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, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Germany provided feedback on the effectiveness and implementation of the upcoming fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2022. 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.
The following text outlines the joint NGO recommendations on Baltic Sea fishing opportunities for 2022 in the context of environmental regulations, EU fisheries legislation, scientific advice on catch limits, and the
sharing of stocks with third countries.
Overall, 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, set TACs not exceeding 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)
- Set TACs at more precautionary levels and in line with an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management (along with 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;
- Fully utilise the precautionary approach in relation to mixed fisheries, protecting the most vulnerable stock either by closing areas with high mixing or dramatically reducing quotas to safeguard subpopulations;
- 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 and 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;
- Take into account that control with onboard observers was significantly reduced in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and discard rates may therefore be higher than observed.