EU fisheries ministers agree on 2006 quotas

European Union fisheries ministers on Thursday agreed to some new limits on catch quotes for many threatened fish, but environmentalists said they didn't go far enough to protect species in danger of being overfished such as the popular cod. The EU ministers agreed on a maximum of 15 percent of cuts in quotas of cod in many EU fishing grounds but stopped well short of demands of an effective ban to hunt for the dwindling stock of the whitefish.

The WWF environmental protection group said the decision amounted to the death sentence for cod in the North Sea. "It makes no sense to allow fishing on a stock which has collapsed", said spokeswoman Charlotte Mogensen. "Now it is clear that cod has no chance of recovering and this is just the first of many fish stocks that we are losing because of the mismanagement of European fisheries."

"It is a satisfactory deal," said EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg after three days of bartering. He had been pressured by fishermen to keep as many waters open as possible and set the catch quotas as high as possible.

Sweden was the only EU country not to back the package and said cod was facing a tough struggle to survive off the Swedish coast.

"It is our obligation toward the coming generations to act to prevent a collapse of the cod stock in the Baltic Sea. This is a rash decision," Swedish Agriculture Minister Ann-Christin Nykvist said. The EU had admitted cod stocks in EU waters except for the Baltic Sea were "truly alarming," with stocks so low that scientists could no longer project the amount of cod in key fishing zone.

With the new cuts, consumers across Europe will find that flaky white cod, once an everyman's dish, will become even more of a rarity, reports the AP. I.L.

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