The European Commission’s multi-annual plan for the Cod stocks and fisheries in the Baltic Sea

Published on July 27, 2006

On 24 July the European Commission published its proposal for a Council Regulation to establish a multi-annual plan for the Baltic Sea cod stocks and their fisheries.

Despite the adoption and implementation of a management plan under the auspicious of the International Baltic Sea Fishery Commission (IBSFC) in 2003, the two cod stocks in the Baltic Sea are considered by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) to be exploited at unsustainable levels.

High fishing mortality has resulted in the eastern cod stock in ICES subdivisions 25-32 to be threatened with collapse (i.e. unable to replenish itself) and the western cod stock in subdivisions 22-24 being over exploited with respect to the potential long-term yield (i.e., more fish could be taken from the stock in the future if fishing mortality was reduced).

The European Commission and many stakeholders have concluded that the IBSFC management plan has not been implemented and enforced and so it is necessary to revise the plan.

The aim of the new plan is to reduce fishing mortality on the two stocks by 10% per year until they are at levels considered likely to provide stable fishing possibilities and high long term yields. It is intended that this will be achieved through a combination of annual incremental reductions in fishing mortality and fishing effort along with the effective application of a suite of monitoring, inspection and surveillance measures – many of which are already in place.

This will mean that annual total allowable catches (TACs) will need to be set to reduce fishing mortality and the number of fishing days will be reduced by 10% each year until the target fishing mortality rate is achieved. In order to avoid dramatic reductions in TACs and help to provide some stability for the industry the Commission have proposed that annual variations in TACs should not be greater than 15%.

The Commission proposes target fishing mortality rates of 0.6 for western Baltic cod and 0.3 for eastern Baltic cod – they presently stand at 1.26 and 1.11 respectively. These are intended to be sufficiently low to allow the rebuilding of the stocks to sustainable levels while being high enough to ensure high yields for fishermen.


The major failing of the IBSFC’s management plan, particularly in the eastern Baltic, has been the ineffective implementation and application of the TACs and quotas resulting in significant unreported landings of cod, estimated to be between 35 and 45%. The Commission’s proposed plan will continue to require the application of TAC and quotas but will also now require the administration, monitoring and enforcement of reduced days fishing.

If the plan is agreed the key to its success or failure will be the willingness and ability of Member State’s to ensure effective application of the measures and the Commission’s ability to act as a watchdog to over see how they perform.

The next steps

It is anticipated that the proposed plan will be presented to the Fisheries Council in October and/or December for agreement and implementation from 1st January 2007.