There is to be a 30 per cent increase in next year’s fishing quota for North Sea cod following a deal struck by EU ministers. Catches for several other species will be reduced. The quotas are a compromise between conservationists who say some fish stocks are on the verge of collapse and fishermen who fear for their livelihoods. In the North Sea quotas have been increased for cod, plaice, mackeral and for west of Scotland monkfish.
It is hoped the deal will save the Scottish fishing industry. A cut in the prawn quota for trawlers operating off western Scotland was less than the 15 per cent the European Commission had been looking for. “We sought and finally reached this delicate balance, it was difficult but very significant as it was achieved in a climate of cooperation,” said Michel Barnier, the French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. “We have equilibrium between the responsible and sustainable management of fragile fisheries resources and the activities of the fishermen.” Now trawlers will have to be fitted with new nets allowing threatened species such as cod and hake to slip back into the sea. The new nets are designed to reduce discards, the practice of throwing fish back into the water, even though they are already dead, because quotas have already been exceeded. Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Secretary said there would be huge relief that proposals to close the Scottish west coast fishing grounds had been successfully resisted.