In what will likely be the final meeting under the German Presidency, the BALTFISH Forum and High Level Group are meeting in Berlin on 26-27 April.
A high priority will be to develop a discard plan for the Baltic Sea fisheries. The existing plan expires at the end of the year and public discussions have yet to take place on what elements the new plan, which will be integrated with the Baltic multispecies management plan, will contain. A Delegated Act needs to be adopted by the regionalised BALTFISH within the next seven months, however, the public consultation has only just begun with the first draft being sent out on 6 April.
In 2014, BALTFISH stated that will make a “more detailed evaluation not later than two years after entering into force”, of the landing obligation. However, this evaluation never happened and according to civil servants it will not take place before the new Delegated Act comes into force.
At the same time in the new landing obligation proposal, BALTFISH states that “the provisions of the current discard plan have proved to be effective and appropriate, amendments have not been requested so far.”
This perspective, provided by regional civil servants, is however at odds with the scientific community. Eskild Kirkegaard, the ICES ACOM Chair, has commented that the Baltic landing obligation has “left fishing patterns unchanged”. Several scientists, including at a recent DiscardLess event, have highlighted that they now have less data on discarding than before the landing obligation was introduced.
Moreover, members of the Baltic Sea Advisory Council (BSAC) have also stated that the landing obligation has not been effective. According to Staffan Larsson of the Swedish Cod Producer Organisation, “the discard levels have remained unchanged”. While Mogens Schou, who is the representative of BalticSea2020, has tweeted that the “discard ban = systematic overfishing”.
It is notable that BALTFISH has not been helped by the BSAC failing to provide any advice on the landing obligation, despite being requested to do so. Officials have been left scratching their heads at the lack of advice provided by the Advisory Council (AC) and there were confusing scenes at the recent meeting between EFCA, the European control agency, BALTFISH, and BSAC, when the Chair of the AC called for the removal of plaice from the landing obligation without any consultation of the Council’s members.
In addition to the landing obligation, discussions will take place on technical measures, BALTFISH working groups, and transparency within the regional body. The Danish BALTFISH Presidency will then begin on 1 July.