EU catch blow to fishermen
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Union fisheries ministers have agreed to cut next year's national catch quotas, but less drastically than the European Commission wanted.
Ministers from the EU's 15 member states battled through the night with representatives of the commission.
The commission had argued that a large cut in the EU's Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was the only way to save many species from dying out in European waters.
In the end, which did not come until midday, European Commissioner Franz Fischler said he was satisfied.
"It's a good deal because it still guarantees stocks for 2002 will not deteriorate," he said. "We would have wanted more reduction on (the quota in fishing) the stocks but we needed compromise."
And Fischler promised that in the long term the fishing industry would see results from the conservation measures.
"If fishermen accept the measures to let stocks recover for a certain period of time, that effort will be rewarded in the future," said Fischler said at a news conference to announce the deal.
The quota reductions, which follow deep TAC cuts implemented this year, mean the EU's total fish quota will fall in 2002 from three million tonnes.
The commission had no immediate overall figures on what the new figure would be.
The commission says years of over-fishing have left 12 fish stocks -- defined as a species in a particular fishing area -- close to extinction.
Just one year ago, there were four or five stocks in such a perilous condition, it said.
Stocks of North Sea cod remained close to collapse and the catch quota, which was slashed by half this year, was maintained for at least the first six months of next year in a bid to rebuild fish numbers.
Cod quotas in the Kattegat in Norway were reduced by 55 percent. Quotas in the Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay were cut by 18 percent.
Ministers also agreed to a six-month extension to a programme to reduce national fleet sizes by capping the construction of new fishing vessels and tightening controls over public aid to finance them.
The commission believes the EU's fishing fleet is twice as big as it should be to catch a sustainable amount of fish.
"Our fleet is still much too large for the available resources. Courageous measures are needed. In view of the critical situation of several important stocks I feel that no time should be wasted," Fischler said before the compromise was reached.
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