Resentment runs deep

EU's cod quota reduction generates controversy

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

 Fisherfolk and greens at logg (Credit: European Union)two diametrically opposite views have emerged after the recently concluded negotiations of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of the European Union (eu). While uk fisherfolk are opposing new cuts in North Sea cod fishing quotas imposed by the eu, environmental groups have criticised the commission for not imposing a complete ban. The latter view assumes importance in view of scientists' observation that cod stocks in northern eu waters are at their lowest levels ever.

The meet saw cod fishing quotas being cut by 45 per cent and restrictions being imposed on cod fishing in the North Sea for 15 days per month during 2003. In other words, fisherfolk can still catch 22,659 tonnes of cod.

The move has been criticised by fishing communities in the uk and also by environmentalists -- albeit for different reasons. The fisherfolk, who net 50 per cent of the total North Sea cod, claim that the 45 per cent cut could destroy the Scottish fishing industry, threatening 20,000 jobs. But, uk fisheries minister Elliot Morley says that the government is looking to help the industry. He hopes the agreement will kickstart fish stock recovery.

Countries such as the uk were instrumental in watering down the European Commission's initial proposal of an 80 per cent cut in cod quotas and restriction of seven days. The final agreement falls drastically short of a complete ban recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, on whose advice the commission drew up its proposal.

For this reason, the decision has not found favour with environmentalists. The World Wide Fund for Nature, which had also called for a total moratorium on cod fishing, believes the final agreement was "the death sentence for cod in the North Sea".

Severe over-fishing of cod since the 1960s in the Newfoundland coast of Canada led to a collapse of cod fisheries by 1992. In the late 1960s, the North Sea cod spawning stock was at its largest -- around 250,000 tonnes -- a level far lower than the 1-1.5 million tonne spawning stock of Canadian cod in the corresponding period. The landings in 1987 were the least in 20 years. The last time the full quota for cod (of 120,000 tonnes) was landed was in 1995. In 2000, cod quotas were about 40,000 tonnes.

eu commissioner Franz Fischler stated that the new agreement would come into effect from February 1, 2003, as a "transitional measure".

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