North sea cod plan up for review after plea from MEP –

North sea cod plan up for review after plea from MEP Published:  03 February, 2006

FISHERIES Commissioner Joe Borg has agreed that he will instruct Commission officials to undertake a comprehensive review of the North Sea Cod Recover Plan following a plea from Scottish Conservative Euro MP Struan Stevenson.

At a meeting of the Fisheries Committee in Brussels, the Commissioner stated that he would investigate whether there were factors other than over-fishing responsible for the failure of cod stocks to recover. If this was discovered to be the case, he said that current cod recovery measures would have to be revised.

Speaking in Brussels after the meeting Struan Stevenson, front bench Fisheries Spokesman for the Conservatives in the European Parliament said:

“I asked the Commissioner if he could explain why cod stocks had not recovered despite years of savage cuts in TAC’s, quotas, days at sea and despite the fact that 60% of our whitefish fleet has been scrapped in the past 5 years. I said it was very strange that with far fewer vessels fishing for cod and with fishermen only allowed to fish for 12 days a month on severely limited TAC’s and quotas, cod stocks had still stubbornly refused to recover.

“I then reminded the Commissioner that several of us in the Fisheries Committee had visited the Sir Alistair Hardy Foundation in Plymouth University who showed us the results of over 60 years analysis of plankton movements in the North Sea. These scientists demonstrated that because the North Sea has warmed up by around 2 degrees due to global warming, the phytoplankton on which the cod larvae feed has moved 200 miles northwards and is now in abundance around Iceland, the Faeroes and Norway. Indeed most of the cod we now eat in the UK comes from these waters.

“Meanwhile, North Sea cod continues to spawn in its traditional spawning grounds where the newly hatched cod larvae suffer massive mortality due to starvation. Nothing we do will change this situation. No amount of draconian measures and savage regulations will cause an upturn in cod stocks. Not until the North Sea cools down again can we expect to see any change in the situation, but by then we may have completely destroyed the Scottish whitefish fleet.

“I said that it was particularly unacceptable that our whitefish fleet was being told that they must suffer a further significant cut in haddock quotas at a time when even the scientists acknowledged there are huge stocks of haddock in the North Sea. However, because a few cod are sometimes caught in the haddock fishery, the Commission has imposed these cuts in pursuit of their ‘Cod is God’ strategy despite clear signs that this strategy isn’t working. Haddock is of vital importance to the survival of our whitefish industry and we can no longer afford to have the haddock catch sacrificed on the altar of cod recovery. In any case, fishermen tell me that haddock devour young cod, so leaving vast numbers of haddock in the North Sea could be entirely counter-productive.

“In these circumstances I greatly welcome Commissioner Borg’s agreement that he will now pursue a comprehensive review of the Commission’s cod recovery plan in the North Sea. I am certain that he will find that the strategy has been misguided from the outset. Perhaps then our fishermen will be allowed to catch haddock in sustainable quantities which will ensure the survival of our industry.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish European Fish Trader, Fishing Monthly, Fish Farming Today, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.