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News|03 Sep, 2019

No end in sight: European Commission shows no support to ban overfishing in the Baltic region

Fishing boats on Poland's coast

The European Commission’s latest proposal for 2020 limits on fishing in the Baltic does not meet the legal requirements outlined in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The eyes of EU citizens now rest on the ministers for fisheries, who will make a final decision on Baltic Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for the next year.

On Friday, 30 August, the European Commission published its proposal for 2020 fishing limits in the Baltic for 9 out of 10 Total Allowable Catches (TACs). The undecided TAC is for Eastern Baltic cod. The European Commission proposes to stop targeted fishing for Eastern Baltic Cod and establish a fishing quota for by-catch of cod in other fisheries. This proposal will serve as a basis for negotiations between Ministers in the Agriculture and Fisheries Council when they meet in Luxemburg 14-15 October to decide on TACs for Baltic Sea fish stocks for the coming year. Despite the deadline outlined in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to end overfishing in Europe by 2020, 3 out of 9 Baltic TACs proposed still exceed scientific advice and thus prevent the fish stocks from recovering to safe, sustainable levels.

“Again, this year, the European Commission is ignoring clear scientific advice to ban fishing for Western Baltic herring. However, the decision of the Commission is more worrying this time round, as it goes against the objectives stipulated in the Common Fisheries Policy to establish sustainable fishing levels by 2020 at the latest. In addition, the proposal for the two Baltic salmon TACs also exceed scientific advice. Overfishing will not help depleted stocks to recover,” explains Ottilia Thoreson, Director of the WWF Baltic Programme.

ICES main advice on fishing opportunities from earlier this year clearly states it should be zero tonnes in 2020 for the Eastern Baltic cod and therefore apply to all catches – including by-catches. The European Commission’s proposal does not fully reflect the scientific advice. This cod is in a critical state and it is essential that scientific recommendations for this stock are followed accurately.

On the bright side, the Commission has decided to follow ICES advice for a number of stocks including Western Baltic cod, Central Baltic herring, Gulf of Riga herring, Gulf of Bothnia herring, Baltic plaice and sprat.
WWF welcomes the Commission’s proposed Western Baltic cod TAC. It does not exceed scientific advice and provides conservation measures for the stock such as the re-introduction of temporary closure from January 1st to March 31st and additional restrictions on recreational fisheries. Only if this proposal is followed will this economically important but depleted stock have a chance to recover.

The beauty of ending overfishing is that it can be done here and now. Making the right political decisions means overfishing can be stopped before its devastating effects can materialize underwater. Ministers have all the prerequisites to take the right decisions in October: policy framework with legally binding deadline of ending overfishing by 2020 and scientific advice on sustainable fishing levels from ICES. Following those requirements for all Baltic fish stocks will contribute significantly to rebuild the Baltic Sea ecosystem with recovered fish stocks, as well as to the prosperity of the fishermen and coastal communities.


Ottilia Thoreson, Director, WWF Baltic Programme
+46 8 624 74 15

Hannah Griffiths Berggren, Communications Manager, WWF Baltic Programme
+46 8 515 114 83

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Last modified 22/11/19

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