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Cod fishing. (Photo: Maritimedecks)

Long-term plan for cod stocks

Thursday, December 20, 2012, 02:40 (GMT + 9)

After lengthy EU Fisheries Council negotiations in Brussels, European fisheries ministers have voted against the cut in cod fishing quotas and the reduction of the number of days fishermen can spend at sea.

The Council reached a political agreement by unanimity on the basis of a Presidency's proposal for a regulation amending regulation establishing a long-term plan for cod stocks and the fisheries exploiting those stocks.

This will allow the Council to introduce flexibility in setting the total allowable catches (TACs), to reflect the scientific advice on a case by case basis, and freeze effort allocations under certain conditions.

The decision has been welcomed by the Scotland's Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead who is leading the Scottish delegation at the fish talks in Brussels.

"It is great news for Scotland's fishing industry that very early on we have succeeded in securing some key priorities.

"For the first time in many years our fishermen will be able to sleep a little easier this Christmas with the threat of a further cut in days at sea and also a 20% cut in cod quota fading," said Lochhead.

Richard Benyon, UK Fisheries Minister, also welcomed the outcome of the negotiations. "I have been arguing for a long time that reducing the amount of time that fishermen have to catch their cod quota is bad for sustainability as it forces fishermen to catch closer to shore, often on spawning grounds.

"That is why this change is a major step forward as it will allow cod quota and the amount of time fishermen can spend at sea to be based on solid scientific evidence rather than an out-of-date plan."

The chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SSF), Bertie Armstrong, commented: "It's a good start. It means we can now get on with getting the maximum sustainable tonnage of fish to catch next year, without the spectre of something really difficult hanging over our heads."

The EU cod recovery plan enforces automatic cuts in North Sea quotas and catch days are revised and put in place each year. The cod recovery plan aims to get the fish back to the optimal level by 2015.

As a result of the negotiations in Brussels, total allowable catches will be removed in favour of using the best available evidence to set quotas.

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