Richard North, 08/06/2013  

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After a record cod quota for the Barents sea this year, the bonanza is to be repeated for next year with ICES recommending a further hike on what has been styled a "million ton quota".

Actually, it was a sub-million quota, topping out at 940,000 tones, but this is to be increase to 993,000 tons for 2014, an increase of 50,000 tons, or five times the annual North Sea quota for the entire British fleet.

As often happens, when cod are plentiful, haddock suffer, so ICES is recommending a 25 percent cut in the haddock quota, down to 150,000 tons, bringing it down to less than half the 2012 level. But this is not to indicate that the haddock is threatened. Simply, it is all part of the natural variation in fish stocks that is constantly occurring.

The reason for the cod bonanza was partly explained in this article - where the rise in fish stocks has been attributed to the rise in ocean temperatures. Simply, the cod have moved north – which also explains why there are few cod to be caught in the North Sea.

However, as regards the Barents Sea, the belief is that the cod population is now peaking. The relatively warm sea temperatures have allowed the cod population to expand its range but the population is distributed almost as far north as the more shallow areas of the sea will allow before dropping off into the deep.

North east Arctic cod do not tend to venture in waters deeper than 1,500 feet. The Barents Sea has a maximum depth of 1.400 feet whereas the Arctic Ocean has points deeper than 15,000 feet.

What this demonstrates is that there are far greater influences on fish stocks than the relatively marginal activities of fishing fleets, contrasting with the claustrophobically narrow view of the BBC, which has Harrabin prattling about the "sustainability" of North Sea cod stocks.

This, of course, is subtle propaganda, supporting claims that the EU has finally got to grips with fisheries management in the North Sea. Remarkably, we hear nothing from the BBC – or the British media in general – about cod stocks in the Barents Sea being at a record high.

This narrowness of vision is classic "little Englander" thinking, reflected also in the low-circulation Guardian, which is reporting that "cod could be in for a revival at the fish counter as stocks recover after being overfished for decades".

It does not seem to have realised that the fish counters are already groaning with cod, and the biggest complaint now is that the surplus is driving down prices. Such is the power of the narrative that the newspaper has no idea what is happening in the real world.


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