Overfishing hits deep-sea stocks.

Some of Europe's most spectacular deep-sea fish species are being wiped out by overfishing, according to reports from fisheries scientists and WWF, the global conservation organisation.

They warn that tough restrictions are needed to save exotic species such as the orange roughy, the black scabbard fish and the Portuguese shark.

Fisheries ministers from across Europe are preparing for a meeting of the European Union fisheries council tomorrow that will decide how heavily stocks can be exploited.

One of the documents they will consider comes from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, which co-ordinates marine and fisheries research for 19 countries bordering the north Atlantic. It will warn that catches should be reduced until they can be shown to be sustainable.

Council secretary David Griffith said: "Deep-sea fish are long-lived, slow-reproducing species that can withstand only low levels of fishing." In Britain, these fish are mainly used in processed food.

The origins of the crisis for deep-water species began 20 years ago with a rapid decline in the population of cod, hake, haddock and other shallower-water species.

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