Protecting endangered eel by prohibiting fishing as well as discussions on quotas, including cod, dominated the Baltfish agenda as the regional fisheries management body for the Baltic Sea began its eighth year of work in Copenhagen, with Denmark the final country to host the rotating annual Presidency.
Baltic Sea Advisory Council members, including FishSec, met ahead of the Baltfish forum to discuss details of what and how they would present to the forum. Given the significant divergence of views within BSAC on most matters it was agreed to present the positions of the fishing industry and the Other Interest Groups separately.
The Member State fisheries department officials attending the Baltfish Forum heard from the fishing industry lobby groups dominated by a representative of the Danish trawl fleet. They also heard from smaller scale lower impact fishermen and from fisheries and environmental organisations.
An ICES representative presented information on its scientific assessments of stocks and its recommendations on fishing limits and, despite what appeared to be a case of when you don’t like the scientific advice question the messenger, answered all questions however convoluted. A gentleman from the European Commission was in attendance to explain and answer questions on its recent proposals, which gave all present some things to agree with and others to strongly oppose.
The Member State officials heard many facts and no shortage of opinions, but they themselves didn’t speak much. They were saving their voices and their opinions for the Baltfish high level meeting the following day.
Would the Commissions proposed spawning period closure of Western Baltic cod fishing be accepted? If so would sports fishermen also be prohibited from fishing during the spawning period? A total prohibition on eel fishing would have a big impact on small-scale fishermen but as it’s a critically endangered stock clearly some serious action is required, so what to do? Would the suggestion by ICES to shift some of the sprat fishing effort to other areas in order to benefit cod stocks be supported and herald the use of wider ecosystem based fisheries management? Would the Commission proposed TACs be accepted by the member states or would they act with further precaution and for example reduce the Western Baltic cod TAC closer to that suggested by precaution? Would the member states respect the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and keep their TAC and quota demands within the limits of the scientific advice? These and other questions remain to be answered in the October Fisheries Council meeting.
Toward the end of the meeting discussions took place on the Baltfish work programme for the coming year as well as loosening up the technical regulations for gears used. The Commission proposal on Technical Measures to allow use of an alternative T90 cod end that may reduce discards was one of the few points on which there was agreement. It is hoped that this leads to better compliance with the discard ban.