The European Commission proposed drastic cuts in the allowable catches of some of Britain’s most popular fish today (1 December).  Brussels said it had no alternative following scientific warnings that cod, whiting and hake stocks “are in severe danger of collapse.”

In the west of Scotland, the Commission proposes a 2001 cod catch of 3,300 tonnes, a 56% reduction on this year’s quota. In fact, cod has been so scarce recently that the Scottish fishing fleet has been able to land barely half of its entitlement. Brussels also seeks a 35% reduction in whiting in this area, to 2,800 tonnes.

For the Northern hake stock, extending from north Denmark to the Bay of Biscay, the Commission proposes a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 11,000 tonnes for 2001 – down 74% compared to this year. The changes for cod and whiting in the North Sea are expected shortly, the outcome of negotiations between the EU and Norway, which co-manage these stocks.

Because cod, whiting and hake evolve with other species and can therefore be caught unintentionally, a 20% cut has been ordered for catches of stocks that directly link with the endangered fish, such as plaice, sole, Norway lobster, skates and brill. For west Scotland haddock, the Commission is demanding a reduction of 40%.

The Commission proposed to retain the same TAC for pelagic species such as herring, mackerel and horse mackerel, and for pelagic species that support industrial fisheries – sandeel, blue whiting and some sprat stocks.

“Stocks need to be rebuilt. This requires a two-pronged approach involving a significant decrease in total catches and measures to protect spawning and young fish”, said Commissioner Franz Fischler.


By Alan Osborn, correspondent