a cut of nearly 27% in the Western mackerel EU share and increases of more than 12% in the Western and North Sea prawn fisheries; there is no change recommended in the West Coast and North Sea monk fisheries. Also recommended is a drop of nearly 13% in the North Sea haddock fishery and a 16.87% increase in the West Coast area 5B and 6A haddock fishery. No change is recommended in North Sea cod but a near 15% drop in cod fishing in West Coast areas 5B, 6, 12 and 14.

Whiting in the North Sea is recommended for a 61% increase but a standstill on the West Coast, with North Sea herring in line for a 15.74% rise.

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