Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: "We are proposing a balanced package that will ensure sustainable fisheries in the Baltic Sea. The good news is that important quotas for Western Baltic cod can be increased, after several years of hardship for the fishermen. The sacrifices are paying off as the stock is recovering. As per usual, the picture is mixed, as this year we will have to reduce the quotas for Western herring in order to make sure that it is soon in a better state."
Western Baltic cod
The stock is on the increase. The Commission proposes to maintain this year’s recreational fisheries’ daily bag limit of 5 cod. The Commission also proposes to lift the current closure period for commercial fisheries in February and March, which were put in place to protect spawning cod. The Commission’s proposed quota increase (31%) is ‘optimistic’ or ‘daring’ some would say as the present increase in the biomass soon will be followed by decline as the next year classes of cod to enter the fishery are very weak. So, presumably it would be wise to reduce the catches suggested by the Commission, to prepare for the predictable decline in the cod availability in year 2020?
The EAA has argued for a long time that the cod population in the narrow strait ‘Öresund’ in Between Sweden and Denmark should be managed differently from the rest of the Western Baltic cod area. A trawling ban was put in place in the strait in 1932 due to marine traffic concerns. A side effect of the trawling ban has been, and still is, that fish – cod in particular - are more plenty there than in adjacent waters. The five cod recreational fishing bag limit is not really needed but could easily be increased or dismissed without harm done to the population, we argue.
Eastern Baltic cod
The Commission suggests to reduce the catches by 15% as according to the scientists the fishing pressure is too high on this stock. Recreational fisheries is not of concern in this area. No catch restrictions proposed at EU level.
A substantial reduction is envisaged for the Western Herring stock (63%) as it is no longer considered to be within safe biological limits. This is not due to a reduced stock size but due to the fact that the most recent scientific advice advocates a bigger stock size to ensure that enough offspring is produced and to avoid the risk of stock collapse. The Commission is proposing a reduction of 26% for the Central Herring, a 7% reduction for the Gulf of Bothnia, while Riga herring can be increased by 9%.
The EAA welcomes these proposed Herring catch reductions. Herring is a very important prey species for other fish, birds and mammals.
A small 1% reduction is suggested for salmon catches in the Gulf of Finland but an increase of 15% in the Main Basin. We are not too happy about that. We have argued for many years that catching Baltic salmon at open sea is not a good idea as this means targeting and catching both healthy as well as threatened salmon stocks. Several Baltic salmon stocks have been wiped out already and will never come back.
The Commission’s proposal will be examined by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 15-16 October.
● European Commission news release of 28 Aug 2018 here
● Legislative proposal COM/2018/608 final of 28 Aug 2018 (in all EU languages) here