Recent eastern cod collapse is a result of a number of factors, including continuous overfishing of the stock
Baltic cod is the region’s iconic species and plays a crucial role, both environmentally and commercially
On 14 October, the EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH) will meet in Luxembourg to decide on 2020 fishing limits for commercial species in the Baltic Sea. Oceana urges ministers to set catch limits in line with scientific advice. It is the last opportunity for the EU to meet the fast approaching deadline to end unsustainable fishing in the Baltic Sea by 2020.
“The Council meeting is the last chance for the EU to reach the legally binding target to end overfishing in the Baltic Sea by 2020. It is now time to introduce strictly scientific catch limits in order to ensure a sustainable future of the region’s fisheries,” said Andrzej Białaś, Policy Advisor at Oceana Europe. Cod is the cornerstone of Baltic marine ecosystem. After the collapse of Eastern Baltic cod earlier this year, EU ministers need to maintain the fishing ban and to remove the risk of bycatch while increasing control and monitoring efforts, so that this iconic fish can recover. “With cod gone, the fishing industry relying on it will simply vanish,” Białaś added.
The European Commission released in August its annual proposal for fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for next year. Sadly, the EC’s proposal surpasses again the scientific recommendation for the western Baltic herring and Baltic salmon. It also allows for continuous overfishing of the threatened eastern Baltic cod population. This contradicts the main objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy that established the landmark legal commitment to end overfishing in EU waters by 2020, after EU ministers missed the initial 2015 deadline.
Due to eastern Baltic cod collapse, the European Commission introduced in July an immediate temporary fishing ban until 31 December. This decision was a good step towards cod restoration. But, a long-term recovery plan is still crucial to guarantee a sustainable future of the stock. The Commission’s proposal for next year is 2,000 tonnes for by-catch, which in the case of weak eastern Baltic cod will possibly push the stock to the point of no return. Oceana therefore strongly advises a “zero” TAC (closure of fishery) for 2020, alongside the introduction of additional measures (e.g. extended spawning closures, maximum reduction of cod bycatch etc.).
For the western Baltic cod, Oceana agrees with the Commission’s proposal to lower the TAC by 68%, limiting catches to 3,065 tonnes for the next year, if a spawning closure period is implemented. However, Oceana recommends that catches should not exceed 2,329 tonnes, if no spawning closure is introduced. In just 10 years, the commercial catches of the western cod stock have dropped by more than half, largely due to continuous overfishing.
For the western herring stock, scientific advice has been clear: a “zero” TAC. Oceana calls on the Council to stop fishing this stock — as per the objectives under the Common Fisheries Policy — or else the region risks facing severe, permanent socio-economic consequences.