North Sea cod stocks up 5% from ‘08

Seafish is lauding the results of an annual stock assessment released Saturday by the independent International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) that revealed North Sea cod stocks are on the mend.

According to the assessment, North Sea cod stocks are up 5 percent from last year, and the number of North Sea cod at reproductive age increased 40 percent from 2000 to 2008. What’s more, the number of cod killed annually by fishing and natural causes has declined nearly 15 percent from 2000 to 2008.

“Do not underestimate the significance of this announcement,” said Seafish CEO John Rutherford. “The data show that fishermen can play a positive role in safeguarding, rebuilding and conserving fish stocks.”

As a result of the assessment, ICES scientists are expected later this year to recommend a substantial increase in the 2010 North Sea cod catch after calling for the fishery to close in 2003, said Seafish (the Sea Fish industry Authority).

“The outstanding improvements in the stock levels for North Sea cod are due to measures undertaken by the fishing industry to reduce fishing effort,” said Rutherford. “The industry has also been working with scientists on the creation of a sustainable future for the North Sea. The measures undertaken include demonstrable compliance with the EU quota system, voluntary real-time closures of fishing grounds and other measures to reduce discards, including changes to fishing gear.

“This year’s ICES data illustrates how premature it is to talk of stock collapses and blame fishermen for everything,” he added.

Charles Clover, author of “End of the Line,” told the Times of London that ICES has never estimated the pre-industrial biomass of the cod. “We therefore aren’t looking at the big picture, which is probably that North Sea cod has declined by around 97 percent since 1850, which is the case on the Scotia Bank and the Grand Banks,” he said. “Would it not be better to aim for recovery to something like that abundance, rather than this continued bumping along the bottom?”

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