The Barents Sea Cod - The last of the large cod stocks

A new WWF report shows that global cod catch has suffered a 70 per cent drop over the last 30 years, and if such a trend continues, the world’s cod stocks will disappear in 15 years time. The report reveals that the world’s largest remaining cod stock, in the Barents Sea, is now highly threatened by overfishing, illegal fishing and industrial development.
 
According to the report,The Barents Sea Cod — The last of the large cod stocks, the world’s cod fisheries are disappearing fast, with a global catch that has declined from 3.1 million tonnes in 1970 to 950,000 tonnes in 2000. In the North American cod fishery, the catch has declined by 90 per cent since the early 1980s, while in European waters, the catch of the North Sea cod is now just 25 per cent of what it was 15 years ago.

The report further shows that while the Barents Sea cod stock — which is managed by Russia and Norway and accounts for half of the global catch — appears to be healthy, this may not last. It highlights, for example, fish quotas for 2004 that are 100,000 tonnes over what is considered as sustainable by scientists, and up to 100,000 tonnes of cod that is indicated to be caught illegally every year.
 
"Overfishing of cod continues because fisheries policies are driven by short-term economic interests," said Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s Endangered Seas Programme. "In several areas, like the North Sea and the Barents Sea, scientists are calling for lower fish quotas and cod fishing bans, but they are ignored, and business carries on as usual. The onus is on Russia and Norway to prevent the Barents Sea cod stock suffering a similar fate as the Canadian cod stock which collapsed in the 1990s and has not yet recovered."
 
WWF is calling on the Russian and Norwegian governments to immediately set stricter cod quotas, in accordance with scientists’ recommendations, and to implement tighter controls of all fishing activities in the Barents Sea to reduce illegal fishing. Norway is also urged to reduce its fishing fleet capacity.
 
The report shows that threats to the Barents Sea cod stock are increasing with the expansion of industrial development, such as petroleum exploration and shipping activities. WWF also fears that the growing cod farming industry could result in disease transfer to wild cod or genetic interbreeding with escaped farm fish. Climate change could also add further pressure on fish stocks in the Arctic, including cod.
 
"To address these new threats, the Barents Sea cod stock needs to become more resistant, especially since it consists mainly of younger cod that reproduce less frequently than the older ones," said Rasmus Hansson, CEO of WWF-Norway. "Only sound management of the fishery by the Russian and Norwegian governments will ensure the long term sustainability of the world’s last large cod stock."
 
Further information and download the document from www.panda.org website.