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February 9, 2015

Ecosystem-based guidelines – the key to fisheries management plans


Lately, I have been involved in discussions on the Commission’s proposal for a multi-annual management plan for cod, sprat and herring, and the fisheries exploiting those stocks in the Baltic Sea. This is the first plan of its kind developed under the renewed Common Fisheries Policy. Eagerly awaited by stakeholders and managers, the plan is expected to be groundbreaking in the sense of taking a multi-species approach to fisheries management and therefore, the plan is often referred to as “multi-species plan”. However, the paradox is that the plan as such is not a true multi-species plan, but rather a multi-annual plan that just includes several species. As happy as I am to see this plan finally coming together, considering how outdated the old cod plan was or the fact that sprat and herring were completely lacking management plans, this is only the beginning and we are still far from achieving a successful fisheries management plan.

Worldwide, there has been a growing interest towards ecosystem based considerations in marine management, as a result of declining fish stocks and marine ecosystems. This approach recognizes the interactions within the ecosystem, including humans, rather than considering single species, or ecosystem services in isolation. When fisheries management plans are being created, though we may have limited knowledge on all the possible links and consequences at current, the aim should be to create plans that can be adapted when new information becomes available. One legislative tool providing help here is the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which should be used as a way to implement ecosystem based management in fisheries management plans as it considers all components of ecosystems.

Want to learn more? Hold on until tomorrow to learn how this relates to the Baltic salmon stocks, and how the poor status of cod has a domino effect even on salmon.