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Marine / Surprise and disappointment as cod quota set to be cut despite abundance on the fishing grounds

Cod. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Fishermen’s Association (SFA) has expressed surprise and disappointment after the latest advice on next year’s fishing quota recommends a somewhat unexpected 17 per cent cut in the all-important cod quota.

The advice by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), published on Tuesday, show an abundance of cod in the areas local boats fish in.

However, due to additional precautionary measures for the southern North Sea cod stock, which is not relevant for Shetland, the overall recommendation for the species is a reduction in fishing effort.

The latest advice is in addition to earlier quota recommendation for some other relevant species: northern shelf haddock +17.8 per cent, northern shelf saithe +25 per cent, and North Sea whiting +16.5 per cent. Advice on monkfish is usually published in October.

SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson said to him and the fishermen the association represents the advice on cod does not make any sense.

“Unfortunately, this advice advocates for an extra precautionary measure for southern North Sea cod – which has confusingly dragged down quota recommendations over the entire wider area,” he said.

“ICES predicts that the total North Sea cod population will increase by a further 20 per cent next year, and yet ICES is also recommending a cut to cod quotas next year of 17 per cent – which doesn’t make sense.”

He said it should be heartening to local fishermen and the public at large that cod stocks are in such a good condition as a result of being fished sustainably and managed responsibly.

“Last year, ICES recommended a 63 per cent increase in North Sea cod quota – a long overdue uplift that was welcomed by fishermen as a start in re-aligning quotas with the abundances of cod being seen around the North Sea,” Lawson said.

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“This contradicting swing in scientific advice doesn’t make sense.”

In its recommendation document ICES said: “Cod on the northern shelf is under the EU landing obligation, and Norway and UK national legislation regulating discards. The below minimum size (BMS) landings of cod reported to ICES are currently negligible.

“Discarding still continues based on observations from sampling programmes. The discard rate in 2022 was estimated as 30 per cent of the total catch by weight.

“Applying the historical ratio between landings and discards-at-age to the sum of the catch-at-age by substock in MSY [maximum sustainable yield]  scenarios results in 19,361 tonnes of landings and 3,330 tonnes of discards in 2024.”

However, the advice from ICES is just that, advice. Lawson added: “Fishermen in Shetland urge politicians and the public to look below the headlines and into the detail of this advice, which will allow for a more sensible way forward that recognises the healthy cod populations around the North Sea.”

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