NGOs call for emergency action as North Sea cod stocks plummet

Cod stocks in the North Sea have fallen to a “critically low level” amid unsustainable fishing practices, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) has revealed today.


In response, the marine scientists recommended that the quota for cod fishing be slashed by a massive 70% in a desperate effort to protect and revive the plummeting fish stocks.

The WWF, ClientEarth and Marine Conservation Society have since written to the UK and Scottish governments demanding urgent steps be taken to secure the fishery’s future.

They highlighted how North Sea cod has been fished at levels above the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) every year since its introduction in 2013, meaning stocks have never had a chance to adequately recover.

“Ministers must listen to scientific advice and take immediate steps to address the dangers of overfishing and poor management of the discard ban on dwindling cod stocks,” WWF fisheries programme manager, Helen McLachlan, said.

“If we are to prevent the collapse of this vital fishery, governments must take action. Failure to act will undermine the health of our precious marine environment and the future of those communities who depend on it for a living.”

The NGOs called on the UK governments to implement an “emergency plan”, including a mid-year review of the 2019 cod quota and an immediate downward revision.

They also recommended that mandatory use of highly selective fishing gear be introduced to target specific species and reduce the catch of juveniles, along with the identification and policing of Highly Protected Marine Areas for cod.

In addition, the organisations called for onboard cameras and sensors to monitor the catch and bycatch properly – it is estimated that less than 1% of fishing activity at sea is currently monitored.

And as the UK leaves the EU, they have asked that a strong Fisheries Bill and Office of Environmental Protection be introduced to hold the government to account.

ClientEarth UK environment lawyer, Tom West, said: “The government made a big deal of how Brexit was about taking back control of our waters – now is the time for our leaders to show us they mean business and protect this iconic fish much loved by the British public.”


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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