Oceana is moderately encouraged by the European Commission’s proposal for 2016 Baltic fishing limits | Oceana

Oceana is moderately encouraged by the European Commission’s proposal for 2016 Baltic fishing limits

Press Release Date: September 2, 2015

Location: Madrid, Spain


Anna Baxter | email: abaxter@oceana.org
Anna Baxter

Today, the European Commission has presented its annual proposal of catch limits (TACs) for the Baltic Sea. The proposal is based largely on scientific advice, issued by the International Council on the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), and for the majority of stocks EC has been able to propose limits at sustainable levels in line with the management objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy. However, Oceana is worried that the European Commission has failed to present a proposal for the western cod stock – one of the most commercially important species in the region.

The Commission expects additional information from ICES and drops finding solutions to improve the stock’s status onto the Member States, asking them to propose solutions. The stock has been heavily overfished for several years now and ICES has clearly stated that, in line with MSY, catches in 2016 should not exceed 7,797 tonnes. The logical step forward is reducing catch limits so that they can provide the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) which was expected from the EC proposal.

“Fisheries ministers must stop ignoring scientific advice and instead of making short term political compromises they should focus on rebuilding abundance in the Baltic Sea. More fish in the sea will create more jobs in the fishing industry and more healthy fish on our dinner tables,” explains Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “The Baltic Sea is a truly unique place, environmentally and politically. It is one of the world’s largest bodies of brackish water with a long tradition of advanced regional cooperation. The Baltic Sea can and should be an example of successful fisheries management. Now is the time to shift from short-term annual quota setting to multiannual management plans that will provide predictability and stability to the environment and the fishing industry.”

Baltic fishing limits will be negotiated with the Council composed by fisheries ministers from 28 EU countries during a meeting on 22nd – 23rd October.

Cod still in distress

Cod is a very important fish species in the Baltic, both environmentally and commercially, thus Oceana believes that its recovery should be a top priority. While the Eastern cod stock shows certain signs of improvement, the smaller Western stock continues to be significantly overfished. Moreover, recreational catches have become a significant problem in the Western stock. German recreational catches alone take over 30% of the volume of the proposed TAC for 2016.

Oceana calls for a careful approach towards the fragile Eastern stock and a hefty catch reduction compared to 2015 resulting in the TAC to be no more than 29,220 tonnes (following ICES advice of 43% cut). The Western stock is heavily overexploited and has a long history of overfishing. In order to allow it to rebuild and yield more productivity in the long term we urge the EU states to follow ICES advice and support a TAC not larger than 7,797 tonnes – a 49% catch reduction.

Baltic plan in progress

A Baltic multiannual plan (MAP) providing management for cod, sprat, herring and flatfish, is in the final stage of negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. Until it is adopted we are still under the old cod management plan, which ICES identified as no longer able to be considered precautionary. It is therefore vital for the new multi-annual plan to be put in place in as soon as possible. Oceana supports the adoption of a robust Baltic MAP, fully in line with the new CFP and coherent with the EU environmental legislation, that would finally end overfishing, secure sustainable catches and ensure healthy fish stocks.