ICES releases 2016 Advice for Baltic Sea fish stocks

Published on May 29, 2015

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) released its scientific advice for Baltic Sea stocks earlier today. Eastern Baltic Cod is listed as data-limited again this year and ICES advises significant cuts in fishing opportunities for both Eastern and Western Baltic cod stocks.

Both Eastern and Western stocks of Baltic Sea cod have shown little improvement in the last year. The Western Baltic cod stock, though recovering slowly according to the most recent data, is still below all biomass reference points and suffers a fishing mortality clearly well above sustainable levels. The larger Eastern Baltic stock, close to collapse in 2002, showed signs of recovery a few years ago but has since declined again.

This year the cod advice better represents true fishing mortality and distribution of stocks across fishing areas. The substantial Western recreational fishing is incorporated into total catches, and mixing between stocks in the Eastern and Western Baltic is considered. Due to ongoing issues with uncertainty in the Eastern Baltic Cod assessment, ICES reluctantly maintains this stock’s data-limited status.

The bulk of Baltic Herring stocks are relatively stable in recent years and are above all biomass reference points, whereas sprat continues to decline under continued unsustainable fishing pressure. For salmon, the advice is similar to last year. Flatfishes in the Baltic seem to be on the increase and ICES advices an increase for plaice, the only Baltic flatfish species under EU quota.

Addressing the new landing obligation has changed how ICES presents their advice. ICES advises a total catch from a stock. Total catch means the maximum amount of fish that could be removed from the fish stock including landings and discards whether the fishery is quota managed or lacks a management plan. Total catch also includes recreational fishing, where data exists. ICES does not advise a formal recreational Total Allowable Catch (TAC) however, only including recreational catch to better represent the true fishery mortality. Also some of the total catch advice is stock-based rather than area-based.

The table below summarises the ICES advice for total catch across the Baltic fish stocks. The total catch for salmon is represented by a total count of individual fish.

ICES advice for 2016, key species, total catches unless noted.

  • Cod, Western Baltic: < 5385 tonnes, including recreational catch
  • Cod, Eastern Baltic: < 29220 tonnes
  • Herring, Bothnian Bay: < 6641 tonnes
  • Herring, Bothnian Sea: < 96613 tonnes
  • Herring, Central Baltic: < 201000 tonnes
  • Herring, Gulf of Riga: < 26200 tonnes
  • Plaice, Kattegat, Belt Sea, Sound: < 8639 tonnes
  • Plaice, Baltic Sea: < 2156 tonnes
  • Sprat: < 205 000 tonnes
  • Salmon, Gulf of Finland: < 11800 total count of reared salmon and 0 catches of wild salmon.
  • Salmon, Main Basin and the Gulf of Bothnia:  < 116 000 total count of salmon

The Fisheries Secretariat has produced a summary of the ICES advice which you can find in the pdf below.