|BRUSSELS - The European Union executive presented long-term plans on Thursday to prevent more overfished species disappearing from EU waters, calling for some areas to be closed and trawlermen to limit the days they spend at sea.|
Fresh from his success at persuading EU ministers over a strategy to boost alarmingly low numbers of cod and hake, Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler has turned his gaze to three other species that are also on the verge of collapse.
For sole, hake caught in southern waters -- the first plan refers just to northern hake -- and a shellfish known as the Norway lobster, there would be annual 10 percent reductions in catches and limits put on days that fishermen may go to sea.
Each plan would run from five to 10 years, or until scientists say fish stocks have returned to sustainable levels.
The method of calculating the \"day limits\" has proved controversial in the past and has been left open for EU ministers, who must agree to any plan before it can become law.
In the cod plan, for example, Fischler had proposed using a vessel\'s engine size as the basis for the days in a month that it could go to sea -- but this idea was so unpopular among ministers that it was withdrawn from the final agreement.
Stocks of all three species are close to collapse after years of overfishing, say scientists, who have called for a total fishing ban for southern hake until stocks can recover.
Stocks of southern hake, in waters from the Bay of Biscay to the west coast of Portugal, were estimated at 16,000 tonnes in 2003, for example. The recommended minimum is 35,000 tonnes.
For the Norway lobster, a shellfish that looks like a cross between a large prawn and small lobster, the plan calls for five fishing grounds to be closed around the Iberian peninsula.
\"We are now on the right path to sustainability. The sooner these new plans are in place, the better for all concerned,\" Fischler said in a statement.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE