ICES proposal for 2025 fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea – EAA comments

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10 Jun

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has recently released its advice for the 2025 fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea, which includes the proposal for total allowable catches levels (TACs) for several species such as herring, cod and Atlantic salmon. This ICES scientific advice forms the scientific basis for next year’s quotas, which will be further processed by the European Commission at the end of the summer and decided by the Council of Ministers early October. The European Anglers Alliance comments on the proposal.

Context

As every year, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) publishes its scientific proposal for the Baltic Sea fishing opportunities for the upcoming year. This to provide European policymakers adequate and science-based information on the state of play of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem and its fish stocks. Based upon this advice, it is thought, European policymakers can set quotas for different species in European waters benefitting not only the fishing industry but also the EU’s aquatic ecosystems.

In the ICES press release on the publication of the advice, Colm Lordan, Chair of ICES Advisory Committee, commented that “while the stock developments show a mixed picture in the short-term, the longer-term prognosis for the Baltic is not a positive one. The ecosystem is degraded and unexpected changes are becoming more frequent. ICES community is working hard to develop a better scientific understanding of the underpinning process and connections between the ecosystem, exploitable fish species, and the communities relying on them".

Advice for herring in the north is delayed

The ICES advice shows a continued crisis for many fish stocks, with at the same time, disagreement concerning the status of herring stocks. For herring in the Gulf of Bothnia/Bothnian Sea, where the catches of pelagic industrial fishing have been enormous over the past decade and coastal fishing has had catastrophically poor catches for several years, the advice will not come until September, this due to the great uncertainty prevailing with the current stock model.
 
For the herring stock in the central Baltic Sea, the model now points straight upwards, with a sharp quota increase as a suggestion, which is as EAA Sweden Sportfiskarna writes “difficult to understand” as Baltic herring is one of the species that has drastically declined in the Baltic Sea. Despite this, it is now proposed to double fishing in the central Baltic Sea.
 
The EU quota proposal by ICES on herring in the central Baltic Sea is proposed to end up in the range of 95,340–125,344 tonnes, compared with the 2024 quota of 40,368 tonnes, where the lower range of the quota would then mean a quota increase of as much as 136%.

Serious crisis for sprat exists

As regards the sprat species – which is also one of the most important catch for industrial fisheries in the Baltic Sea – a sharp reduction of 16 to 35% has been proposed.

For three years, the spawning results of sprat have been catastrophically poor, which is a very worrying development for this key species. EAA writes that the ICES' advice for sprat is based on an assumption that the sprat is more successful in spawning this time, however without any guarantees for this. Also, the MSY model – upon which ICES mostly bases its assessments and which is supposed to maximize yields and focus on biomass, never allows for any longer recovery for the stocks, nor does the model consider how fishing affects the size distribution within the stock. The MSY model – paradoxically – allows fishing to be called sustainable even when the stock is severely depressed & significantly smaller than it used and should be.

What about Cod & Atlantic salmon? 

As regards Cod, the species is still under threat. For the eastern cod stock, ICES proposes a zero quota, and for the western cod stock, the proposal is close to zero. However, as usual, huge amounts of by-catches of cod are allowed in commercial fisheries' landings for other species, a political priority that reduces the possibility of recovery for many fish stocks along the Swedish coast.
 
Atlantic salmon fishing is proposed to be reduced with a quota reduction proposal of -26% (to 40.000t fish for both recreational and commercial fisheries sectors on the coast of the Bothnian Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia.
 
The decline of wild salmon in the last two years is mostly due to the fact that smolt survival in the sea has deteriorated significantly and there are strong indications that it is due to a lack of the smolt's natural food, which is herring fry. The cohorts of herring have undoubtedly decreased.

Reactions from anglers on the ICES 2025 TACs Advice

"Anglers are very doubtful about whether this is a sustainable advice given the state of most fish stocks in the Baltic Sea. Herring has a key role in the ecosystem and such a sharp increase in fishing pressure as is now proposed can only be a major risk-taking”, comments Sten Frohm, Secretary General of the Swedish Anglers' Association - Sportfiskarna.

Also, as Sportfiskarna’s salmon expert Glenn Douglas underlines, "We need ecosystem-based management where herring, sprat and salmon are managed together. For example, the herring of the Bothnian Sea has been managed for far too long to only benefit the fishmeal industry, the management must take into account all species affected by the fishery”.
 
The European Angling community will monitor closely the TAC proposal by the European Commission & following discussions among members of the Council of the EU. European Anglers Alliance will keep demanding for a fair distribution of fishing opportunities for all fisheries stakeholders (commercial, small-scale and recreational fisheries) as – which was outlined in the RecFishing Forum event of October 2023 – “that a balance need to be found between protecting the fish stocks and the socio-economic benefits from a management perspective”.

More information


Photo credits: Knuts Conny

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