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Cod Stocks at Risk of Collapse

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. (Denmark) Press Release 28oct02

Scientists from ICES have advised the European Commission and national governments that all fisheries that target cod in the North Sea, Skagerrak, Irish Sea and waters west of Scotland should be closed (Go to chart of ICES areas). Cod stocks in these areas are now so depleted that the chance of a collapse must be seriously considered. To give these stocks a chance to recover, ICES has recommended that all fisheries that target cod in these areas should be closed.

Cod are also caught as a by-catch in mixed fisheries, such as haddock, whiting, flatfish, shrimp and prawn (Nephrops) fisheries. ICES is recommending that these fisheries should also be closed unless they can demonstrate that they are not causing a cod by-catch.

These far-reaching warnings are in the latest report from ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management, which met in Copenhagen, October 9-17 2002. The report was made public today, although a preliminary version was sent to the regulatory Commissions (such as the European Commission) and national governments on Saturday last, 19 October.

ICES is the independent, intergovernmental, scientific body which is the main provider of scientific advice on fisheries and environment issues in the northeast Atlantic to national governments and regulatory Commissions. David Griffith, General Secretary of ICES, said today,

"We have had to resort to recommending complete closure of these fisheries as the only way of giving these depleted stocks a period of time to recover, and, hopefully, to return to their former productive state. Cod stocks in the North Sea, Skagerrak, Irish Sea and waters west of Scotland have been in decline for a number of years, and are now at, or near, their lowest recorded levels. Some attempts have been made to reduce fishing pressure on these stocks but these actions have not given the fish enough opportunity to rebuild".

ICES has recommended that the fishery closures should be used, alongside other measures, such as recently agreed increases in minimum mesh sizes, to promote the recovery of these cod stocks until there is clear evidence that they are in a more favourable condition (reasonable probability of good recruitment and improved productivity).

The European Commission has recently proposed a rebuilding plan for the North Sea cod stock whereby fishing pressure would be reduced to increase the spawning stock biomass (fish able to reproduce) by 30% per year. But ICES scientists are advising the Commission that this does not go far enough and would mean the recovery of that stock could take 8-12 years.

Links to report:

Overview of fish stocks in the North Sea
Overview of fish stocks West of Scotland
Overview of fish stocks in the Irish Sea
Advice on cod stocks in the North Sea
Advice on cod stocks West of Scotland
Advice on cod stocks in the Irish Sea

Chart of the ICES Fishing areas

For further information please contact: Neil Fletcher Communication Officer. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Palęgade 2-4, DK-1261, Copenhagen K, Denmark. Tel (0045) 3315 4225 Direct (0045) 33386713 Fax (0045) 3392 4215 Mobile 0045 40847938 E-mail neilf@ices.dk or go to the press room


The Advisory Committee on Fishery Management (ACFM) provides scientific information and advice on living resources and their harvesting. In formulating its advice on the management of ca. 135 stocks of fish and shellfish, ACFM uses information prepared by numerous ICES stock assessment Working Groups.

ACFM consists of one scientist from each of the 19 ICES member countries along with chairs of relevant ICES science committees and observers from the European Commission, Faroe Islands/Greenland and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO).

ACFM meets twice a year (summer and late autumn) to prepare its advice, which is published annually in the ICES Cooperative Research Report series. The advice is also available in pdf format on the ICES Website.

source: http://www.ices.dk/aboutus/pressrelease/codstocks.asp 28oct02

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