Report: Precious Baltic Cod Is Still Being Wasted, Illegally


Illegal Baltic cod discards are wasting fisheries, communities & the environmentBrussels, 4th October 2018:- A report published today by the Our Fish campaign finds that an extremely high level of Baltic cod is still being discarded against the law, with full knowledge of Member State fisheries ministries, three years after it was banned. The report, ‘Illegal Baltic cod discards are wasting fisheries, communities & the environment, published ahead of the coming EU AGRIFISH council meeting in Luxembourg (October 15-16th) explores the state of Eastern and Western Baltic cod, and calls on Baltic fisheries ministers to act urgently to prevent the further decline of these exhausted iconic fish stocks through overfishing and illegal and unreported discarding at sea. The Baltic’s iconic cod stocks are in serious danger. At its peak in 1984, fishers landed more than 440,000 tonnes of Eastern Baltic cod, but today, with dwindling stocks, they are allowed to bring home less than 40,000 tonnes a year. Eastern Baltic cod are not only shrinking in number, but also in size – individuals longer than 45 centimetres have virtually disappeared.  Nine years ago, Western Baltic cod stock also plunged to the brink of collapse, and while it has started recovering, it is still considered very fragile due to poor recruitment. As a result, it has been subject to closures during spawning time, along with severe cuts to quotas, in order to save the stock. “For almost ten years, EU fisheries ministers have set the annual fishing limits for eastern Baltic cod so far above scientific recommendations that catches are not even restricted by this limit – a clear indicator of the ineffective and poor management of Eastern Baltic cod”, said Our Fish Programme Director Rebecca Hubbard. “EU fisheries ministers must now correct the Commission’s proposal, re-aligning it with scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)”. Independent indicators 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). “In what other industry would the government turn its head when told that 85% of activity is unreported and illegal? Baltic governments must act now to bring fishing industry practices into line with the law, and ensure a just transition to more selective, sustainable, transparent fishing, if we are to preserve the iconic Baltic cod, the communities that depend on it for their livelihoods, and the trust of EU citizens and seafood buyers,” concluded Hubbard. The report recommends that while in Luxembourg, Baltic Fisheries Ministers:

  • follow scientific advice by setting annual fishing limits at sustainable levels in line with Common Fisheries Policy requirements;
  • 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.  

Download the report: Illegal Baltic cod discards are wasting fisheries, communities & the environment can be downloaded here.   Further Reading: 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 November 2017: Thrown Away: How Illegal Discarding in the Baltic Sea is Failing EU Fisheries and Citizens Contacts Dave Walsh, Our Fish Communications Advisor, +34 691826764 Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Program Director, +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: Follow Our Fish on Twitter: @our_fish