EC warns of further big cuts in fish quotas to save stocks

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More swingeing cuts in fish quotas are on the way, the European Commission warned, as latest scientific advice showed that the number of stocks threatened with collapse has increased.

Despite drastic quota cut-backs over recent years, Franz Fischler, the European commissioner for fisheries, said next year's picture remained bleak with "no way around significant reduction of catches and fishing".

The stocks identified as being at threat include cod in the North Sea, west of Scotland and the Irish Sea, haddock in the Irish Sea and blue whiting in the north-east Atlantic.

In its statement yesterday the Commission adds: "In the case of the west of Scotland whiting and sole in the western English Channel, the amount of adult fish able to reproduce is well below the levels required for the regeneration of these stocks." Brussels proposes reducing the catch of cod in the Kattegat strait between Sweden and Denmark by 58 percent, haddock in the Irish Sea by 52 per cent, sole in the North Sea by 25 per cent and nephrops (langoustines) in the Bay of Biscay by up to 50 per cent.

The statement comes two weeks before a scheduled meeting of EU fisheries ministers in Brussels to decide next year's quotas. If the Commission proposals are approved, the UK will be most directly affected by haddock reductions in the Irish Sea, a 20 per cent drop in the plaice catch off the west of Scotland and a 10 per cent cut in cod catches in the Irish Sea.

Mr Fischler said, "We now see the results of too many years of excessive fishing."