Scientists call for total ban on cod

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Scientists say that a complete ban on cod fishing in the North Sea is the only way that the species can be saved from dying out.

According to a report from The Times, fisheries scientists will tell governments on Friday that the European rescue plan to save cod stocks is failing and that a complete ban on catching the species is needed to prevent the fish being wiped out in the North Sea.

The International Council for the Exploitation of the Sea (ICES) will also warn that haddock and plaice fishing will also need to be dramatically reduced in order to protect cod stocks, says the report.

Cod, Gadus morhua, has long been one of the most popular food fish species in the UK, however, decades of overfishing have seen the once common fish fall into decline and many believe the North Sea cod fishery is now close to collapse.

ICES says that cod stocks in the Northeast Atlantic have shown diverging developments over the years and it provides separate advice for each area.

While the major cod stocks of the Barents Sea and around Iceland are large and productive, with a total catch of 850,000 tonnes in 2005, cod stocks in southern regions are worse."...for all southern cod stocks there should be no catch in 2007...""In the southern parts of the cod distribution area, a generally poor stock status prevails and fishing mortality is still high despite the lower catches," says the ICES report.

"Although there are slight differences in the actual condition of those southern stocks, ICES is advising for all southern cod stocks (with the exception of cod in the western Baltic) that there should no catch in 2007."

ICES has previously recommended a ban on cod fishing, but this has been over-ruled by governments who are concerned at the knock-on effect that a fishing ban would have upon the livelihoods of those involved in the fishing industry.

Although cod quotas have repeatedly been cut to 26,500 tonnes per year, twice as much is caught accidentally while fishing for other species. When the quota has been reached, any cod accidentally caught have to be thrown back into the sea dead.