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Homepage > About Defra > Ministers > Ministers' statements > Scientific advice on fish stocks: UK Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley response

Scientific advice on fish stocks: UK Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley response

23 October 2002

Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley said:

"This scientific advice shows that many fish stocks of key commercial interest to the UK, especially cod, are in a serious and deteriorating state.

"Firm action is required. We must take the marine balance sheet back into credit, factoring in both the needs of the fishing industry and conservation.

"UK fisheries experts will now study the advice carefully.

"Meanwhile, efforts to recover fish stocks have already begun.

  • Recovery plans for cod in the Irish Sea have been in place since February 2000 and in the North Sea and the West of Scotland since October 2001. Technical conservation measures regulating mesh size and catch composition are in place, and some important fish spawning grounds have been closed to fishermen in the breeding season. This is a start, but whilst stocks remain outside safe limits it is not enough, as scientists are now telling us.
  • The EU Council of Ministers discussed the Commission's December 2001 proposals for a North Sea cod recovery plan for last week, in Luxembourg. The UK told the Council that the depletion of stocks must be dealt with urgently and that all options including the Commission's proposals for fishing effort controls must be urgently considered as part of a toolkit of measures which must recognise regional differences.
  • Alongside this, the UK and other EU member states are currently renegotiating the Common Fisheries Policy, which will act to sustain stocks in the longer term.
  • Importantly, the fishing industry has been asked to put forward workable ideas of its own and its representatives have met DEFRA regularly to discuss the issue in recent months and weeks.

"Introducing new measures of any sort will cause difficulties for the fishing industry. But the collapse of cod and other species and the loss of livelihoods that would undoubtedly follow this would be more difficult still.

"In the coming weeks there will be very detailed discussions with fishing industry representatives on the implications of the advice and the most appropriate ways to act on it. One of the most difficult problems arises because cod is often caught alongside other species of fish like haddock, whiting and nephrops (scampi), even when it is not directly targeted.

"Working with fishermen is key to finding a solution that maximises sustainability."

Notes for Editors:

1. ICES will make its advice available to journalists early on Friday afternoon 25th October via its website at

2. ICES press officer Neil Fletcher (based Copenhagen) can be contacted on 0045 3315 4225.

3. In the coming weeks, the EU Commission will bring forward its recommendations for next year's fishing quotas. Decisions on what can be caught in 2003 will be taken at the Council of EU Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers in Brussels on 16-19 December.

Page published: 23 October 2002

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs