Oceana in Europe and our allies are campaigning to allow overfished Baltic Sea cod the chance to recover and rebuild their population. In its recently released advice for 2015 catches in the Baltic Sea, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) called for the largest cuts in total allowable catches for cod in years. This profound move comes after ICES scientists reported that the stock of Eastern Baltic cod is in very poor condition, despite reports from past years showing a strong recovery from an almost depleted state. This year’s analysis indicates that the stock of cod consists mainly of unusually small, slow growing individuals.
“The worrying information about cod is yet another sign of the poor state of the Baltic Sea. It is past time for Baltic Sea and EU decision makers to wake up and start taking action to save the marine environment”, Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana’s Baltic Sea project manager, said in a press release.
ICES also recommends that fisheries for sprat and herring (the main source of food for cod) be moved away from cod feeding grounds. As one of the Baltic Sea’s top predators, cod plays a vital role in maintaining balance in an ecosystem consisting of relatively few species. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is one of the most threatened and polluted in the world, as there is little enforcement for the already existing protective measures.
Oceana urges decision makers to listen carefully to this scientific advice as well as their own recommendations for protecting the Baltic Sea, including applying for a permit to fish inside a marine protected area (MPA), increasing surveillance of fishing activities, and using an ecosystem-based management system.