BIG reductions in the size of the North Sea and west of Scotland cod and haddock quotas for next year are being advised by ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas.
If they are adopted, even in a reduced or modified form, they will have a major impact on the future performance of the Scottish fleet.
The proposals, which follow calls for large scale cuts in the Barents Sea cod and haddock catches next year, will also put further upward pressure on the price of the two most popular white fish species in the UK – pressure that is already bearing down on the country’s seafood processors.
A number of supermarkets have switched contracts in the past year in an effort to curb fish price inflation, but it has been at the cost of many production jobs.
The big shock is cod with ICES recommending that the total allowable catch in 2019 be almost halved (47 per cent) from 51,000 tonnes to 28,200 tonnes.
The recommended haddock quota for the North Sea, Skagerrak and west of Scotland region is 35,671 tonnes, down by 27 per cent from this year’s total of 48,085 tonnes.
The ICES research has shown that the North Sea and Skagerrak cod stock is in poor condition and is being too heavily fished.
While the haddock stock is generally in good condition, ICES says reductions in catch rates are needed because of high mortality.
The situation is a reversal from two years ago when North Sea cod was reported to be making a major recovery. Part of the decline over the past 12 months is thought to be due to poor recruitment.
But there is better news on plaice and whiting. The recommended plaice quota is only marginally down, from 142,481 tonnes to 139,052 tonnes, and the whiting quota also down by just 800 tonnes to 25,302 tonnes. And a 23,000 tonne increase in saithe is being suggested.
ICES said the plaice stock is in a sound condition and that should remain the case, provided the fishery is harvested sensibly.