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Europe

New Agreement Lets Some EU Fish Off the Hook

The European Union will tighten fishing quotas for some endangered species. But environmental groups say the 2007 quotas will mean disaster for threatened fish such as cod and anchovies.

Limits on cod fish remain controversial in the EU

The annual fight over EU fishing rights ended with an agreement Thursday. Some fishing limits will be eased, others tightened under the 2007 fishing quotas.

The EU tried to find a balance between protecting threatened fish without destroying the fishing industry, EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg told reporters.

The World Wildlife Fund environmental group criticized the plan, saying that ministers traded fishing quotas while ignoring the crisis facing fish. The WWF warned that the EU plan will speed up the extinction of depleted fish stocks, particularly cod.

Cod under protection

Fishing quotas aim to save endangered species

In 2007, quotas on North Sea cod will be reduced by 14 percent and fewer days will be allowed for fishing. That's significantly more lenient than the 25 percent cut suggested by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

"There are indications that juvenile cod ... are in figures far better than what we had in the previous year. This is the first indication that there is a recovery in cod," Borg said.

Environmental groups disagree. They say quotas miss the point entirely, as stocks can only recover if there is a total ban on cod fishing.

"Mocking scientific advice has become standard practice in the decisions" of EU fisheries ministers, the WWF said.

Ministers also cut 10 percent of allowable bluefin tuna catch in the Mediterranean.

Ministers increased the allowable catch for other species, such as northern hake and Bay of Biscay sole.

Anchovy ban scrapped

Countries often fight over fish quotas

A commission plan to ban anchovy fishing in the Bay of Biscay during the first half of 2007 was also scrapped. While the ban technically exists, limited, monitored fishing will be permitted by 28 Spanish and French vessels.

British celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall decried the "extraordinary mismanagement of our seas," in a WWF news release. He worried that local stocks of cod will be so depleted that the future of beloved British fish and chips is in danger.

"If the fisheries collapse then it is not just the fishermen that will suffer. The environment will suffer as fish are brought from further a field," Whittingstall said. "Chefs and the public will suffer as we will no longer be able to find high quality, freshly-caught fish on our doorstep."

The yearly quotas have caused controversy since the EU estalished a new fisheries policy in 2003. The EU wants to move to long-term quotas. The management plans aim to keep fish stocks at safe biological levels.

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