SEPTEMBER 20 2007 18:44h
Poland will not impose fines on fishermen who break a European Union order to halt trawling for cod in the Baltic Sea.
The Commission ordered Poland to stop fishing cod in the area, saying the country had misreported its catch and exceeded its allowed EU quota.
"The ministry is not talking the fishermen into breaking the rule but the ministry does not intend to punish them either," Krzysztof Gogol, a spokesman for the Marine Economy Ministry, was quoted as saying by local news agency PAP.
Fishermen in Poland say the EU ban is depriving them of their livelihoods and staged protests this week.
Media reports on Thursday said Polish fishermen fished for cod in the eastern Baltic Sea on Tuesday despite the EU ban.
The dispute is one of several points of friction between the Poles and the EU on the environment. Poland has demanded bigger carbon dioxide emissions quotas and is also at odds with Brussels over a planned road through a nature reserve.
Large discrepancies between cod catch figures reported to Brussels by Polish authorities and those provided by EU inspectors revealed that Poland had exhausted its 2007 cod quota for the area, the Commission said.
Scientists have long advised that eastern Baltic cod has been overfished to the point where the species might vanish from the area and have recommended an outright fishing ban.
Polish Marine Economy Minister Marek Grobarczyk tried to convince the European Commission to scrap the ban last Monday, presenting documents he said showed stocks of the fish were higher than estimated by the EU executive.
The Commission said recently that it would have to cut the amount of cod caught by a third in 2007 if the species is to stand a chance of surviving after years of overfishing.