WWF together with FishSec, Oceana, Our Fish, PEW, the Danish Society for Nature Conservation, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, Seas at Risk, Coalition Clean Baltic provided feedback on the effectiveness and implementation of the upcoming fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2021. It is our hope that through implementation of urgent measures and better management and protection in the future, we can enable long-term recovery and sustainable exploitation of Baltic Sea stocks, but we note that we are a very long way from there today.
We recognise the challenges the industry faces during the current COVID-19 pandemic and hope the fiscal measures offered by the various countries are helping to alleviate hardship. While COVID-19 response measures may offer support in the short term, a sustainable marine environment supports livelihoods for years to come8, and in the context of other environmental pressures in the Baltic Sea, we urge decision-makers to set TACs in line with scientific advice so as to build the stable platform industry will need, more than ever, to secure their long-term viability.
We urge the European Commission to propose, and fisheries ministers to agree on fishing opportunities in accordance with the following recommendations:
- Set TACs not exceeding scientifically advised levels based on the MSY Approach for all stocks for which MSY-based reference points are available;
- Where MSY-based reference points are not available, to not exceed the Precautionary Approach catch limits advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES);
- Set TACs not exceeding the FMSY point value specified in the Baltic Sea Multi-Annual Plan (MAP), following the ICES MSY Advice Rule when spawning stock biomass (SSB) is below the MSY Btrigger reference point;
- Set TACs at more precautionary levels and take additional spatial and temporal measures to accommodate stock-specific uncertainties (catch misreporting, discards, assessment bias etc.), interspecies stock dynamics (e.g. sprat-cod) and low recruitment trends of individual stocks, whilst also considering other pressures (pollution, eutrophication, climate change) on the Baltic ecosystem that are likely to affect the abundance of fish stock biomass;
- Take into account the lack of implementation of the Landing Obligation (LO) when setting TACs, and either require remote electronic monitoring (such as cameras) or onboard observers for all vessels above 12m and for medium-high risk vessels below 12m, or set TACs below ICES catch advice to ensure illegal, unreported discarding does not lead to actual catches exceeding ICES catch advice;
- Provide transparent calculations for TACs based on the ICES advice on fishing opportunities;
- Improve transparency by making publicly available any proposals subsequent to the official Commission proposal, including Commission non-papers, Council Working Party, and AGRIFISH Council documents and minutes.