Baltic Sea fishing quotas agreed for 2022 with huge reductions in cod catches
The Council of the European Union reached agreement on next year’s fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea at the last AGRIFISH Council meeting in Luxembourg this week, with some total allowable catch (TAC) levels exceeding always scientific recommendations.
Following much of the European Commission proposal released in August, substantial quota reductions were made for several stocks, including an 88 percent reduction for Western Baltic cod to just 489 metric tonnes (MT ).
It was also agreed that there should be additional recovery management measures, such as limiting the unavoidable bycatch fishery of main basin salmon and western herring, as well as a prolonged spawning closure and a ban on recreational fishing for western Baltic cod.
Agreement was also reached on the joint recommendation of the Baltic Member States for more selective fishing gear for flatfish, which will allow the total allowable catches (TAC) of plaice to be increased without endangering the stocks of plaice. cod in trouble.
In addition, the council accepted increases for herring in the Gulf of Riga, sprat and salmon in the Gulf of Finland.
The European Commission has acknowledged that the new deal comes at a difficult time for the Baltic Sea, which has also seen environmental pressures and pollution-related challenges wreak havoc on fish stocks.
“Restoring the marine environment and fish stocks in the Baltic Sea is at the heart of the committee’s approach to defining fishing opportunities and I am happy that the council has agreed to follow it for most stocks. “, said European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said Virginijus Sinkevičius. “In recent years, the problems in the Baltic have had a devastating impact on our fishermen. This is why our global approach, with concrete actions targeting [the] environment, is crucial. The decisions taken are difficult, but necessary for the Baltic Sea to remain the source of livelihood for fishermen and women today and in the future.
The cuts come after EU fisheries ministers present at the meeting were subjected to multiple calls to improve the limits of the Baltic Sea stocks. Our Fisheries Program Director, Rebecca Hubbard, warned the council that it was “running against time” to stop the collapse of the Baltic Sea ecosystem and keep political promises to end climate and natural crises.
“Fisheries ministers have repeatedly set fishing limits for Baltic Sea fish stocks above scientific advice over the past decade, resulting in huge declines in fish populations,” Hubbard said . “In 2020, ministers improved their record, but they still set a fifth of the fishing limits in the Baltic Sea above the best scientific advice available, thus breaching the deadline to end overfishing by now 2020 and failing to avoid an ecological crisis. “
While many reductions brought TACs back in line with scientific advice, others missed the mark – what NGOs called and expressed disappointment. Fisheries ministers agreed to close the targeted salmon fishery in the southern Baltic, but still set bycatch TACs for all countries and allowed recreational catch-and-release fishing in the region. wild salmon – that a coalition of NGOs including Our Fish, Oceana, Seas at Risk, and WWF has said it is not responding to scientific advice.
“We are pleased that EU fisheries ministers have listened to some extent to the European Commission’s progressive proposal on fishing limits for sprat, central Baltic herring and plaice, which is a not clear towards the implementation of the ecosystem approach to fisheries management. , as required by the Common Fisheries Policy, ”said Justyna Zajchowska, WWF Poland Senior Marine Conservation Specialist. “On the other hand, WWF is concerned that ministers have set four of the 10 total allowable catches (TACs) exceeding scientific recommendations, including for salmon.”
The 2022 TAC for Eastern Baltic cod remains at 595 MT. Western herring is down 50% this year to 788 MT, Bothnian herring is 5% less to 111,345 MT, central herring is down 45% to 49,751 MT, while the Riga herring increases by 21% to 47,697 MT.
The quotas for sprats, plaice and Gulf of Finland salmon were increased by 13 percent, 25 percent and 6 percent to 251,943 MT, 9,050 MT and 9,455 MT respectively.
The main basin salmon quota for 2022 is down 32% year-on-year to 63,811 MT.
Photo courtesy of Janis Smits / Shutterstock