Current management practices in the Baltic Sea and the Kattegat endanger long term sustainability of fisheries

New report exposes damaging problems with mismanaged fisheries: 80% of commercially caught stocks lack management plans.

Press Release Date: April 12, 2012

Location: Madrid


Oceana Web | email: | tel.: 202.000.0000

Oceana today released a report on the disappointing state of the fisheries management in the Baltic Sea. The report exposes a number of unsustainable fishing practices, both legal and illegal, that persist despite the ongoing efforts to achieve a thriving and sustainable fishing industry in the region. The international marine conservation organization says that many of the current measures are inadequate to ensure the long term viability of the sector and the marine environment. In fact, 80% of commercially caught stocks in the Baltic Sea and the Kattegat lack basic management plans.

It is irrational that out of over 50 species which are commercially caught in the Baltic Sea and Kattegat, only 10 have been given scientific advice, and only five of those are managed using Total Allowable Catches (TAC), stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.Moreover, scientific advice is steadfastly ignored. The TAC for salmon, for example, which is a threatened and declining species, was set twice as high as recommended.”

Baltic Sea countries have committed themselves to a number of actions to restore the status of the sea including achieving by 2015, Maximum Sustainable Yield levels (MSY) for all fish stocks – which means the largest catch that can be taken from a species over an indefinite period without reducing the size of the stock. Another commitment requires them to reach Good Environmental Status (GES) of all marine environments by 2020.

With the measures currently in place, it is highly unlikely that the Baltic Sea countries are to reach these ambitious targets within the agreed schedule said marine scientist Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana’s Baltic Sea Project Manager. First we need to know the status of all commercially exploited stocks and have all those  species managed. Ecosystem based fisheries management should be fully implemented with the application of the precautionary approach when facing lack of information.”

Among many other issues, illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fisheries are still a concern particularly in salmon and sea trout fisheries in the Baltic Sea, and in cod fisheries in the Kattegat. Though IUU fishing for cod in the eastern Baltic Sea has declined in the past years due to increased monitoring, control and surveillance efforts, the issue remains and the percentage of unreported catches is still very high in certain fisheries.

Oceana proposes a series of recommendations to improve management in the Baltic Sea including:

  • More stringent monitoring, control and surveillance in all Baltic Sea countries;
  • Improved selectivity of fishing gear and the cessation of destructive fishing practices, like bottom trawling and dredging, to prevent both detrimental effects on the sea bottom as well as by-catch and discards.
  • The inclusion of recreational fisheries catches, which are currently mostly unmanaged and not included in quotas, into management plans and reporting requirements;
  • Strict fisheries management measures both inside and outside marine protected areas, to safeguard not only fish stocks, but the entire Baltic Sea ecosystem, the fishing industry, fishing communities and fishermen.

In this sense, the Common Fisheries Policy reform, and its application to the Baltic Sea, has the key role in defining ecological sustainability as the main aim of EU fisheries policy. The sustainability of the social and economic aspects of fisheries can only be achieved by first accomplishing ecological sustainability.

The report was funded by contributions from the Arcadia, Zennström Philanthropies and the Robertson Foundation.

Report: Fisheries Management in the Baltic Sea