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Quotas for Baltic stocks agreed for 2013

Published: 24/10/2012

The agreed total allowable catches (TACs) for next year were broadly in line with proposals made by the Commission. At least three stocks will be managed at Fmsy next year, however, five of the ten agreed quotas exceeded scientific recommendations. For main basin salmon the quota will be more than double that suggested by ICES. The Council also moved away from the long-term management plan (LTMP) for western Baltic cod, cutting the TAC further than they were obliged, although well short of the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) transition target.

The Commission had proposed for the western Baltic cod quota to follow the long-term management plan, which would have resulted in a 2% reduction to the TAC with the fishing mortality rate being 0.6 (F=0.6). Setting quotas in accordance with the MSY transition target of 2015 would have resulted in a TAC of 12,700 tonnes  (Fmsy transition=0.33).

While it is positive that the Council has taken the initiative to move away from the unsustainable LTMP and toward lowering the fishing mortality of the western Baltic cod stock, the resultant quota of 20,043 tonnes, F=0.57 lacks ambition. The chances of reaching the MSY target by 2015 are rapidly diminishing and more severe cuts to the TAC in the coming two years may be required to reach the internationally agreed obligation.

For the eastern Baltic cod stock a 9% cut to the TAC (61,565 tonnes) was agreed, in line with scientific advice. The current population structure is comprised of predominantly young classes, and as ICES has overestimated the spawning stock biomass (SSB) over the past three years managerial efforts are necessary to create a more balanced age and size distribution in the stock.

The quota for salmon in the main basin quota has been set at 108,762 individuals, more than double the recommendation from ICES (54,000), meaning a 51% cut in this year’s TAC will be followed by a further 11% reduction in 2013. In the proposed salmon management plan (COM(2011)470), a fishing mortality target of 0.1 has been suggested, which was used as the basis for next year’s quota. However, due to the high proportion of catches taking place in mixed stocks in the open sea, it was recommended fishing pressure be lowered in order not to threaten the weaker stocks. The fishery on mixed stocks has not been phased out for next year and this will continue to pose problems for a salmon recovery.

The Commission and Council were furthest apart for the herring TACs. Next year quotas for three of the four stocks will be higher than those proposed by the Commission, resulting in a rollover for the Gulf of Riga herring TAC of 30,576 tonnes, more than 10% higher than suggested by their counterparts. This increase comes despite the Commission, based on STECF advice, suggesting in proposals for the forthcoming multispecies management plan for the Baltic that fishing mortality for Gulf of Riga herring be lowered to 0.3 rather than the current 0.35. Increases in both Gulf of Bothnia and eastern herring were above recommendations, while a 23% in the TAC for the western stock was also agreed.

For plaice, the TAC will also be higher than expected, with an agreed quota of 3,409 tonnes, 26% higher than that recommended by ICES. We welcome the change in recent years of regulating the data poor plaice fishery through quotas and push for other flatfish to be managed thus in the coming years. Recent improvements in the health of the population have encouraged a less precautionary approach, however, landings are still 90% lower than forty years ago.

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