Baltic fish quotas: salmon catches twice the scientific advice

Ministers have agreed on Baltic Sea fishing quotas for 2013. The salmon catch quota is twice as large as the scientific advice, and the Western cod quota twice as large as sustainable levels.

The decision on Baltic Sea fishing opportunities was taken at the Council meeting Monday 22 October. In the Council press release ministers initially bragged about a voluntary higher decrease on cod catches in the Western Baltic, –5.9% instead of –2%.

But there are some facts that the Council press release did not mention.

Sustainable catch levels (Fmsy) for the western cod stock would be 9,900 tonnes, which would require a reduction of 53.4 % instead of the agreed 5.9% reduction to a catch of 20,043 tonnes. Source: ICES advice on western cod.

For the Baltic Salmon, Council followed the Commission’s proposal and set a catch of 108,762 individuals. This is twice as much as the scientific advice from ICES, 54,000 individuals. Source: ICES advice on Baltic salmon in Main Basin and Gulf of Bothnia.

The ministers’ ambition to go beyond recommended salmon is particularly interesting because the fish may actually not be sold for human consumption in any EU member states other than Sweden, Finland and Latvia. This is because the levels of dioxins in oily fish such as salmon and large herring in the Baltic Sea are too high. In Sweden this has sparked a debate on what is more important: people’s health or traditional fish food such as surströmming.

Ministers set quotas for plaice higher than the scientific advice. On two of the herring quotas they went above the ICES advice, and on two of them below. For the Eastern cod, Council agreed on sustainable catch levels with some margin, by going below the ICES advice.

More information
Council press release with table over agreed quotas
Latest ICES advice for Baltic fish stocks
Commission proposal for Baltic quotas (on which Council based its decision)

Axel Naver

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