The Atlantic cod is listed in the UK Biodiversity Grouped Action Plan for commercial marine fish. Being a species that is found in international waters, it has proved very difficult to impose restrictions on the number of fish that can be harvested from the sea without reducing fish stocks below the important Safe Biological Figure (SBF) limits. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) released figures for the North East Atlantic and Baltic in 2001, which show cod are still being overfished within six of the nine sea areas of the study. Currently, cod caught in Icelandic waters are the only stock regarded as being sustainably fished. In January of 2003, the European Union (EU) revised its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), but whether this will lead to improvements in the way the fishing industry is regulated remains to be seen. Although the fish that are landed in port are controlled through the rules governing total allowable catch (TAC), the regulations do not limit the numbers of fish actually caught. A boat's crew, having checked the catch and finding either bycatch (non-target fish or other animals) or fish below the legal size, will simply jettison those fish overboard. Most of them will be dead. Many marine biologists argue that regulation alone will not be enough to maintain fish stocks at a sustainable level. The present status of the Atlantic cod stock seems to support this statement. Perhaps the only hope for the future of this fish, and the other commercial species, is the imposition of no-catch zones, including some of the principal migration routes, and areas where fish can spawn undisturbed.
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