The Commission proposal for Baltic TACs in 2016 is balanced and largely in line with both ICES scientific advice and the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. However, we are concerned about the Commission’s proposal for both Baltic cod stocks.
Today the Commission released its first set of proposals for 2016 fishing opportunities, covering all Baltic Sea stocks.
|Stock by management area, subdivision||TAC corresponding to ICES advice for 2016||Commission proposed 2016 TAC||% Change from current (2015) TAC|
|Cod, Western Baltic, 22-24||5 239*||—||—|
|Cod, Eastern Baltic, 25-32||29 220||41 143||-20%|
|Herring, Western Spring Spawning, 22-24||26 274||24 797||12%|
|Herring, Central Baltic, 25-29 & 32||196 600**||177 505||9%|
|Herring, Gulf of Riga, 28.1||30 600||30 623||-21%|
|Herring, Bothnian Sea & Bothnian Bay, 30-31||103 254||103 254||-35%|
|Sprat, Baltic, 22-32||205 000**||184 336||-14%|
|Plaice, Baltic, 22-32||4 091||4 034||18%|
|Salmon, Baltic, 22-31 (number of fish)||89 300||105 850||10%|
|Salmon, Gulf of Finland, 32 (number of fish)||10 100||10 024||-24%|
* After removal of recreational fishing effort; ** Russian quota not deducted
Worryingly, the proposal did not include a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Western Baltic cod. The stock has a critically low biomass, below ICES’ most conservative reference point, Blim. TAC setting is further complicated by stock mixing with Eastern Baltic cod in subdivision 24. Instead of providing a proposal, the Commission asks Member States to come up with measures to reduce catch on this highly stressed stock and reminds them of their promise to implement FMSY by 2016.
Although we agree that the Council decision to reach FMSY in 2016 is going in the right direction, FMSY alone is not precautionary. As the biomass of Western Baltic cod is below the reference point Blim, ICES advises fishing effort below FMSY. Based on this advice, and after removing recreational catch, the resulting commercial TAC is 5 239 tonnes.
In light of the failed Eastern Baltic cod assessment for the second year in a row, the Commission proposed a 20% decrease in the Eastern Baltic cod TAC. While described as a precautionary measure, the resulting proposal is still significantly higher than that advised by ICES (29 220 tonnes).
The Commission proposed a 24% decrease in the Gulf of Finland Salmon TAC to 10 024 individual fish. Although the number of fish is in line with ICES advice, the Commission failed to specify that ICES advised retention of hatchery-reared salmon only, and zero catch of wild salmon. Despite ICES continued advice for restraint and precaution regarding the mixed runs of Salmon in the Central Baltic, the Commission proposed a 10% increase in the Central Baltic salmon TAC.
For a deeper analysis of the ICES advice, please see the Fishsec appendix to the BALTFISH briefing on 2016 TACs.