EUROPEAN Commission officials are desperately seeking alternatives to a decimation of the North Sea’s commercial fishing community, after their scientists advised a one year ban on cod fishing.
The Commission’s scientific committee has now been charged to come up with a fresh plan that will form the basis for discussions at the fisheries council at the end of this month.
Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said: “I don¹t want to say I told you so, but it is galling after repeatedly warning of the dire consequences of inaction to see our worst fears realised and to now be faced with recommendations for a moratorium on some cod fisheries. We now have to recognise that the state of these stocks has never been worse.
“I can see no further solution in the short term than to propose for 2003 a zero total allowable catch for cod, haddock and whiting, along with substantial reductions in plaice catches. This is the most dramatic warning we have ever received. I feel very sorry for the fish themselves and in particular for the people who fish these stocks.”
Commissioner Fischler firmly laid the blame at the door of countries like
Britain, which he said, had tolerated over-fishing for years and had failed to clamp down on fraudulent reporting of catches.
He was also very critical of fishermen leaders, who have hinted that the demise of the cod may not be too high a price to pay for continuing other fisheries.
The news brought the following reaction from the European Anglers Alliance, which claims to represent over 15 million anglers at a Europe wide level.

“The EAA appreciates the EU Commission’s efforts to find an acceptable alternative to the draconian proposal for a moratorium on cod fishing. It is important that any measures address the problem of by-catches and they must also safeguard fishing effort on other more sustainable stocks.
“We will support any proposal from the EU Commission that could possibly save the depleted cod stocks from collapse. But if we believe the proposed alternatives or the Council’s decision are inadequate, we will, however reluctantly, call for a cod closure. “Our fish stocks must have the highest priority. Our over-riding principle must be that EU fisheries policy must become sustainable and allow depleted stocks to recover. At the end of the day this is in the overwhelming interest of all stakeholders and the marine environment.”

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