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News|11 Apr, 2019

Eastern Baltic cod stock has collapsed – NGOs call to immediately close fishing of Eastern Baltic cod

Atlantic cod, Finnmark, Norway
The western cod stock has been unstable since the 1990’s and is now on the brink of collapse.
Responding to the release of an alarming new report by international fisheries scientists that Eastern Baltic Cod is at a critically low level, NGOs are calling on the fisheries ministers of all EU Baltic member states to immediately close the fishery.

The report, published last week by International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an intergovernmental marine science organization, found that the eastern Baltic cod population has reached such a critically low level that it is unable to reproduce itself sufficiently to maintain a future healthy stock.[1]

Scientists and researchers have warned about the risk to the health of the eastern Baltic cod population for years – with specific concerns about the low stock numbers, small size at reproduction, and starvation[2] – but the alarm was raised during a regional Baltic meeting of fisheries stakeholders in January this year when scientists presented data from 2018 Baltic International Trawl surveys that found a record number of empty trawls.[3]

Environmental NGOs Coalition Clean Baltic, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, Oceana, Our Fish, and WWF:

“This new ICES report, along with the data made available from last year’s Baltic international trawl surveys, provides a shocking image of how the population of Eastern Baltic cod has plunged to devastatingly low levels. Immediate emergency measures must be taken by Baltic fisheries ministers and the European Commission, including closing the fishery – or else face a legacy of having been responsible for the commercial extinction of this cod.”

The normal process for setting Baltic fishing levels for the following year begins with advice from ICES for all commercially exploited Baltic stocks on 29 May, and concludes in October when decisions from EU fisheries ministers on allowed catch levels and other measures are made at the AGRIFISH Council meeting.

“If we wait for the usual political process to run its course, it will mean goodbye to Eastern Baltic cod. In the meantime, fishing vessels will continue trawling up the last few fish that can reproduce during this spawning season starting in May. In addition, smaller sized cod risk to be thrown overboard.”

The EU Common Fishery Policy (CFP) provides the solutions – it includes provisions for dealing with this form of serious threat to the marine environment. Articles 12 and 13[4] of the CFP empower the Commission and Members States to take emergency measures. Baltic and European NGOs have today written an open letter to all Baltic state fisheries ministers calling on them to implement national emergency measures.


[1] ICES 2019, Report from Benchmark Workshop on Baltic Cod Stocks (WKBALTCOD2) p.77.
[2] ICES 2018 advice for Eastern Baltic cod
[4] Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy. Articles 12, 13

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