BRUSSELS, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The European Union Wednesday decided on deep cuts to fishing quotas to protect overfished species such as cod.
After a 17-hour negotiation marathon, EU ministers meeting in Brussels agreed to slash the allowable catch of cod by nearly a fifth from 40,219 tons in 2010 to 32,912 tons next year.
Cod cuts differed regionally, ranging from 50 percent in the waters between Denmark, Sweden and Norway, a fifth in the English and Scottish North Sea to an unchanged quota in the Atlantic waters off Portugal.
Activists from environmental group Greenpeace on Monday symbolically decommissioned a mock fishing trawler placed outside the EU Council building.
"The EU continues to fish relentlessly in some of the poorest countries on Earth while clearly showing the world that they are not qualified to manage their own fish stocks by systematically setting too high catch levels," Farah Obaidullah, Greenpeace's oceans campaigner, said in a statement. "With our oceans facing an imminent crisis rich nations like those of the EU are no longer justified to continue business as usual. Politicians must respect science and must ensure responsible fishing both within and beyond EU waters."
Maria Damanaki, a commission member in charge of fisheries and maritime affairs, said that despite the economic crisis, fishing quotas had to be cut next year "to ensure a profitable fishing sector that can rely on healthy stocks."
"All vulnerable stocks, especially sharks, all kind of sharks and the stocks that need a lot of years to reproduce were very good protected," she said Wednesday in Brussels. "Fishing sustainably is a precise, quantifiable target, with a specific timeline. We can discuss about how we get there but we cannot discuss about where we are going."
On Monday, the ministers had already agreed on new catch limits for the Black Sea. Bulgaria and Romania, two EU members fishing in the Black Sea, agreed to a 10 percent reduction in overall fishing levels of turbot and sprat.
The EU is battling to regenerate its fish stocks despite an increasing demand for fish from consumers across the continent. Every second fish consumed in Europe is imported. The New Economics Foundation in July issued a report saying that Europe consumes nearly twice as much fish as its waters produce, putting pressure on global resources.
An increasing amount of fish is imported from Africa or Southeast Asia, where fishing methods are often unsustainable and neglecting of the domestic populations' own need for fish, the report said.