Western Baltic cod: EU Ministers agree a 5 cod bag limit for anglers in 2020

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17 Oct

In 2020, anglers will be allowed to land a maximum of 5 cod per day per angler from the Western cod stock, reduced to 2 specimens during the spawning period (February and March). This was decided earlier this week by the EU fisheries Ministers upon a proposal by the European Commission on next year’s fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea. Total allowable catches (TACs) and member states' quotas were set for the ten most commercially important fish stocks in the Baltic Sea, including the cod stocks and their decision encompasses recreational fisheries in the case of cod.

Following the ICES advice, there will be a 60% decrease in the Western part of the Baltic Sea for commercial fisheries and a “total closure” for the Eastern part, except from by-catches.

For recreational fisheries, the Commission had proposed a drastic cut to the present 7 cod bag-limit to a 2 bag-limit in 2020 for Western cod. EAA and its Baltic members argued strongly against a 2 cod bag-limit. Based on previous experience it is clear that such a small bag-limit would have a dramatic impact on the recreational fisheries sector in the region. Thus, the Council of Ministers went against the Commission’s proposal and decided a bag-limit of 5 cod per day per angler. 
The decision of the EU Ministers is rather good news for recreational fisheries. However, anglers have been pleading for a separate management scheme for the Öresund (subdivision 23) for recreational fisheries. This narrow strait between Sweden and Denmark is a unique area, due to a trawling ban in place since 1932, introduced as a security measure due to heavy ship traffic. The ban has allowed the area to develop very much like a Marine Protected Area, with low pressure on fish stocks and less damage to the habitat compared with adjacent waters. It has also allowed positive economic benefits in the region, for a number of sectors related to recreational fisheries, including tourism. The economic value of sea angling in the Öresund has been estimated to more than €50 million annually (see table 1 below). A higher, or no bag-limit would be risk free in this area according to the anglers, who instead suggest a higher minimum landing size for this area than the present 35 cm. 
With the decision taken, charter boats for recreational anglers fear a loss of customers in February and March when the bag-limit is 2 cod only. Both the German and the Danish charter boats have suffered economically since a Western Baltic cod bag-limit was introduced for the first time in 2017. 
Cod is one of the most sought fish species by sea anglers in the Western part of the Baltic Sea. A lot of economy and jobs depend on continued good cod fishing, and access to fish for cod. Anglers have suffered from overfishing of the Western Baltic cod stock for many years, which have brought the stock into the trouble it is in today. Anglers are willing to help stock recovery but in a fair and equitable manner. Historic catch data show clearly that anglers did not overfish the stock - see ICES advice, table 6. It is worth noticing, that for a number of years the commercial fisheries’ discards alone exceeded the recreational fisheries’ total catches. 

Photo credit: DAFV, Olaf Lindner 

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