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Welcome boost for fishermen

PUBLISHED: 10:58 07 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:00 05 July 2010

Beleaguered fishermen in the region could be in for a welcome boost after an eminent scientist said cod stocks had been replenished enough to allow an increase in fishing quotas in the North Sea.

Beleaguered fishermen in the region could be in for a welcome boost after an eminent scientist said cod stocks had been replenished enough to allow an increase in fishing quotas in the North Sea.

Scientists make an annual report to the European Commission, and every December quota allowances, which stipulate the amount of fish legally permitted to be taken from the sea, are agreed.

Last year, North Sea cod quotas increased by 11pc, and Dr Joe Horwood, chief fisheries' science adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said this year's findings indicated a rise in stocks and the potential for higher quotas to be agreed.

“Young cod are surviving more and allowing a mature cod stock to build. You could increase quota and it would still be a very strong conservation measure,” said Dr Horwood, who is also chief scientist at the Lowestoft-based Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).

Cod is a British favourite and the demand resulted in depleting stocks, with strict quotas introduced for the North Sea to promote sustainable fishing and help replenish stocks.

“Cod stock is still in a poor condition. In the 1970s, mature cod stock was at a quarter of a million tonnes. A few years back this went down to 30,000. To reduce pressure on cod stocks the marine white fish fleet has been reduced by 60-70pc. We have a system where below 70,000 tonnes is a red light and above 150,000 tonnes is a green light,” added Dr Horwood.

He said latest figures would indicate a stock of 70,000 tonnes, with significant increases predicted.

Cefas scientists participate in the assessment under the umbrella of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

Earlier in the year, the EDP reported that fisherman in Lowestoft and Southwold had noticed an increase in cod stocks, although they are still only allowed to land an allocated quota.

Lowestoft-based fisherman Melvin Robinson, who is involved in a

Defra-funded pilot study into the environmental impact of boats, said the advice was good news for the struggling industry. Vessels taking part in the scheme are exempt from quota restriction.

He said: “It's about time and we welcome the news. But quotas won't change until next year and that still leaves lots of boats not taking part in the study with five months of pitifully small quotas that average at two fish a day.

“This is a mixed fishery so you can't help catching it even if you are not fishing for it. Fish caught and discarded doesn't help anybody and does not conserve the stocks. Raising the quota will benefit everybody.”


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