The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) issued the advice in its latest report on fish stocks ahead of annual EU quota talks.

Speaking before publication Martin Pastoors, chairman of the ICES advisory committee on fishery management, said: “Several saithe and haddock stocks are in good condition and can be the continued basis for sustainable fisheries.

“Other important stocks like cod, whiting and herring are suffering from reduced reproduction in recent years. This is seen in several areas, and will have to be reflected in the fisheries management.”

ICES published its report on World Ocean Day last Friday, June 8.

It called for greater marine protection including the implementation of marine reserves – the aquatic equivalent of national parks.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace immediately urged environment minister David Miliband to deliver a network of reserves in the proposed Marine Bill, consultation on which closed earlier this month.

Campaigner Willie Mackenzie said: “The oceans are in crisis and nowhere is this more evident than in the plundered waters of the North Sea.

“If fishing here is allowed to continue, then cod will disappear from the chip shops and from the sea.

“To protect the oceans, politicians must create large marine reserves in areas such as the North Sea.”

Scientists say a cod stock of 150,000 tonnes is the minimum required, yet it is currently estimated at less than 70,000 tonnes.

The ICES report was welcomed by the European Commission, which acknowledged the new was “rather bad” for a number of species.

Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said the early submission of the report would “provide more time for in-depth consultation with member states and stakeholders before the commission tables its proposal for fishing opportunities on these stocks towards the end of the year.”

But the commission argues that if young cod stocks can be protected from over-fishing until spawning age around 2011 they could form the foundation for a recovery.

The full ICES report can be found here.

David Gibbs

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