Steep reductions in European Union cod catch quotas are expected to be approved by next week’s key EU Council of Ministers (fisheries) meeting, with Member States being warned that they slash production now or face the collapse of stocks.

The European Commission is warning that cod numbers are precarious throughout EU waters, except in the Celtic Sea, south of Ireland. As a result, it is proposing sharply reduced total allowable catch (TAC) quotas for cod, haddock and whiting (which are caught together) for the North Sea, the Irish Sea, west of Scotland and the Skagerrak waters closer to Norway.

Brussels is also demanding that ministers agree to impose effective policing of these quotas, otherwise it will withdraw its proposal and table a total ban in these areas, where it says "cod stocks are on the edge of collapse."

More tough measures are proposed at the Monday to Wednesday (16-19 December) meeting to protect threatened British monkfish stocks, EU southern hake resources, North Sea plaice and sole and some other localised flatfish stocks.