Campaigners have condemned a deal over fishing quotas for next year as “irresponsible”, saying they threaten to drive cod to extinction in the North Sea.
After negotiating into the early hours yesterday, European fisheries ministers agreed cuts of up to 20 per cent in catches from endangered cod stocks. But they rejected a recommendation from the European fisheries commissioner, Joe Borg, that catches be cut by a quarter and swept aside scientific advice for a complete ban on fishing.
Once a staple food, cod is now in danger of disappearing from the northern European diet. Despite mounting evidence of a crisis in fish stocks in recent years, officials have been unable to stave off the decline of the species. Though environmentalists argue that a reduction in catches will give cod time to recover, politicians face acute pressure from hard-hit fishing communities.
Cod catches will be reduced by between 14 and 20 per cent in 2007. Cod fishermen were also ordered to cut the number of days spent at sea by between 7 and 10 per cent.