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Commercial Fishing



UK industry reeling after North Sea cod cut proposal. North Sea cod is in line for a significant quota cut next year, with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommending a 63% reduction to the available catch to just 10,457 tonnes and follows a 47% cut last year.

The assessment by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea says cod is being “harvested unsustainably”.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), told the BBC: “There’s no escaping the fact that this unexpected downturn in the cod stock will be damaging for our fleet.

“However, we have proved before and we will prove again that through a series of responsible, practicable measures to be agreed with government fisheries managers we can overcome the challenge, albeit that this time as we understand it climate change is a very significant factor.

“The fishing industry has a long and noble tradition of adapting to the ever-shifting dynamics of the natural world, and while it won’t be easy, we will do what is necessary to help restore the stock.”

The advice will now be the subject of negotiations between the coastal nations which border the North Sea. It will likely result in a reduction to the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2020 but it will not necessarily be as strict as the advice suggests.

Meanwhile, conservation organisations WWF, ClientEarth and Marine Conservation Society (MCS) are calling on UK governments to introduce emergency measures to secure the future of North Sea cod, following the announcement by marine scientists that species numbers have fallen to a critically low level.

WWF, ClientEarth and MCS have written a joint letter to Environment Secretary Michael Gove and the Scottish Government to demand urgent steps are taken to ensure the recovery of this important cod population.

Helen McLachlan, Fisheries Programme Manager, at WWF, said: “Cod play a crucial role in maintaining healthy oceans. This is a real crisis for our seas and fixing it will require an emergency response from governments. Ministers must listen to scientific advice and take immediate steps to address the dangers of overfishing and poor management of the discard ban on dwindling cod stocks.

“We can’t be credible global leaders in the fight to restore nature if we don’t protect our natural resources here at home. If we are to prevent the collapse of this vital fishery, governments must take action. Failure to act will undermine the health of our precious marine environment and the future of those communities who depend on it for a living.

“The territory is all too familiar for the North Sea cod fishery, which originally collapsed in the 1980s and had been recovering ever since – albeit slowly. North Sea cod has a crucial role to play in a healthy ocean and such dramatic declines in this top predator species can have serious consequences for the whole marine ecosystem.”

Some observers believe the discard ban is partially to blame which increases the amount of cod fishermen can catch but forces them to land it.

Until the change, around 20% of fish caught was thrown back into the sea dead.

Some groups suggest the practice of discarding has continued, meaning even more fish are being caught.

Significant pressures have also come from climate change.