Brussels (Brussels Morning) Fishing catches in the Baltic Sea will see a sharp reduction imposed on various stocks in 2022, following the agreement reached by EU countries in Luxembourg yesterday.
Every year, the EU negotiates the total allowable catches (TACs) in regional seas, for member states with coastal areas. The aim is to determine just how much can be caught without permanently disrupting the marine ecosystem, according to the Commission.
The deal comes at a difficult time for the Baltic Sea, where environmental pressures and challenges stemming from pollution have been taking their toll on fish stocks as well.
“In recent years, the problems in the Baltic have had a devastating impact on our fisheries. This is why our comprehensive approach, with concrete actions targeting environment, is crucial. The decisions reached are difficult, but necessary, so that the Baltic Sea can remain the source of livelihood for fishermen and women today and tomorrow”, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, declared.
Among depleted stocks subject to substantial reduction is the western Baltic cod, with a drop of 88% in TACs.
The Council also agreed on additional recovery measures, such as limiting fishing to unavoidable by-catches for salmon in the southern main basin (-32%) and western herring (-50%), as well as extended spawning closure and a ban on recreational fisheries for western Baltic cod.
Also, the agreement envisages changes in fisheries management, with the introduction of purpose-designed fishing gear for flatfish. As a result, TACs for plaice will increase by 25% “without putting at risk the ailing cod stocks”.
The Council agreed increases for herring catches in the Gulf of Riga (+ 21%), sprat (+13%) and salmon in the Gulf of Finland (+6%).
“Restoring the marine environment and the fish stocks in the Baltic Sea is at the heart of the Commission’s approach to setting fishing opportunities and I am happy that the Council has agreed to follow it for most stocks”, Sinkevičius said.
Not all EU countries were satisfied with the Council’s decision, however. Germany accused the Commission of applying double standards, with the country’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) claiming that local fishermen in the Baltic Sea would have to accept drastic cuts to their quotas, yet stock in the North Sea would be overfished.
“The overfishing of western herring must be stopped”, BMEL State Secretary Beate Kasch observed, noting that the different standards still applied to herring fishing in the regions have led to dramatic unilateral overfishing.
BMEL pointed that Germany’s permitted catch of western herring was reduced by 94% between 2017 and 2021, whereas fishing quotas in Kattegat and Skagerrak were subject to significantly smaller cuts in the same period. The Council is also engaged in fishery consultations with the UK and Norway for next year.