BRUSSELS Europe's fishing chief called for a cut of up to 50 percent in next year's haul of cod on Thursday after reviewing evidence that the main species used in fish and chips is not recovering from being over-fished.
Scotland, where annual fishing revenues are around 445 million pounds, looked likely to be hit hardest by the proposal from EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, which is designed to rectify years of mismanagement of stocks.
But Damanaki's demand is likely to be modified by EU fisheries ministers, who have in the past backed fishermen, who tend to back short-term profit over long-term sustainability.
Damanaki said cod stocks to the west of Scotland, in the Irish Sea and in the straits between Sweden and Denmark were showing no signs of being replenished and needed protecting.
Fishermen should halve their haul of cod from those seas in 2011, and cod catches from the Bay of Biscay and off Portugal's coast should be reduced by 15 percent, she said.
"Past experience has shown that those who think they can negotiate with nature will not have a long future in fishing," she said in a statement.
"Clearly, science-based decisions are the only way to help rebuild fish stocks to levels that will sustain a healthy and profitable EU fishing industry."
Damanaki, who took office at the start of this year, has promised to reverse the policies of her predecessors, who allowed taxpayers' money to subsidise an ever-growing fishing fleet as it chased an ever-shrinking pool of fish.
Cod, valued for its white, flaky meat, is worth millions to Europe's fishermen, and was even the subject of naval clashes between Iceland and Britain in the 1950s and 1970s.
Damanaki said 3,420 tonnes of cod should be landed from the Bay of Biscay, but just 337 tonnes from the Irish Sea, 190 tonnes from Sweden-Denmark straits and 120 from around Scotland.
She proposed an increase in quotas for better-managed species, such as sole, hake and herring.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)