EU rules out cod fishing ban, eyes strict curbs
BRUSSELS - The European Union rejected yesterday a call from scientists for an indefinite ban on cod fishing in northern Europe, where fisheries are on the brink of collapse after years of over-exploitation.
But faced with the lowest numbers of fish ever recorded, EU Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said the executive European Commission was likely to propose an effective moratorium on cod fishing next year.
Last week, the Denmark-based International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) urged the Commission to outlaw cod fishing in northern waters.
\"Needless to say that the economic impact of taking the ICES advice literally would leave many coastal areas in deep trouble,\" Fischler said in a statement.
\"This is why I am duty-bound to think about whether there are any alternatives to taking this dramatic advice to the letter,\" he said.
But Fischler said the EU\'s current plans would probably not do enough to save the cod fisheries and warned that failure would have serious social and economic consequences.
\"Instead of going too far, it is clear that our proposal falls short of what is required. We will have to review what needs to be done in the light of the latest scientific advice.\"
Fischler said the Commission would present EU fisheries ministers with a new proposal on November 11.
It is likely to include a zero-catch quota for cod fishing for member states in 2003, even though that would have a great impact on fishing communities in Ireland and Scotland.
The zero quota would also apply to certain species of fish caught along with cod, including haddock and whiting, he said.
The Commission has already proposed a recovery plan for devastated fish stocks, which envisages reductions in cod and hake catches. But ministers have spent a year arguing about the plan with no conclusion in sight.
Fischler told a news conference to discuss the ICES report that the new plan would also introduce legislation on cod catches and stricter monitoring.
At present, EU member states are solely responsible for inspections of their catch, but under Fischler\'s plan Brussels will have the power to impose sanctions for violations.
The ICES report showed that previous data on cod stocks were distorted by misreporting and illegal landings, Fischler said.
Story by Niamh Keegan
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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