October 10th, 2017: Undercurrent: EU cuts Baltic cod quota by 8%; science recommended 28% cut

The European Council has agreed on 2018’s total allowable catches (TACs) and national quotas for the ten commercially most important fish stocks in the Baltic Sea.

In line with the Commission proposal based on International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) scientific advice, the agreement includes a roll-over for Western cod and an increase in catches for central herring (+20%) and sprat (+1%).

For the remaining stocks, ministers decided on a reduction for Riga herring (-7%), salmon in the Gulf of Finland (-5%), main baisin salmon (-5%), Eastern cod (-8%), Bothnian herring (-40%), Western herring (-39%) and plaice (-10%).

The agreed quantities take into account the commitment to the objectives of the common fisheries policy (CFP), including the achievement of maximum sustainable yield; the principles of the multiannual management plan for the Baltic sea; and scientific advice, in particular advice provided by ICES, it said.

In addition to setting TACs and national quotas on some species, the Council confirmed the extension to 2018 of those management measures currently in place to improve the state of the stock Baltic cod (bag limitations in recreational fisheries and closure periods, with derogations for small coastal fisheries).

Ministers also decided to postpone discussions on measures on marine eel fisheries to a later stage to discuss a pan-European strategy to ensure the protection and sustainable use of the stock.

Anger over cod

Campaign organization Our Fish has slammed the decision by EU fisheries ministers to set 2018 western Baltic cod quotas “four times higher than cautious scientific advice”, during the all night Agrifish meeting in Luxembourg.

After hours of deliberations that continued until after 6am, ministers agreed to set TACs for western Baltic cod at 5,597 metric tons; four times higher than scientific advice, “despite the stock being critically overfished”.

Eastern Baltic cod was set at 28,388t, almost 4,000t higher than scientific advice.

“This is the fourth year in a row that the Council of EU fisheries ministers have set fishing limits for western Baltic cod significantly above scientific advice, despite the stock being severely overfished,” said Our Fish program director Rebecca Hubbard.

“Governments are pursuing a downward spiral of these once great fish stocks, which has serious ecological and social impacts, and goes against both EU fisheries law and public sentiment.”

Agrifish meets again in December 2017 to discuss and decide on TACs for fish stocks in the North East Atlantic. “Deliberations are expected to be even more laborious than for the Baltic stocks, with more than 150 stocks under discussion,” Our Fish noted.

Meanwhile Andrew Clayton, project director at The Pew Charitable Trusts, added that “ministers again set certain fishing limits higher than scientific advice, with no justification provided for this disparity”.

“Important cod and plaice stocks in the Baltic will now be put under even more pressure in 2018, with fishermen missing out on the economic gains that stem from stock recovery. Ministers must do much better in December when catch limits for the rest of the EU’s stocks are set.”

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