Oceana: Decision by politicians makes no sense ecologically or economically
EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH) today reached an agreement on fishing limits for Baltic stocks for the next year. Regrettably, the Council decided to set catch limits for the Eastern Baltic cod and the Western herring stocks which not only do not follow scientific advice, but also challenge the goal of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) that ensures all fishing within the EU is at sustainable levels latest by 2020.
“The EU ministers had the opportunity to increase catches in the Baltic by 25% in just a few years by setting catch limits now that followed scientific recommendations and allowed stocks to recover, instead they have chosen to gamble with the future of a resource that belongs to all of us,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe.
In August, the European Commission released its annual proposal for fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea, which served as the basis for the ministers’ decision. Today, the ministers decided that the eastern Baltic Cod catch limits for 2019 will be set at 24,112 tons (-15% compared to last year) and for the western Baltic Cod at 9515 tons (70% more than last year).
In just 10 years, the commercial catches of the western cod stock have dropped by more than half, largely due to continuous overfishing. When fished sustainably, catches of western Baltic cod can increase by more than 40 thousand tonnes (a 700% increase compared to 2016 catches) generating up to €80 million of additional revenue. But this is not limited to the western cod; if recovered and well-managed, catches of fish stocks in the Baltic could increase by 170 thousand tonnes.
For the highly controversial western Baltic herring, the EU ministers have decided to reduce catches by 48%. Oceana had recommended a complete stop to fishing in 2019, as reduced catches over the past few years haves not resulted in a significant increase in the stock’s biomass. A pause to fishing pressure has been urged, in a bid to allow the stock to recover and produce high yields soon. When fished sustainably, western herring catches could in fact more than double to 130 thousand tonnes. Regrettably, the ministers’ decision today has put at risk the EU’s ability to fulfil CFP obligations.