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News|08 Oct, 2014

Will Fisheries Ministers walk their talk when deciding Baltic Sea fish quotas?

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Fishing boats on Poland's coast

The EU Fisheries Ministers will meet to decide on the total allowable catches of fish in the Baltic Sea for 2015 during the Council meeting, 13 – 14 October 2014. For the first time the quotas will be decided under the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). WWF urges the ministers to follow the advice provided by the scientists and in accordance with the provision of the new CFP.

This week, the European Commission released their proposed regulation for establishing a multispecies plan for the Baltic Sea stocks – sprat, herring and cod. WWF welcomes the need for long-term multispecies management plans for fisheries but is concerned that it is too early to agree on a multispecies plan for the Baltic Sea in light of the still unclear situation for the Eastern Baltic cod. The plan is focused on optimising overall catch volumes rather than basing it firmly on the ecosystem-based approach.

This spring ICES classified the Eastern Baltic cod stock as without adequate data to make a regular assessment and advised an interim solution: to abandon the existing cod management plan and instead implement stricter measures, resulting in a proposed 56% reduction of the 2015 TAC for cod in the Eastern Baltic. Yet the multi-species plan proposes a fishing range of (+/-10%) for all three species.

“WWF is of the opinion that the fishing rate of the suggested plan will not guarantee recovery of the Eastern Baltic cod, especially with in its current status that is not properly understood,” says Ottilia Thoreson, Manager of WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. “We urge the Fisheries Ministers to follow the ICES advice on the precautionary approach for this stock when setting the fishing quotas for next year.”

The situation of the Eastern Baltic cod stock has dramatically changed in the last two years. Both fishermen and scientists have seen an overall decrease in size and weight of the cod, likely due to limited prey. The situation has caused problems with age reading and therefore hampered a regular assessment for the stock.

“Unfortunately, the Commission did not take the relationship between cod, herring and sprat into consideration,” added Ottilia Thoreson. “Although the TAC proposed by the Commission for sprat and herring in the Central Baltic is in line with the ICES proposal, it does not include the spatial management of the fishing effort for the herring and sprat fisheries, proposed by ICES to protect the food resources for cod.”
For the Baltic salmon stocks there is a noted increase in numbers of returning spawners to the Bothnian Bay rivers. However, there is still only a few of the 30 salmon rivers in the Baltic that are within safe biological limits and salmon populations in many rivers are still extremely vulnerable.

The main concerns related to salmon are illegal fisheries and fisheries on the mixed stocks which hinders the sustainable fisheries management of these stocks. WWF sees that Commission’s proposal on salmon TACs does not pay enough attention to the estimated illegal catches and the risks that open seas and coastal areas fisheries pose for the depleted salmon populations. Therefore WWF calls for a further decrease for salmon TACs.

WWF urge the Fisheries ministers to follow ICES advice in all decisions regarding the fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea.

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For more information on the multispecies management plan:

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Last modified 22/11/19

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