In advance of the Fisheries Council meeting, 10-11 October, at which next year’s fishing quotas for the Baltic Sea will be set, The Fisheries Secretariat and Seas at Risk have provided Ministers with a set of recommendations.
Our policy input is rooted in the best available science and provides recommendations on total allowable catches, as well as a synthesis of the scientific advice.
This year the imperilled cod stocks have been the most contentious. The western Baltic cod stock has been overfished for years, with quotas set well above Fmsy values and the biomass of the stock below all recommended reference points. Stock recruitment has failed, a particularly bleak signal. A deep cut, with a TAC of 917 tonnes is recommended, in line with scientific advice.
With regard to the eastern Baltic cod stock, which is characterised by many of the signs of stock collapse seen in the Newfoundland fishery during the 1990s, the situation is complicated due to scientists being unable to ascertain the structure of the stock. Size at sexual maturity has declined and fishers have not been catching their quota in recent years, with the knock on effect of there being no effort limit in the fishery. Meanwhile, illegal discarding has continued apace, with estimates that 1 out of every 4 fish is dumped overboard in contravention of the landing obligation. We call on Member States to implement the legislation they have passed.
Pelagic stocks, sprat and herring, are largely in better shape. Several are already managed in line with the MSY obligation. This has been rewarded with positive trends in stock growth and we call on Ministers to continue with this successful strategy.
For the salmon stocks, we also call on the Council to adopt the recommendations put forward by the Commission, although for Gulf of Finland salmon we, along with ICES, advise that there should be no fishing on the wild stock.
Negotiations for next year’s quotas have been strained and BALTFISH has been unable to make an early conclusion to their negotiations. The western Baltic cod stock has been the key sticking point. That said, the recently adopted Baltic multiannual plan provides clear catch options regarding what is legal. This, along with the MSY principle, means that Member States have clear legal boundaries on what quotas may be set, and this should help decisions to be taken with consensus.