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Europe

Cod Gets a Christmas Reprieve in EU Fishing Quota Agreement

EU fisheries ministers struck a deal Thursday to restrict fishing of cod stocks in the North Sea after days of negotiations. It may be good for the fish but for the fishing industry, it is more bad news.

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Not all fish will be as lucky as the cod this Christmas

The week before Christmas is traditionally the week of the fish in Brussels.

Each year fisheries ministers from around the European Union meet to discuss quotas and other control measures, as they try balance economic and environmental concerns.

Marathon fishing talks have become somewhat of a pre-Christmas tradition in Brussels. The ministers met on Tuesday and worked for two days and two nights to reach a deal ahead of their target of dawn on Thursday.

At the end of discussions, the EU ministers struck a new deal over maximum 2006 catches. The deal restricts the days trawlers can spend at sea in an attempt to prevent species like cod from collapsing following years of over-fishing.

Cod fishi n g days to be cut by five perce n t

Fischtrawler aus Japan

Already subject to restrictions, cod trawlers will have even less time at sea

Under the compromise deal, the number of days cod trawlers can spend at sea will be cut by 5 percent -- well short of the 15 percent recommended by the European Commission.

The outcome was also much milder than measures proposed by scientists, some of whom have been calling for a blanket ban on cod fishing because of dwindling stocks.

Cod quotas remain one of the most sensitive topics for communities along the North Sea, especially in Scotland, where white-fish fleets are already obliged to tie up their boats for weeks on end.

The European Commission, which administers the EU's fishing policy, did manage to secure a few seasonal closures of certain waters to protect over-fished cod species. But pressure from various fishing lobbies forced to the Commission to offer some slight increases in its initial catch proposals.

Praw n s n ot so lucky as quotas raised

Hochseefischerei Mann mit Netz

Quotas on other types of fish are being raised

Prawn quotas were raised for the North Sea and Bay of Biscay by up to 30 percent from 2005, for example, based on scientific advice that these fish stocks could support increased fishing.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said the deal struck the "right balance" in terms of protecting the environment without unduly penalizing fishing fleets. All 25 EU nations taking part in the talks voted in favor of the deal, except Sweden, which abstained.

A n chovies fair game as EU lifts ba n

French officials expressed particular pleasure at achieving of lifting a ban on anchovy fishing in the Bay of Biscay, in place since July. French fleets were granted a quota of 500 tons, with 500 more tons gained thanks to a quota swap with Spain.

But not all the action is restricted to the negotiating table. The annual review can have its drama, too.

Dorsch Fischfang in der Ostsee

Fishermen have shown their displeasure at how few fish they are allowed to net

French fishermen blockaded ports earlier this month over the prospect of more restrictions on how much fish they could net, while environment campaigners complained that the European Union does not do more to enforce fishing limits.

Environmental advocates at Greenpeace says the EU does little to prevent deep-sea fishing by vessels that don’t have fishing allocations -- and needs to clamp down on illegal or 'pirate' fishing.

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