EC to amend cod plan



The European Commission has tabled an amendment to the long-term management plan for cod in the North Sea, the Skagerrak, the Eastern Channel, the Kattegat, the West of Scotland and the Irish Sea.

The plan aims at bringing cod stocks to sustainable levels. It has now been revised in the light of an evaluation by scientists and of feedback from the fishing sector and Member States.

In the new plan, a series of technical amendments are proposed, including more in order to avoid an automatic reduction of total allowable catches (TAC) and fishing effort by 25% every year in cases of lack of certain scientific data. Also, incentives are given to member states to make their fishermen reduce discarding of unwanted fish. For example, in fisheries where all catches are counted against quotas, the vessels participating in anti-discard trials should be exempt from the effort regime.

In the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, the Commission has proposed to gradually replace single-species management plans by multi-species, mixed-fishery plans. This amendment to the cod plan is an interim solution pending the development and implementation of such a novel mixed-fishery long-term plan for the North Sea area.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Association says that the proposed amendment to the cod plan could bring a degree of relief to Scotland’s hard-pressed fishermen next year if the measures are implemented sensibly.

The SFF has been strongly campaigning for a revision of the existing plan, which it says is crippling the Scottish fleet through automatic annual cuts in quota and the number of days that vessels are allowed to fish. But now the amendment that proposes more flexibility in the way the plan is implemented so as to avoid these automatic cuts in cases lacking certain scientific data.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF said: “The current cod plan is the epitome of bad fisheries management and has put huge strain on Scottish fleet for little conservation gain.

“We believe that some of these amendments are direct recognition of the pioneering role the Scottish fleet has played in stock conservation and discard reduction in recent years by developing and adopting our own effective management measures that have included technical alterations to gear and real-time fishing closures.

“The devil will be in the detail of these new amendment proposals from the EC, but initial signs suggest that they are a welcome move in the right direction.”