Today, the Commission has proposed quotas for Baltic Sea fish stocks for 2013. These will be negotiated at the October Council by national fisheries ministers, and concern five species; cod, herring, sprat, salmon and plaice.
The Commission has recommended TACs which are broadly in line with scientific advice, although suggested cuts for all species were slightly less than those put forward by ICES. Suggested salmon quotas have been the most controversial though, after ICES advice for a TAC of “not more than 54,000 individuals” for the main basin stocks was ignored, with the Commission putting forward a recommendation of 108,762 pieces or an 11% cut.
In their evaluation of the quota advice, STECF have presented data to show that a catch of 108,762 salmon would equate to a fishing mortality of F=0.1, which is the figure that the Commission have put forward to the Council. Yet, given that a significant proportion of mortality is derived from angling and unreported catches, which are not covered by the quota, in reality catches of salmon will be higher than those recommended. With some salmon rivers in a vulnerable state, this could exacerbate problems for some local stocks.
Part of the Commission’s rationale has been improvements in control and enforcement, which have meant that previous estimates for unreported catches can now be added to the TAC. This is true to an extent, however, unreported catches and discarding have been estimated at 40% of the total catch, and these have been reduced rather than eradicated.
If improvements in control and enforcement continue to be made, and if the Council agrees to this 11% cut and continues to reduce fishing pressure in the coming years, then real improvements in Baltic salmon populations may be seen. However, given that Member States such as Finland and Sweden have already exhausted their 2012 quotas by August, there is pressure to persevere with an overly high level of fishing pressure for short-term gain.