The quota for North Sea cod should be reduced by 70% in 2020, say marine scientists.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has made the recommendation following a report which indicates that MSC certified cod stocks have fallen to a dangerously low level.
The news has prompted leading conservation organisations WWF, ClientEarth and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to call for the UK government to introduce emergency measures to secure the future of North Sea cod.
Blaming dwindling cod stocks on overfishing and poor management of the discard ban, Samuel Stone, head of fisheries and aquaculture, at MCS, said: "This is a fishery that was on the road to recovery, but failures to reduce fishing pressure have led to serious overfishing and a reversal in fortunes for cod. It’s a very harsh lesson, but this is why we need to implement legally binding commitments to fish at sustainable levels, to effectively monitor our fisheries and to take an ecosystem based approach to fisheries management. We have to properly protect our fish stocks for the benefit of our seas, coastal communities and consumers who expect sustainable seafood.”
The North Sea Cod fishery collapsed in the 1980s but after years of work to reverse the situation, the fishery was awarded MSC certification in 2017. It is unsure as yet what will happen to the certification.
Of all the North Sea border countries, the UK receives the largest share of cod - UK fisheries receive roughly 40% of the available quota annually, alongside others including Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Germany, which receive less.