European Commission turns its back on the Baltic cod overfishing crisis

Press Release Date: August 29, 2016

Location: Copenhagen


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana states that EU Commission fishing limits proposal only follows scientific advice when economically convenient whilst ignoring environmental sustainability priorities when it implies short-term sacrifices.

Today, the European Commission (EC) has published its annual proposal for fishing limits (“total allowable catches” or TACs) for the Baltic Sea in 2017. The proposal should be based on scientific advice, issued by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). For the majority of herring and sprat stocks that are already managed sustainably the EC has proposed limits according to scientific advice however it has deliberately overlooked the alarming status of the dwindling Baltic cod. There is an urgent need for stringent measures to revert the critical situation of Baltic cod stocks and the EC is not helping by refusing to propose a TAC or the closure of fishery.

“European fisheries ministers have been blatantly ignoring the state of the cod stocks by taking short-sighted decisions for years. It is shocking to see that the European Commission, which should be the guardian of the Common Fisheries Policy, now washes their hands,” underlines Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “The situation of the Baltic cod is getting worse and worse each year. We cannot talk about the socio-economic sustainability of the fishing industry if we mismanage its foundation – the natural resource itself. There will be no fishing in an empty sea.”

Oceana is dismayed that the European Commission neglects its obligation to provide catch limit proposals for both stocks of the Baltic cod (eastern and western) in spite of existing scientific advice from ICES. The cod stocks have proven to be difficult cases for decision makers, especially the western Baltic cod, since its appalling state prompted ICES to propose hefty quota reductions (-51% last year and -93% this year). Last year the Commission decided to ignore the problem by not presenting a TAC proposal and once again despite heavy criticism has opted to leave the responsibility to EU Member States, who have allowed continuous overfishing for many years. Therefore, Oceana calls for a complete closure of all directed cod fisheries in areas 22-24 to ensure the recovery of the Western Baltic cod stock.

The final decision on the Baltic fishing limits will be taken by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council comprised of ministers from 28 EU countries during its meeting on 10th-11th October.

Cod hits rock bottom

Cod is an iconic species and plays a key role in the Baltic Sea, both environmentally and commercially, thus Oceana believes that its recovery should be a top priority. Oceana calls for a careful approach towards the fragile eastern stock and a temporary full closure of fisheries of the heavily overexploited western stock in order to allow it to rebuild and yield far more productivity in the long term. Moreover, recreational catches have become a significant problem in the western stock and there is a need to regulate them. German recreational catches of this stock alone take over twice the volume of fish than the proposed commercial TAC for 2017.

Oceana recommendations on fishing opportunities for 2017 – Baltic Sea stocks