Dan­ish fish­er­men fear fur­ther slash­ing of EU’s cod quo­tas

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A stiff wind buf­fets Ul­rik Koelle Hansen’s trawler as he heads out of this tiny fish­ing vil­lage in search of an early morn­ing catch, but it’s noth­ing to the bat­ter­ing he pre­dicts if the Euro­pean Union slashes the fish­ing quota for cod in the west­ern Baltic, as it is ex­pected to do this week. Ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, the re­gion’s cod stock is on the verge of col­lapse. While sci­en­tists are push­ing for the quota to be cut by about 90 per­cent, con­ser­va­tion groups want to shut it down tem­po­rar­ily.

“If we do not do some­thing in time to al­low the cod to re­cover, it may mean that we lose the (cod) fish­ery al­to­gether in the near fu­ture,” said Inger Me­lander, a spokes­woman for the Swedish branch of the World Wildlife Fund. But as Koelle Hansen sees it, cut­ting the quota would mean the end for the few fish­er­man still work­ing out of Bagenkop, a sleepy fish­ing vil­lage of less than 500 peo­ple on the south­ern tip of the Lan­ge­land is­land. “It’s a to­tal dis­as­ter if they cut the quota. That means that the five boats that are left, will

dis­ap­pear for good,” said Koelle Hansen, a 46year-old Dane who started fish­ing at age 14. “I bought this tiny trawler a few years ago be­cause we were told that we would only be al­lowed to fish with them. Now we may have to sell it and re­lo­cate,” he said. “Th­ese trawlers can­not dam­age the stock. This isn’t an in­dus­trial ves­sel that shov­els up ev­ery­thing.” For decades, Dan­ish, Swedish, Pol­ish and Ger­man fish­er­men have worked the sea south of Den­mark and north of Ger­many. Roughly one-third of Den­mark’s to­tal cod catches come from the west­ern Baltic. Last year, cod brought to land to­taled 22,818 tons out of which 6,807 tons came from the re­gion.

In 2014, 1,112 tons of west­ern cod was landed in Bagenkop, once a bustling fish­ing har­bor with some 70 trawlers and a dozen smaller ves­sels. But suc­ces­sive quota re­duc­tions have sent Bagenkop down­hill. Once a cou­ple of hun­dred peo­ple were em­ployed by the fish in­dus­try. Today there are 20-30 and fewer than 10 boats both trawlers and other fish­ing ves­sels - left, said St­ef­fen Ras­mussen, chair­man of a lo­cal fish­ery history so­ci­ety.

“I am damn ner­vous,” said Koelle Hansen, who fishes for a few hours sev­eral times a week from his trawler Ce­cilie, a 13.5-meter (44.6-feet) wooden ship. “It would mean I’d have to sell this ves­sel and go catch­ing (Nor­we­gian) lob­ster in the North Sea in­stead” - aboard a larger in­dus­trial ves­sel.

Less dras­tic re­duc­tion

The EU has agreed to re­vamp its fish­ing poli­cies to pro­tect dozens of species from com­mer­cial ex­tinc­tion, and by 2020 all fish must be sus­tain­ably caught. Mem­ber states, how­ever, have re­fused to ac­cept sci­en­tific advice and have sought the best deal pos­si­ble for the in­dus­try, not for the sur­vival of the fish. EU min­is­ters must make a de­ci­sion at their two-day meet­ing in Lux­em­bourg which started yes­ter­day.

Den­mark’s min­is­ter in charge of fish­eries, Es­ben Lunde Larsen, vowed to “fight for a less dras­tic re­duc­tion.” “Our sole ally here is Ger­many. Vir­tu­ally all other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Swe­den, will re­duce the quota for cod in the west­ern area along what the Com­mis­sion pro­poses,” he said in a state­ment to The As­so­ci­ated Press. Ger­many’s Agri­cul­ture Min­istry re­fused to com­ment, say­ing that it needed to re­main neu­tral ahead of the meet­ing talks.

Dur­ing the 1965-1985 pe­riod, the west­ern Baltic cod stock yielded catches be­tween 40,000 tons and 50,000 tons per year. But land­ings have since steadily de­creased. Now, the Copen­hagen-based In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil for the Ex­plo­ration of the Sea sug­gests re­duc­ing the To­tal Al­low­able Catch for the re­gion’s cod from 12,720 tons to 917 tons in 2017. Hen­rike Semm­ler, a spokes­woman for the ocean con­ser­va­tion­ist group Oceana, said a tem­po­rary to­tal stop “will have se­vere im­pact on the small scale fish­er­men. But con­tin­ued over­fish­ing means the stock will col­lapse.”

The cod sea­son is over for now, so Koelle Hansen and other fish­er­men catch flat­fish. He says he has not seen a re­duc­tion of fish gen­er­ally in the re­gion. After catch­ing nearly 500 kilo­grams of flat­fish (1,100 pounds), he shouted: “See ... there are plenty of fish out here.” “The sci­en­tific advice must be wrong,” he said. “(Na­ture) tells me whether there are cods or not. If the wind blows in a spe­cific di­rec­tion, I know where to fish.”—AP

BAGENKOP, Den­mark: Photo shows fish­ing boats are docked in Bagenkop, Den­mark.

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