Baltic Sea fishing fleets toying with access rights in quest to overfish Baltic Cod


Baltic Sea fishing fleets toying with access rights in quest to overfish Baltic Cod

Copenhagen, 14 July 2017:– Responding to recommendations for 2018 fishing opportunities made by the Baltic Sea Advisory Council (BSAC), Our Fish Campaign manager Rebecca Hubbard said today that the German and Danish bottom trawling industry must stop trying to use obfuscation to shield scrutiny of its overfishing and its attempts to disenfranchise eastern Baltic countries of their fisheries rights.

“Big fishing industry players from the  richer western countries of the EU, like Denmark and Germany, are not only threatening to decimate the Western Baltic Cod stock by setting fishing limits far above scientific advice, they are also threatening the eastern Baltic states’ access to fresh, locally caught fish and historic access rights, by adding eastern cod quota to the western quota”, said Hubbard.

The Council of EU fisheries ministers set 2017 fishing limits for Western Baltic Cod stocks 352% higher than scientific advice, despite the fact that they were teetering on the edge of commercial collapse (1,2).

The Baltic Sea Advisory Council, dominated by large scale fishing interests, is encouraging the same approach this year with their recommendations for a Total Allowable Catch of 8,597 tonnes – 62% higher than the upper recommended limit by International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This includes an extra 3,000 tonnes under the auspices of eastern Baltic cod mixing in the western Baltic zones. The Latvian fishing association voted against this quota transfer in the Advisory Council (3,4,5).

“Almost every year, for the last eleven years, the Baltic Sea Advisory Council has argued for higher western Baltic cod fishing limits than ICES scientists advise, claiming that these are due to socio-economic concerns for their industry. In reality, overfishing is a driver of these socio-economic problems, and the large scale trawling interests that dominate BSAC use coastal passive gear fishers as a human shield – an excuse to increase fishing limits for themselves, who are also responsible for the historic overfishing“, says Hubbard adding,  “This happens while the small, passive gear fishers, more dependent on healthy fish stocks due to their lower fishing capacity, are left to fight over the scraps of a dying fishery.”

The eastern Baltic cod stock has fallen from an extraordinary peak of 400,000 tonnes in 1984 to just under 57,000 tonnes in 1992, and ICES advice for 2018 recommends a commercial catch around 26,000 tonnes (6). BSAC are recommending this be set 20% higher at over 30,000 tonnes in the eastern Baltic zones, plus an additional 3,000 tonnes be added to the western Baltic cod quota to account for mixing of eastern cod in the western Baltic Sea.

“Just because eastern Baltic cod are in the western Baltic, does not mean we increase the western Baltic cod fishing limit – they are different stocks with finite limits that cannot be continuously disregarded without repercussions”.

“The only thing that these obtuse quota maths add up to is a relentless pursuit to overfish by Danish and German bottom trawlers. This push for overfishing and quota grabbing  comes as a warning for how Denmark will likely approach the Presidency of BALTFISH, that began on  July 1st. It appears that Danish quota barons are still steering the boat on fisheries management in the region and nothing but a shipwreck will stop them”, concluded Hubbard.



31 May 2017: Baltic Sea Ministers Must Act To Stop Cod Collapse

Eastern Baltic states have very little quota access to western Baltic cod, however Denmark has the largest share of western Baltic cod (46%) and the second largest share of eastern Baltic cod (23%). Poland has the largest share of eastern Baltic cod (33%), while Latvia and Lithuania get 9% and 6% respectively. These percentages don’t change with the level of fishing limits annually, as they are based on historic access to the fishery known as “relative stability”, so if eastern Baltic cod is now getting counted in the western Baltic zones where eastern Baltic states have no access to quota, relative stability will be affected.

  1. Western Baltic cod has been overfished for a number of years, so that even after a strong 2016 year class, stocks are still at the second lowest biomass levels since the early 1980s, and outside of safe limits for repopulating to a healthy state. ICES (2017), ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort, Baltic Sea Ecoregion. Published 31 May 2017. Cod.27.22-24
  2. New Economics Foundation (2017), Landing the Blame – Overfishing in the Baltic 2017.
  3. Baltic Sea Advisory Council recommendations for the fishery 2018
  4. When BSAC recommendations are compared with ICES recommendations, they have been consistently above the science
  5. Information on Danish fleet:
  6. ICES (2017), ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort, Baltic Sea Ecoregion. Published 31 May 2017. cod.27.25-32



Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, +34 691826764

Rebecca Hubbard, Campaign Manager, +34 657669425

About Our Fish

Our Fish works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish brings together organisations from across Europe to speak with a common voice: overfishing of our waters must be stopped, and solutions put in place that ensure Europe’s waters are fished sustainably. Our Fish demands that the Common Fisheries Policy be properly enforced, and Europe’s fisheries effectively governed.

Our Fish calls on all EU Member States to set annual fishing limits at sustainable limits based on scientific advice, and to ensure that their fishing fleets prove that they are fishing sustainably, through monitoring and full documentation of their catch.