Baltic Sea TACs: still some uncertainties for recreational anglers

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09 Sep

Like every summer, the Commission published late August its Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for the Baltic Sea. However, this year, the proposal is filled with gaps and placeholders, given that the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) had to postpone some of its advices for the region. Let’s have a look at the main species for recreational fishers and the measures that will have an influence on the anglers.

Back in May 2021, ICES published its scientific advice for next year’s fishing opportunities for the Baltic Sea. It recommended radical cuts in quotas to help preserve the fragile fish stocks in the area. But did the Commission follow the advice in its 2022 fishing opportunities?

Eastern Baltic cod (subdivisions 24-32)

For the third year in a row, ICES advised that “there should be zero catch in 2022” for cod in the eastern Baltic. While the Commission recognises that the species remains below safe biological limits, it still decides to keep the same TAC as last year (595 tonnes of “unavoidable” by-catches) “to avoid choking most of the other fisheries in the Baltic Sea.” The Commission also underlines in its proposal some of the remedial measures it adopted to help the stock, including a ban on recreational fishing since 2020, and believes it appropriate to maintain them. This ban is – as in previous years – supported by the EAA.

Western Baltic cod (subdivisions 22-24)

ICES decided to postpone its advice to mid-September 2021, due to a retrospective bias in the assessment. Pending the ICES’ advice, the Commission decided to maintain the existing remedial measures, such as spawning closures and restrictions for recreational fisheries. Therefore, there is no Commission proposal for bag limit for 2022. The closure period and the geographical scope of the measure will stay the same as in 2021.

For reference, in 2021, recreational fishermen have to respect a bag limit of five specimens per day and two specimens per day during the closure period (1 February – 31 March) in subdivisions 22 and 23, and in subdivision 24 within six nautical miles measures from the shore (beyond that point, recreational fishing is prohibited).

Western Spring Spawning Herring (Skagerrak, Kattegat and western Baltic, subdivisions 20-24)

For the fourth year in a row, ICES advised for this stock that “there should be zero catch in 2022.” Again, the Commission recognises that the situation would warrant such extreme measure and will propose a closure of all direct fisheries. At a later stage, pending more scientific data from ICES, a TAC for “unavoidable” by-catches will be set.

Riga Herring (subdivision 28.1)

Building on the good health of the stock over the past years and the strong 2019 year class, ICES said that an increased TAC was possible for 2022. The Commission follows this advice and proposes a TAC of 47,697 tonnes, a 21% increase compared to the 2021 TAC.

Central Baltic Sea Herring (subdivisions 25-29 and 32)

ICES estimated that the biomass has dropped further below healthy levels and as such advised for a further reduced TAC. The Commission agrees that the species is in a dire situation and proposes a TAC of 44,709 tonnes, a 54% decrease compared to 2021, which goes even beyond the ICES proposed range. This reduction mirrors fears from regional anglers that inshore stocks of herring are rapidly declining and rapid actions are needed to protect this key species.

Gulf of Bothnia Herring (subdivisions 30-31)

The Commission follows exactly the ICES advice for 2022, in line with the upper MSY limit of 111,345 tonnes, a 5% reduction compared to 2021. Anglers and small scale inshore commercial fishermen are extremely concerned about the disappearance of herring within coastal areas. The EAA is of the opinion that rapid action needs to be taken to reduce pressure on sub populations of coastal herring in subdivisions 30-31.

Baltic Salmon

ICES has not yet presented advice for this key species for both river and sea anglers and the EAA is awaiting the release of advice. “Baltic salmon” is in actual fact over 30 different river stocks and ICES difficulty in releasing a single MSY based advice mirrors this fact.

Next steps

The Council will now examine the Commission’s proposal – which will be updated in the coming weeks pending ICES’ further work – in view of adopting it in mid-October.
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