Today, an agreement on Baltic quotas for 2014 was quickly reached, following regional negotiations between the Baltic Member States in the new BALTFISH structure. Commissioner Damanaki highlighted the agreement as a success “for Baltic fish stocks and for EU regionalisation”.
The EU Fisheries Ministers met in Brussels today to discuss the 2014 fishing opportunities for the Baltic Sea stocks. An agreement was reached early this afternoon, based on negotiations at the regional level – in the so called BALTFISH High Level Group – earlier this autumn.
Next year’s fishing opportunities are largely in line with scientific advice and the EU objective for stocks to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels by 2015. However, many environmental organisations have called for lower salmon quotas, especially in the Gulf of Finland where the recovery of weaker populations is still precarious.
For the two Baltic cod stocks, the agreement follows the multi-annual management plan resulting in a 7 per cent increase in the total allowable catch (TAC) for the Eastern stock and a 15 per cent reduction for the Western stock. The TACs are coupled with a reduction in days at sea (effort) by 8.5 per cent for Eastern cod and 10 per cent for Western cod.
The quotas for Western herring and sprat were reduced, but for herring in Gulf of Bothnia, Gulf of Riga and the central Baltic Sea catches will be allowed to increase. For some of the herring stocks, data uncertainties led to more modest increases than proposed.
Salmon management is divided into two main management areas, despite the fact that many different wild populations exist in each of the units, some of them still very vulnerable. The allowable catches for salmon in the Main Basin were reduced by a very modest 2 per cent and for the Gulf of Finland by 15 per cent (for years, ICES has recommended that no directed fishery on wild stocks takes place there).
At the press conference, Commissioner Maria Damanaki concluded that in the Baltic region the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is providing results on two fronts: most of the stocks are in good shape or moving in the right direction, and the Member State collaboration under BALTFISH is leading the way for the rest of the EU in terms of regionalisation under the new reformed CFP.
The Council also discussed the annual EU-Norway agreement, as well as the ongoing conflict with the coastal states over the North East Atlantic mackerel catches and the upcoming meeting with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) where blue fin tuna quotas will be agreed. When questioned, Commissioner Damanaki confirmed that no compromise has been reached on mackerel but that another meeting will take place in London next week, in order to find an agreement.