French and British fishermen are protesting against the EU’s plans to drastically reduce fishing off European coasts in an aim to replenish dwindling fish stocks.

Around 200 boats were expected to arrive at the mouth of the River Tyne to take part in a protest against the planned reduction in cod fishing in the North Sea, although poor weather has meant that fewer than 100 boats have turned out to protest.

Speaking in the European Parliament last week, EU Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler proposed a long-term recovery plan for cod and hake that would involve drastic reductions in next year’s total allowable catches of cod and haddock in particular. Scientific advice given to the Commission was for a closure of targeted cod fishing in the North Sea, Irish Sea, West of Scotland, Skaggerak and Kattegat. A ban on haddock and whiting fishing has also been recommended because cod are often caught as well.

Fishermen have rejected claims that cod stocks are within 12 months away from total collapse. Dennis Clark, a fisherman who sails his trawler out of North Shields, told BBC Online, “We're not against conservation but it's over-dramatic to say cod is on the verge of extinction. The cod stocks might be down but the haddock stock is the best I've seen in 30 years and they want us to stop fishing those as well.”

In France, fishermen are grouping together near the French port of Boulogne to take part in a protest in the form of a blockade. The planned blockade is expected to cause chaos in the Channel, which is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The fishermen plan to prevent all ferries and other boats from entering and leaving the French ports of Boulogne, Calais and Dunkerque, and the Belgian ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge from 0900 GMT to 1700 GMT today [Wednesday].

For further information about the proposed reduced fishing quotas, click here.