EU agrees fish quotas seen as too lax by environmentalists

Greenpeace activists stage a demonstration against overfishing and fishing quotas outside the European Council in Brussels on December 15, 2014.

BRUSSELS - EU member states have introduced fish catch limits for next year for the Atlantic and North Sea that environmentalists say fail to protect some overfished stocks like cod and sole.

Ministers meeting late into Tuesday nonetheless did introduce cuts, even if they fell short of environmentalists' expectations.

"Member states made very specific commitments to adopt measures to decrease the pressure on stocks that are in a critical state," Karmenu Vella, the commissioner responsible for fisheries, told a press conference.

They also are ready to "commit to additional measures, including cuts, if the measures they propose do not deliver," he added.

Compared with 2014, the ministers reduced the cod quota by 20 per cent in the Irish Sea in line with recommendations from the European Commission, the EU executive arm, which follows scientific advice.

But they cut the cod quota by only 26 per cent for areas off Europe's western coastline, despite a commission recommendation to cut the catch by 64 per cent.

They also maintained the cod quota at the current year's level for the Kattegat region, which connects the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, despite a commission call for 20 per cent less.

They cut the common sole quota in the Eastern English Channel by 28 per cent even though the commission had recommended a cut of 60 per cent.

They also cut the sole quota by 15 per cent in the Bristol Channel and the northern Celtic Sea even though the commission had recommended a cut of 35 per cent.

Greenpeace said in a statement: "Ministers have maintained existing fishing quotas or accepted weaker cuts than scientists recommended for crucial stocks, including cod in most areas and sole in the Eastern Channel and Irish Sea."

Javier Garat, president of the Europeche lobbying group, was happier with the deal.

"The quota cuts this year have been significant but in some cases manageable and we should certainly not forget that overall, fishing mortality has dropped dramatically and stocks are rebuilding," Garat said in a statement.

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