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Document 52001AE0713

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 2549/2000 establishing additional technical measures for the recovery of the stock of cod in the Irish Sea (ICES Division VIIa)"

OJ C 221, 7.8.2001, p. 90–90 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

52001AE0713

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 2549/2000 establishing additional technical measures for the recovery of the stock of cod in the Irish Sea (ICES Division VIIa)"

Official Journal C 221 , 07/08/2001 P. 0090 - 0090


Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 2549/2000 establishing additional technical measures for the recovery of the stock of cod in the Irish Sea (ICES Division VIIa)"

(2001/C 221/14)

On 5 April 2001 the Council of the European Union decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee, under Article 37 of the Treaty establishing the European Community on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 11 May 2001. The rapporteur was Mr Scully.

At its 382nd plenary session on 30 and 31 May 2001 (meeting of 30 May 2001) the Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 122 votes with 1 abstention.

1. Background and scope

1.1. Scientific advice on cod stocks in the Irish Sea (ICES Division VIIa) in 1999 indicated a very serious situation which, if allowed to continue, would result in a collapse of the stock.

1.2. Emergency meetings were called by the Commission in early 2000, involving the Commission, the relevant Member State administration and the fishing interests concerned to examine the options through which effective emergency measures could be introduced to arrest the decline and to bring about a recovery.

1.3. The first measures were introduced for a limited period in spring 2000 and were based on closed access or restricted access to "boxes" in the northern part of the Irish Sea. In addition, a number of technical measures involving the design of nets were introduced, as well as a system of on-board observers. These measures, with adaptations, have been carried forward to 2001.

1.4. The purpose of the present regulation is to introduce a further amendment related to the thickness of the twine used in the netting. Instead of allowing nets to be constructed of single twine, of 6 mm maximum thickness, as at present, it is now proposed to allow the option of using double twine at 4 mm per strand.

2. Comments

2.1. It is not clear what positive aspects this measure possesses in relation to stock recovery. Mesh thickness is an important factor for escapement and the dimensions proposed are likely to lead to a negative result in this regard. Any such measure introduced should be firstly put on trial in real practice and then, following appropriate evaluation, become of a permanent nature if needed.

2.2. In general terms, adjustments in technical measures, in themselves, are unlikely to solve the problem of Irish Sea cod. Neither is it clear that the other measures involved in the recovery programme are adequate to address the fundamental problem of depletion of the stock.

2.2.1. The fact is that too many fish are being caught considering the reproductive capacity of the fishery. The main factors involved are the number of relatively large high-powered vessels targeting the species combined with the use of semi-pelagic techniques which, though legal, catch large quantities of cod at the most vulnerable (i.e. spawning) period. As cod group in large numbers in the water column during spawning, they are easily caught by this method of fishing. In fact, since the introduction of the semi-pelagic method, stocks have fallen consistently to their present level.

2.3. The Committee believes that additional measures are required to deal with semi-pelagic operations in order to provide a reasonable chance for the stock to recover and to protect the economic and social importance of the industry for the adjacent coastal areas.

2.3.1. Such issues will be further examined in the framework of the forthcoming work of the Committee on the Green Paper on CFP.

2.4. In conclusion, having regard to the above-mentioned remarks, the Committee is ready to support the present Commission proposal.

Brussels, 30 May 2001.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Göke Frerichs

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