Current levels of fishing for cod and hake in European Union waters will have to be cut by between 40 and 50%, as part of a long-term stock recovery plan outlined by the European Commission today (Wednesday).

In a Communication to Member States, the Commission said there would have to be strict targets for total allowable catches (TAC’s), using technical measures such as bigger mesh-sizes and improved control and enforcement.

Franz Fischler, EU Commissioner for fisheries and agriculture, said that currently only three out of every ten North Sea cod reached maturity, and 60% of the biomass was fished each year. This inevitably meant low TAC’s for cod and hake for some years, as well as reduced catches for haddock, whiting, plaice and sole among others where cod and hake were also caught.

Although EU Member States resisted drastic cod fishing cuts earlier this year, Brussels hopes that a rebuilding strategy can be implemented from mid-2002, with formal proposals being made in the autumn.

By Alan Osborn, correspondent