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Sustainable fisheries

Changing business as usual

Poor fisheries management and overconsumption are putting fish stocks, marine ecosystems, livelihoods and coastal communities at risk. Together with fishermen, governments, regional councils and market players, we’re working to reverse the trend by promoting more sustainable practices and educating consumers. Poor fisheries management – quotas set exceed scientific advice, indiscriminate gear catching by-catch of unwanted species, too many boats and inadequate control mechanisms – continues to put fish stocks, marine ecosystems, livelihoods and coastal communities at risk.

There have been drastic changes to the Baltic fish populations causing ripple effects for the entire Baltic Sea ecosystem as well as causing changes to lower levels of the food chain and contributing to other problems such as eutrophication. Not only does overfishing deplete stocks of the specific fish caught, but it also changes the food web structures of the sea. Predators, such as seals and seabirds are affected negatively when the populations of the fish they normally eat decrease, while prey fish and organisms increase and take over as their natural predators like cod in the Baltic Sea disappear. Currently, specific quotas are set for each of the most important commercial species. But because the quotas have historically been higher than the reproductive capacity of the fish populations in the ecosystem, they have led to decreased or depleted fish stocks. Overfishing also occurs through by-catch and illegal fishing.

A major solution to improving fish populations in the Baltic Sea is to stop overfishing, implement sustainable fisheries management and reduce harmful fishing practices.

That’s why WWF is working together with fishermen, governments, regional body Baltic Sea Advisory Council and market players in the seafood industry to change the trend in overfishing and overconsumption of seafood. The Baltic Sea fisheries are controlled and regulated by Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It is a common fact that Europe’s fish stocks and fishing sector are in a crisis, with two-thirds of assessed fish stocks being overfished. Despite trojan efforts by many, including WWF, the reformed CFP has largely maintained the defence of business-as-usual and delayed the recovery of the stock.

Marine Life in the Baltic Sea
  • Total sea area: 404,354 km²
  • Average depth: 53 metres
  • Habitat type: Temperate shelf and seas
  • Climate: Prolonged cold and dark winters, mild summers with almost 24 hours of daylight
  • Marine mammals: Harbour porpoise and ringed seal
  • Commercial fish species: Central & South West Baltic: cod, herring, sprat and salmon. Northern Baltic: Pike, perch, white fish and herring.

Fisheries ManagementSkarpsill

There are four main targeted fish species in the Baltic Sea, namely cod, salmon, herring and sprat – all managed under the CFP. WWF is advocating for long-term management plans for these species, which includes set management guidelines with adequate closures in marine protected areas and other defined sensitive areas where they spawn or feed.

Fish Dishes – the unacceptable face of seafood

Seafood is a common part of our diet and often considered a popular healthy choice. Too often consumers are unaware of the problems behind the seafood they see on their plate – of the harmful or wasteful fisheries and rapid decline in the numbers of fish to catch out at sea. Get a snapshot of some of the most popular fish dishes and the problems that lurk behind them here. Check out what recommended seafood you should choose in your country or next travel destination here.

Everything is connected

Both the activities out at sea as well as on land have an impact on the well being of fish stocks and the overall marine ecosystem of the Baltic Sea. We drive work on both land and seascapes on three levels: policy, markets and partnerships in the field. Acknowledging the land to sea connection is vital for this work.

Our work
Sustainable Fisheries

WWF together with fishermen, governments, regional councils and market players, we’re working to reverse the trend by promoting more sustainable practices and educating consumers.

Read more here

Arctic tern
Our work
Integrated Oceans Management

WWF promotes an ecosystem-based integrated oceans management (IOM) approach to ensure that the well-being and needs of both nature and marine users and communities are met, without compromising the integrity and biodiversity of the marine ecosystem.

Learn about IOM

Blue-green algae, Baltic Sea, Finland
Our work
Reduce Eutrophication

We working to address the eutrophication problem in the Baltic Sea by promoting policy reform and more sustainable farming and land management practices.


Seafood guides
Consume Sustainably

We have worked with our partners to help develop WWF Seafood guides for consumers around the Baltic, that are tailored to their national markets and local biodiversity.

Access the guides here

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Last modified 05/07/21

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