The European Commission has called for a ban on cod fishing for the whole of next year off the west coast of Scotland and in the Irish Sea, in an attempt to replenish stocks.
The plan is part of proposed EU catch allowances unveiled yesterday which signal the start of intense haggling over quotas for fishing fleets in the run-up to a final deal in December.
The proposals include increased quotas in 2012 for nine stocks, including haddock, hake, herring, sole as well as cod in some areas, and reduced quotas for 53 stocks.
The package, including the planned freeze on the west of Scotland and Irish cod, amounts to an overall quota cut for all fish of 11 per cent compared with this year – the right level, said the Commission, to help stocks recover and ensure sustainable long-term fishing in Europe.
It includes a 25 per cent increase in the west coast haddock quota thanks to stock recovery, but the Scottish Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead, attacked the rise as "meagre". He insisted the figure was far lower than scientific advice would allow. "Seeing the haddock stock recover to sustainable levels should be a cause for celebration, yet the proposals announced today will only punish the fishermen who have worked so hard on conservation.
"Not only does this penalise our fishermen unnecessarily, but it could also lead to an increase in discarded fish – something both we and the Commission have been working hard to reduce."
In June, the Commission unveiled long-term plans to ban the "discard" practice – the dumping of dead fish back in the sea – as part of a major reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
The discards issue has been publicised across the UK by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose "Hugh's Fish Fight" campaign has been endorsed by such celebrities as Richard Branson, Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais.
Richard Benyon, the Fisheries minister, said: "Today's proposals make clear the urgent need to radically reform the Common Fisheries Policy."