Baltic sea quotas violate new fisheries policy, NGOs say

The decision yesterday (13 October) on fishing quotas for the Baltic Sea disregards the scientific advice for several fish stocks, notably cod. Environmental groups now criticise fisheries ministers for not following the EU’s new rules on sustainable fishing.

For the western cod stock, scientists had advised that the total commercial catches should be no more than 8793 tonnes in 2015, according to the principle of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) set out in article 2 of the new common fisheries policy. This is also what the European Commission proposed earlier this year.

But fisheries ministers yesterday decided to set the quota at 15900 tonnes, i.e. almost twice as much as the recommended levels that would be in line with catch rates demanded by the new EU legislation.

The introductory text of the new common fisheries policy says that achieving MSY catch rates later than 2015 “should be allowed only if achieving them by 2015 would seriously jeopardise the social and economic sustainability of the fishing fleets involved.” However, in its press release about the quotas the Council does not motivate why the social and economic sustainability of the Baltic Sea fishermen would be seriously jeopardised.

Furthermore, although 15900 tonnes means a slight reduction compared to the 2014 quota, the quota for 2015 would probably not lead to any reduction in actual catches. For the last few years, catch statistics show that fishermen have not been able to catch the entire quota of baltic cod.

For the eastern cod stock and for sprat, ministers also set larger quotas for 2015 than recommended by scientists.

The Fisheries Secretariat tweeted: “We would like to see the socio-economic arguments for continued overfishing in Baltic waters.”

Greenpeace issued a statement in which Saskia Richartz said: “It is a scandal that ministers are still endorsing overfishing on depleted stocks, including cod. This will only prolong the degradation of the environment and the socio-economic hardship of fishermen. In the coming days, ministers must at least confirm publicly that, when allocating national quotas, they will give priority to fishermen who catch fish most selectively and with the smallest environmental impact”

The decision shows that “EU decision makers are inclined to make ambitious agreements, but fail when it comes to needed action”, said Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana Baltic Sea project manager.

Axel Naver

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