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Cod prices could soar as stocks fall to 'critical' level

Fishing leaders say the industry has been dealt a 'hammer blow' by sinking North Sea stocks.

Cod: Customers face price rises from next year.
Cod: Customers face price rises from next year.

Fishing leaders say the industry has been dealt a "hammer blow" after North Sea cod stocks have dropped to a critical level.

Customers could now face price rises from next year, with a 63% drop in the amount of cod caught expected.

Leaders say the numbers from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) have made them "sit-up" and they will put in place protective measures.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "We saw this coming and it has happened before and we will not shirk the necessary action."

It could mean fishermen having to avoid certain areas of the North Sea where there is a large gathering of cod to allow the stocks to recover.

The fleet have worked hard to make sure cod has recovered in the past - it resulted in the species gaining Marine Stewardship Council accreditation for sustainability in 2017.

Mr Armstrong added: ''We have worked long and hard to make cod recover because that's what the public see.

"We will do everything we can to make sure that everything is done to make sure we keep the accreditation."

The data from the group of governmental scientists could influence the quota of cod for next year.

It will be particularly relevant to the fishing talks between the EU and Norway that will take place later in the year.

Overfishing, a discard ban and climate change is all being blamed for falling stocks.

Cod is not usually targeted by most boats in the Scottish fleet but is a by-catch when fishing.

However, fishermen admit that the initial figures will be concerning for the Scottish fleet.

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