Council mandates overfishing of vulnerable cod stocks into 2016: CFP goals undermined

Published on October 23, 2015

2016 fishing quotas have been set with seven out of ten quotas exceeding scientific advice.

Last night Ministers came to a unanimous decision on Baltic fishing quotas for 2016. Whilst the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) are generally lower than this year, they exceed scientific advice in most cases, and for cod quotas are worryingly high.

For most stocks, the Council missed meeting the so-called MSY goal of the recently reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which requires setting fishing limits below the exploitation rate that corresponds with maximum sustainable yield (FMSY) and aims to restore and maintain fish stocks above levels capable of producing MSY. The scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) was not followed for 7 out of 10 stocks.

ICES scientific advice does not correspond directly to a commercial TAC because, for example, stocks cross management areas and recreational catch can be significant.  Our analysis compares our recommended catches for 2016, based on scientific advice adapted to EU management areas, with the final Council approved TACs for 2016. Only three TACs are in line with scientific advice.

Stock by management Area, subdivision (SD) Recommended# 2016 TAC, tonnes 2016 Council TAC, tonnes (%change from 2015) TAC in line with scientific advice
Cod, Western Baltic, 22-24 5 239* 12 720 (-20%) NO
Cod, Eastern Baltic, 25-32 29 220 41 143 (-20%) NO
Herring, Western Spring Spawning, 22-24 26 274 26 274(0%) YES
Herring, Central Baltic, 25-29 & 32 177 505 177 505 (0%) YES
Herring, Gulf of Riga, 28.1 32 963 34 915 (-10%) NO
Herring, Bothnian Sea & Bothnian Bay, 30-31 103 254 120 872 (-24%) NO
Sprat, Baltic, 22-32 184 336 202 320 (-5%) NO
Plaice, Baltic, 22-32 4 034 4 034 (18%) YES
Salmon, Baltic, 22-31 (numbers of fish) 89 300 95 928 (0%) NO
Salmon, Gulf of Finland, 32 (numbers of fish) 10 024 13 106 (0%) NO

# Recommendation based on scientific advice adapted to EU management area and commercial catch (for full details see our Council briefing).

* Total ICES-advised catch of 7797 tonnes minus 2558 tonnes of ICES-estimated recreational catch.

Baltic cod stocks, currently at low levels and severely overfished in the Western Baltic, are important commercially, recreationally and environmentally. The Council decision not to meet the CFP objectives allows continued overfishing of these vulnerable stocks and risks the collapse of cod stocks and fishing communities in the long run.

We applaud the Council’s efforts for setting fishing opportunities at FMSY for some stocks (Western spring spawning herring, Central Baltic herring and plaice) as one step toward sustainable fisheries. However, there is some way to go before reaching sustainable fishing levels for all stocks by 2020, as required by the CFP. We also welcome the Council’s commitment to extend seasonal closures to protect locally spawning cod in the western Baltic, and the renewed Member State commitment to improved data collection and monitoring in recreational fisheries.

Council has consistently decided on TACs exceeding scientific advice. Until this trend is reversed, Europe’s progress towards healthy and abundant stocks is in jeopardy.