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October 17, 2009

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EU calls for sharp cuts in cod quotas

THE European Commission yesterday called for sharp cuts in cod quotas -- up to 25 percent in some areas -- saying the prized fish is sliding toward commercial extinction in several historic Atlantic fishing grounds.

The European Union's executive commission said "things took a turn for the worse" last year when more of the threatened fish was caught in the North Sea, the eastern English Channel and Scandinavia's Skagerrak strait than in any other year in the past decade.

The threat is so great that the commission wants to go well beyond a guideline maximum cut of 15 percent in fishermen's quotas to 25 percent in the most threatened fishing grounds.

In the EU's other major fishing ground, the Mediterranean, the situation is just as bad for the famous bluefin tuna, which has been ruthlessly overfished for years to satisfy the increasing demand for sushi and sashimi.

The commission's demands will be discussed by the bloc's 27-member states in a December 14-15 meeting, when the fishing quotas for 2010 will be finalized.

In 1970 cod stocks in the North Sea, eastern Channel and Skagerrak exceeded 250,000 tons a year but now they barely scale 50,000 despite years of conservation efforts.

"What is more, there are not enough older, spawning fish and too few young fish coming into the stock since 2005," the commission said.

Illegal fishing has wrecked havoc with policies to bring the stocks back to sustainable levels.


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