On 28 August, the European Commission published its proposal for next year’s fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea. The proposal covers several species including cod, herring and salmon. The Council will examine the Commission’s proposal at its ministerial meeting scheduled on 19-20 October.
Western Baltic cod
The European Commission pointed out that the Western Baltic cod populations are still in a critical condition, following difficulties from previous years. Therefore, the Commission proposed to reduce fishing opportunities
by 11% and to maintain a list of accompanying measures adopted last year
. Recreational fishermen must respect a bag limit of five specimens per day and two specimens during the closure period
(1 February – 31 March) in subdivisions 22 and 23, and in subdivision 24 within a specific area equal to six nautical miles measures from the baselines
(beyond that point, recreational fishing is prohibited). The winter spawning closure period is also maintained in the whole region. Finally, in deeper waters, commercial fishing opportunities are limited to by-catches.
EAA supports the Commission’s proposal to set fishing opportunities at a lower level for Western Baltic cod, given the fragile condition of the stock.
Eastern Baltic cod
The stock has experienced a continued decline since last year and ICES noticed
that if its advice for zero catches were to be strictly followed, the spawning stock biomass would raise only marginally, making it largely insufficient to consider Eastern Baltic cod stock as being sustainable. The Commission therefore proposes to continue limiting fishing opportunities to unavoidable by-catches. 595 tonnes of by-catch will be granted, down 70% from last year.
Recreational fishing will also be prohibited in subdivisions 25 and 26, which, as for previous years, is supported by the EAA.
ICES underlined the contrasted shape of herring populations from the Baltic sea. The European Commission published a proposal which aims to further reduce fishing opportunities for herrings from Central Baltic (by 36%) and Western Baltic (by 50%). Gulf of Bothnia herring would be kept at the same level as last year whereas herring from the Gulf of Riga could benefit from an increase of fishing opportunities by 15%. This cautious approach taken by the Commission for the herring is explained by the consideration for the fragile ecosystem of the Baltic and the dependence of other fish stocks on herring.
Salmon populations need to be treated in a precautionary way, the ICES recommended. The Commission supported a decrease of fishing opportunities for salmon from the Gulf of Finland by 10% unlike salmon from the main basin for which fishing opportunities could be increased by 9%.
EAA has advocated for a long time for stopping to fish salmon commercially at open sea, as these fishing practices are not able to distinguish healthy from threatened salmon stocks. The increase proposed by the European Commission is not responsible. Due to problems with IUU fishing, high prevalence of new diseases and the vulnerability of weak river stocks a continued conservative approach should be maintained.
EAA is participating in the discussions over fishing opportunities for 2021, including as part of the Baltic Sea Advisory Council, and striving for sustainable management of fisheries and healthy fish stocks.