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Environment

Conservationists attack EU deal to raise fishing quotas

Conservationists say the EU's current economic crisis has forced a short-sighted policy, after European Union fisheries ministers agreed to raise 2012 fishing quotas by up to 200 percent to help fishing communities.

Three cod fish

A total ban on cod was stopped

Fisheries industries have emerged with "mixed feelings" after a meeting of European Union ministers in Brussels at the weekend agreed to raise certain fishing quotas by up to 200 percent in 2012.

Ministers rejected proposals to ban cod catches in the Irish Sea and the straits between Sweden and Denmark, and agreed to allow German fishermen to catch 140 percent more herring next year.

They also agreed to raise the number of haddock catches in the North Atlantic eight times higher than the European Commission had proposed.

"The Commission held onto this radical proposal of a 25 percent increase until the very last minute," said Javier Garat, president of fisheries lobby, Europeche, in an interview with Deutsche Welle. "They changed their position in the end and it would have been difficult to get a better result."

Britain was able to slow plans to reduce the number of days UK fishermen could spend at sea in 2012 to about four days every two weeks. And instead of the proposed ban on cod catches in the Irish Sea and between Sweden and Denmark, ministers accepted cuts of 25 and 30 percent respectively.

A French trawler in the controversial 'Irish Box' fishing grounds off the Welsh coast

The UK fishing industry opposed a reduction in the number of days vessels can stay at sea

"We demanded a balance between conservation and socio-economic issues because the EU is crazy - it always forgets about the people," said Garat.

Scientific loop-hole

But conservationists say EU ministers have forgotten about the science.

"They ignored 41 percent of the scientific recommendations," Javier Lopez, a marine scientist with Oceana, told Deutsche Welle.

Oceana says the final deal puts catch limits at more than 20 percent above the maximum level recommended by the European Commission and will destabilize efforts to end decades of overfishing.

The group says the deal will further reduce fish stocks and damage the long -term profitability and viability of fishing communities.

"We're most concerned about the management plan," said Lobez. "Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) figures might allow the increased catch, but the EU's management plan does not - they found a loop -hole."

Economic pressure

Germany's federal agriculture secretary, Robert Kloos, cited this year's rejuvenated North Sea herring stocks to justify the 2012 quota of 405,000 tons.

The quota for North Sea plaice was also increased 15 percent.

People eating herring

Economic issues forced EU ministers to put people before fish

Cuts were made elsewhere, including a 15 percent cut for North Sea coalfish.

Overall, fisheries representatives in the north of Germany suggested that they were able to secure better quotas than they had anticipated.

Responding to the 140 percent increase for herring, Lorenz Marckwardt of the fisheries association of the German state of Schleswig -Holstein said "one hundred percent would have been plenty."

The lobby group Europeche says the deal reflects the EU's current economic crisis.

"If the EU was in a better economic position, we could think more about conservation," said Garat, "but we have to think about the people too."

Poland's deputy agriculture minister Tadeusz Nalewajk, who led the talks in Brussels, said ministers had struck the right balance between the needs of the fisheries sector and the protection of stocks and the management of limited resources.

Oceana's Javier Lopez said EU ministers used the economic crisis as an excuse to disregard a fisheries management plan.

"The downward economic trend has exerted a great pressure," said Lobez, "and the result is short-sighted policy."

Author: Zulfikar Abbany
Editor: Nathan Witkop

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