Luxembourg, 15 October 2018:- As the annual AGRIFISH meeting opened this morning in Luxembourg, EU Member State delegates were greeted by an Our Fish fishmonger who offered them a chocolate herring, wrapped in a special edition of the satirical Daily Catch newspaper, in return for their commitment to end overfishing of Baltic fish stocks  . “EU fisheries ministers continue to receive the best available scientific advice for conservation of Baltic fish stocks, gift-wrapped – yet to date, they have ignored this advice and just kept on overfishing”, said Our Fish Programme Director Rebecca Hubbard. “With just one year until the final 2020 deadline to end EU overfishing, today’s AGRIFISH meeting is crucial to determining if fisheries ministers are serious about putting the future health of Baltic fisheries and communities ahead of short term profits and political interests”. “Herring is an iconic cultural fish for the Baltic’s EU Member States, such as Denmark and Germany, yet catches are a fraction of their former size, and stocks are in such poor health that the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has advised zero catch . Without urgent action from fisheries ministers, the herring fishery cannot rebuild”, she continued. “EU Fisheries ministers have a duty to respect natural limits and return these stocks to healthy and profitable states”. “Despite hopes that one strong year class will power its recovery, Western Baltic cod remains at its lowest levels in history, so it is crucial that Ministers do not jump the gun by setting fishing limits too high again this year. They must not waste this opportunity, and instead protect this new recruitment, so that it can truly benefit both the stock and Baltic fishers in the future”, said Hubbard.
‘Despite EU Commission promises to end overfishing in EU waters, it has inexplicably proposed fishing limits far above scientific advice for Eastern Baltic cod – an iconic fish stock that has been struggling from overfishing and poor environmental conditions for years. The most simple thing Member States can do to help eastern Baltic cod – especially countries with the largest shares of quota, such as Denmark, Poland and Sweden – is to follow the science when setting the fishing limits”, commented Hubbard. In October 2017, ministers set four out of ten fishing limits above the advised maximum sustainable levels – so 40% Baltic and Atlantic fish stocks continue to be overfished . Independent indicators also suggest that 10.1 million Western and Eastern Baltic cod were illegally discarded and not counted towards catches in 2017. For eastern Baltic cod in 2017 – scientists estimate that just 1/17 of all unwanted undersize catches were landed and recorded (compared to what was actually discarded) . “It is unacceptable for EU governments to turn their heads away from the widespread unreported and illegal fishing activity taking place in the Baltic Sea. It is time for ministers to put aside the pressure of short term profits, and instead show leadership by setting fishing limits in line with scientific advice, and ensuring industry practices follow the law. Nothing less is required to rebuild and preserve Baltic fish stocks for the benefit of all Baltic and EU citizens, and to secure sustainable coastal communities, by 2020,” concluded Hubbard. Our Fish specifically recommends that, during AGRIFISH in Luxembourg, Baltic Fisheries Ministers:
- Follow scientific advice by setting annual fishing limits at sustainable levels in line with Common Fisheries Policy requirements (joint NGO advice on all Baltic fishing opportunities for 2019 can be found here);
- Require fleets with an increased risk of discarding to demonstrate that they are compliant with the law, through the use of Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) and closed-circuit video surveillance or on board observers; and
- Set fishing limits based on ICES advice for wanted catch, with ‘quota top-ups’ for unwanted catch only granted to fleets that demonstrate full compliance with the Landing Obligation, through the use of REM.
ENDS Images: Photographs of this morning Our Fish activities in Luxembourg can be downloaded from this link. Notes:  The Daily Catch features a satirical imagining of today’s AGRIFISH meeting, with EU fisheries ministers leaving environmental NGOs flabbergasted, after unexpectedly choosing to follow scientific advice. The Daily Catch can be downloaded from here. The fishmonger’s stall was flanked by two banners showing German and Danish actors posing with fish as part of the Fishlove campaign, calling for an end to overfishing.  ICES, 2018, Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort, Baltic Sea and Greater North Sea Ecoregions. Her.27.20-24. Published 31 May 2018. https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.4390  New Economics Foundation, 2018, Landing The Blame: Overfishing In The Baltic 2018.  Our Fish, 2018, Illegal Baltic cod discards are wasting fisheries, communities & the environment. Further reading: Press release: International Movie Stars Bare All To End EU Overfishing Joint NGO recommendations on Baltic Sea fishing opportunities for 2019 https://wwf.fi/mediabank/11391.pdf September 2018: Ignoring the Science: EU Commission 2019 Baltic fishing limits outstrip ambition to end overfishing October 2017: EU Fisheries Ministers’ All Night Debate Leads To Continued Baltic Overfishing of Cod Contacts Dave Walsh, Our Fish Communications Advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org +34 691826764 Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Program Director, email@example.com +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 works with organisations and individuals across Europe to deliver a powerful and unwavering message: overfishing 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. Website: https://our.fish Follow Our Fish on Twitter: @our_fish