Fish and chip shop favourite plaice could become much harder to find, after the European Commission (EC) announced proposals to put the species into its conservation programme.
The ruling, which also affects sole, means fishermen from the UK, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark face serious cuts in their North Sea catch quotas.
Currently, nearly half of all plaice and a third of all sole is fished from North Sea stocks each year.
The EC warned that unless action were taken, stocks would drop to dangerously low levels by next year.
It has therefore proposed fishing levels should be cut by up to 10% each year until the affected stocks become sustainable again.
An EC statement said: "The stocks of plaice and sole in the North Sea are overfished. Plaice in particular is in poor biological condition to an extent that risks affecting its reproductive ability."
The proposals must now be agreed by fisheries ministers from all 25 member states.
By Emily Manson
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