Oceana: Ministers decisions on Baltic total allowable catches for 2012 are insufficient to end overfishing

Scientific advice was ignored for salmon and plaice – two out of five species, for which a Total Allowable Catch was proposed by the European Commission.

Press Release Date: October 25, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

TACs for Western Baltic Cod and Western Baltic Herring are too high to stop overfishing of those species. Five other species for which scientists had given advice to maintain or reduce catches remain without TACs for another year.

Last Friday, the European Union’s fisheries Ministers met in Luxembourg at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council session to set the 2012 fishing Total Allowable Catches (TAC) for the Baltic Sea. Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation is disappointed that the decisions for 2012 fall short of what is needed to end overfishing in the Baltic and is asking Ministers to adopt national management measures to end overfishing and especially for all currently unmanaged Baltic fish stocks.

“We believe that decisions on the TACs are too weak to turn the tide for the troubled Baltic fish stocks,” commented Oceana Baltic Sea Project Manager Anne Schroeer. “Scientific advice has been ignored for two out of five species, quota increases for western Baltic cod and herring stocks are wrong in the case of cod and risky for herring, as both stocks are still not fished at a sustainable level and worst of all, the vast majority of Baltic fish stocks remain for another year without a TAC- contradicting the precautionary approach.”

The quotas decided among the 27 EU Ministers are too high to reach fish stocks that produce the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015. All European fishing nations have committed to reaching MSY by 2015 and to end overfishing in the Baltic. While more than 50 fish species are commercially caught in the Baltic Sea, unfortunately only five of them will be managed with TAC’s in 2012. The rest remain without a Baltic wide TAC.

  • For Baltic salmon and plaice, two of the five species that got a TAC, the ministers drastically ignored scientific advice. The agreed salmon quota is 122.000 individual salmons. This number is more than twice the amount advised by scientists from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Salmon is listed on the HELCOM Red List as a threatened and/or declining throughout the Baltic. Additional problems for this species include misreporting, elevated IUU fishing, with estimated IUU catches higher than the ICES 2011 TAC advice and a high number of unreported recreational catches. For Baltic plaice, scientific data is missing according to scientists who therefore advised that catches not be increased, following the precautionary approach, as initially proposed by the European commission. However, the agreed Baltic plaice quota for 2012 is more than 30% higher than last year’s catches.
  • Four fish stocks for which ICES had proposed a freeze or a reduction of catches based on the precautionary approach, brill, dab, flounder and turbot, remain without Baltic wide TACs, a crucial fisheries management measure to ensure these stocks do not suffer overfishing. Baltic sea trout remains without a TAC as well, even though ICES scientists advised immediate fishing restrictions and management measures.
  • The western Baltic cod stock is only very slowly recovering from an almost depleted state and cuts in the fishing quota would have been needed in order to reach MSY by 2015. Instead, the quota has been increased, ignoring the MSY commitment. The catches for Western Baltic herring have declined since the early 1990s and the biomass is at a historical low level.  The decision to increase catches in this situation is very risky and consequently, catches in the Skagerrak and Kattegat must be reduced substantially to reach MSY by 2015, which is rather unlikely.       

Fisheries Ministers make their decisions based on the proposal from the European Commission. Every year the Commission asks scientists from the ICES for scientific advice on the condition of individual fish stocks and TACs.

Learn more: Oceana in the Baltic Sea