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News|23 Sep, 2019

Fit for purpose? An assessment of the effectiveness of the Baltic Sea multi-annual plan

The Multi-Annual Plan including all the main commercial species for the Baltic Sea is the first plan that is being developed under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy

The PEW Charitable Trust, with a number of supporting NGOS including WWF Baltic Programme, has made an assessment of the effectiveness of the Baltic Sea Multi-Annual Plan (BSMAP).

The Baltic Sea Multi-Annual Plan (BSMAP) has, overall, not been successful in delivering on its objectives nor on the aims of the European Union’s (EU) Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) for the fish populations, fisheries and ecosystems it covers. Not only has the MAP proved unsuccessful in restoring stock biomass, eliminating discards, protecting vulnerable species, and minimizing the negative impacts of fishing on Baltic ecosystems, but the content of the BSMAP made it very unlikely that it could ever achieve its stated aims. This is primarily due to weaknesses in its provisions and a lack of ambition, both of which stemmed from an intention to design the BSMAP as a generic blueprint for Multi-Annual Plans (MAPs) in other areas that would provide more “flexibility” for decision-makers.

The content of the MAP has been driven by political pressure to downgrade its ambition with a desire to maintain status quo fishing practices and provide flexibility to fish at higher rates than the CFP allows, something that is now reflected in other MAPs. These drivers have been evident throughout the process, from the initial proposal made by the European Commission (EC), to the inter-institutional process to agree the legislation. This ensured the level of ambition was low, preventing the inclusion of measures to restore fish stocks and to achieve wider environmental improvements. This also led to the inclusion of inappropriate mixed fisheries “flexibilities” for relatively targeted Baltic fisheries, just to set a precedent in future MAPs for fisheries in other
regions. This was exactly the generic one-size-fits-all approach MAPs were intended to overcome, through a process of regionalisation introduced to ensure management needs are adapted to the specific requirements of a given region in a timely manner.

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Last modified 19/04/22

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