Fishermen face anxious wait

FISHERMEN at Felixstowe Ferry were today waiting to see whether a new proposed crackdown to save dangerously low cod stocks will effect them.The European Commission says without a shake-up of the Common Fisheries Policy cod could become extinct in the crucial fishing grounds of the North Sea.

FISHERMEN at Felixstowe Ferry were today waiting to see whether a new proposed crackdown to save dangerously low cod stocks will effect them.

The European Commission says without a shake-up of the Common Fisheries Policy cod could become extinct in the crucial fishing grounds of the North Sea.

Year-on-year negotiations on catch quotas are being replaced by long-term cod-fishing limits in a bid to restore stability and give conservation measures time to work, free from annual haggling.

The EU wants to slash cod catches by 45 per cent, halve the haddock catch and cut whiting catches by almost two thirds.

But the key to the new recovery programme is tight controls on the amount of time a fleet spends catching cod with the time allowed to be calculated in "kilowatt-days", a formula established by multiplying the boat's engine power by the days spent fishing.

National authorities will be given a fixed amount of "kilowatt-days" to distribute.

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Felixstowe Ferry's fishermen now have to wait to see firstly if the new idea is approved by EU fisheries ministers, and then how many days are allocated.

One fishermen said it was hoped that the "kilowatt days" would only apply to large trawlers.

"Hopefully, they will not be too bothered about our small boats – we make little impact on the amount of fish caught and are just trying to make a living for ourselves. We are not big business," he said.

Industry experts say the new moves will inevitably mean more days spent in port, with lay-offs and the scrapping of vessels, but the EC says there is no alternative as two years of efforts to stem the dwindling cod stocks had failed.

Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said cod stocks were threatened with total collapse because cod was being taken from the sea quicker than it could reproduce.

"This new approach demonstrates our resolve to take tough but indispensable decisions to safeguard the future of our cod fleets," he said.

"I know that this will mean hardship for many in the industry, but millions of euros in EU support are available to help the troubled whitefish sector. I call on member states to make use of this aid."

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