Oceana remains troubled that the vast majority of Baltic fish species like seatrout, dab, brill, turbot and flounder remain largely unmanaged.
Yesterday, the European Commission published their proposal for 2012 Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for some Baltic fish stocks. Oceana is urging the Commission and Member States to immediately halt fishing for red listed and threatened species in the Baltic Sea and strongly supports the application of the precautionary approach to the management of species for which sound scientific information is lacking.
While more than 50 different fish species are commercially caught in the Baltic Sea, the Commission proposed a TAC for only five of them, not fully applying their own commitment to propose 25% precautionary reductions for stocks where data is lacking for scientific assessments.
A final decision about the quotas for Baltic fish stocks will be made after the Fisheries Council (made up of ministers from all 27 EU member states) discussion on October 21st. The Council, wherein discussions are kept confidential, has a history of ignoring both scientific advice and European Commission proposals for fishing quotas.
While TACs for herring, sprat, cod, salmon and plaice have been proposed, Seatrout, Brill, Dab, Flounder and Turbot still lack a proposal for a TAC, even though ICES scientists advised immediate fishing restrictions for sea trout and the freezing of catches for Brill and Dab.
“The Commission did right to propose reduced catch limits that allow key stocks to recover and consequently provides fishers with higher catches and a safer income in the future.” comments Anne Schroeer, Baltic Sea Project Manager for Oceana. “However, we are disappointed that the precautionary principle was not applied and a lot of overfished and even threatened Baltic fish stocks remain largely without management assessments.”
Because the eastern Baltic cod stock is improving, the Commission increased the quota by 15%, giving the stock a chance to improve in the short term. However, leading fisheries scientists argue that a two year catch freeze would have rebuilt the biomass above the Maximum Sustainable Yield and provided higher catches and profits over a 10 year period.[i] The situation is much worse for western Baltic cod, which is only very slowly recovering from an almost depleted state.
Baltic sprat, mainly caught for fishmeal, and several stocks of Baltic herring are badly overfished, while the biomass of western Baltic spring spawning herring is at an historic low. The Commission proposes reducing catches for the eastern Baltic herring stocks between 21% and 33%. Oceana supports these reductions, but points out that the reduction for Gulf of Riga herring should be higher, following scientific advice. Western Baltic spring spawning herring is at historic low limits, so the proposed increase of the TAC lacks an explanation. Oceana appreciates the Commission proposal to reduce catches for Baltic plaice by 25%.
Baltic salmon is red listed as a threatened species and the conditions of several salmon stocks in Baltic rivers are extremely bad. Additional problems for Baltic salmon include misreporting, elevated IUU fishing, with estimated IUU catches higher than the official TAC, and an extremely high number of unreported recreational catches. While the Commission proposes a 50% reduction of the TAC, Oceana supports a halt of salmon fishing in the Baltic Sea basins.
Oceana is urging the Commission and Member States to immediately halt fishing for red listed and threatened species in the Baltic Sea and strongly supports the application of the precautionary approach to the management of species for which sound scientific information is lacking.