Campaigners urge action to prevent cod stock collapse

Campaign groups are urging UK governments to step in and secure the future of North Sea cod stocks after levels were found to have fallen to a critically low level.

WWF, ClientEarth and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) have written a joint letter to environment secretary Michael Gove and the Scottish Government to demand urgent steps are taken to aid the recovery of the cod population.

Last week, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) published its scientific assessment of the North Sea cod stock levels which indicated that cod stocks have fallen to a dangerously low level, throwing the future of the North Sea fishery into doubt.

ICES is recommending that the quota for cod fishing be reduced by 70% to protect and restore the population. North Sea cod has been fished at levels above the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) each year since the introduction of MSY advice in 2013, meaning the stock has never had a chance to adequately recover from its original collapse in the 1980s.

Among the measures the organisations are calling for are an immediate downward revision in the quota in order to ease pressure on the stock as soon followed by a further mid-year review; the introduction of on-board cameras and sensors to monitor catch and by catch properly; and the mandatory use of highly selective fishing gear to target specific fish species and reduce the catch of juveniles.

“The scientists have spoken: North Sea cod is in serious trouble and could collapse without urgent intervention from government,” said Tom West, UK environment lawyer at ClientEarth. “Following scientific advice will be vital in reversing this crisis for the North Sea ecosystem and the communities that rely on it – because no more cod in the sea means no more cod on dinner plates.”

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