Scottish fishermen’s leaders yesterday warned that skippers will be forced to dump thousands of dead cod at sea next year – despite securing a catch increase for the first time in a decade.
An 11 per cent increase in the North Sea cod catch has been agreed for 2008 following talks between officials of the European Union and Norway.
But Scottish fishermen, who had been campaigning for a 15 per cent rise, claim that the increase will not be enough to prevent a high rate of cod “discards”.
Mike Park, the executive chairman of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, said the settlement would do nothing for cod conservation at a time when Scottish fishermen were at the forefront of voluntary efforts to help replenish North Sea stocks through conservation measures.
He declared: “We worked long and hard all year to try to get the maximum possible increase in the total allowable catch of 15 per cent for cod. Failing to secure that will only lead to an increase in discards. Cod is already having to be dumped back into the sea in significant quantities because of the amount of cod being caught in our mixed fishery.
“The catch rates in 2007 have been the same as in 2000 when we had an 80,000-tonne quota and landed 60,000 tonnes. This year, we have a 20,000 quota so it doesn’t take rocket science to work out the potential rate of discards. This increase is not good for conservation. We will continue to do our utmost to avoid densities of cod but the fairest outcome would have been to give us the maximum increase possible.”
The white-fish fleet, however, is facing at least a 15 cent cut in the quota for haddock, its mainstay catch, and a 25 per cent cut in whiting. The Scottish pelagic fleet is also facing a 9 per cent decrease in its mackerel catch and a 41 per cent cut in the less lucrative herring catch.
Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federations, said: “Cod now attracts disproportionate attention in these negotiations. Its economic impact is small – at a single percentage-figure of Scottish overall whitefish value – but it has become iconic in the minds of the public.”
A spokeswoman for the Marine Conservation Society said: “We feel that any increase in quotas for the North Sea cod stock is premature. In the past, increases in young fish have failed to survive to adulthood and rebuild the stock because of high fishing pressure.”
Q & A: WHAT’S ON THE MENU?
There seems to be a lot of conflicting advice about what species of fish can be eaten without threatening stocks and what species are safe to eat. Should I be ordering a haddock supper at the local chippie?
Certainly. Although the quota has been cut for next year, haddock are by no means under threat and stocks are still at a sustainable level, according to the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas. Scottish fishermen are unlikely to land all their quota for this year so the actual catch next year is likely to remain the same as in 2007. But expect the price of your haddock supper to rise next year as a result.
What about cod?
All the signs are that North Sea cod stocks are recovering, but there is still some way to go. But have a cod supper by all means, if that’s what you prefer.
Don’t forget that 93 per cent of the cod supplied to the UK market comes as exports from the likes of Iceland and the Barents Sea. And major suppliers like Norway and Iceland are acting to ensure sustainability of their stocks through strong management measures.
The Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) also advises: “Consumers should not feel guilty about eating cod or haddock as they come from well-regulated management regimes.”
What about other species?