New report highlights Danish and German failures in Baltic Sea fisheries management

Published on October 2, 2017

A recent briefing highlights environmental failure and missed socio-economic opportunities by the Danish and German governments.

In the report Rebecca Hubbard of Our Fish and Griffin Carpenter of the New Economic Foundation puts the spotlight on the counterproductive roles of Denmark and Germany in driving overfishing in the Baltic Sea. In particular for Western Baltic cod is analysed.

The authors have found that the reformed Common Fisheries Policy is not being fully implemented with regard to the setting and allocation of fishing quotas.

Denmark and Germany have pursued a strategy of negotiating higher quotas than recommended by scientists. This has caused a situation where stocks are depleted and less productive than would be otherwise, and have contributed to the severe socio-economic problems felt by the industry and in particular for the small-scale fleet using passive gears. According to the report, “by ignoring advice, Ministers created a negative feedback loop of larger reductions required with each passing year, and conversely increased economic strain on small-scale fishers.”

In an attempt to return from negotiations in Brussels with a “win”, in terms of a higher annual quota, these Ministers have caused serious conservation problems for the cod stock and have reduced the economic benefits from larger stocks that would have been realised with a more science-based process.

The report outlines several potential improvements for fisheries management, in particular for the western Baltic cod fishery:

  • Follow scientific advice when setting quotas. This would protect the stock from a conservation perspective and reap the socio-economic benefits sooner, while providing higher revenues for the industry
  • Allocate quota to incentivise best environmental practices
  • Use national policy and the quota system to support the more vulnerable, low-impact fishers during the transition to sustainable fisheries by reallocating and redistributing quota
  • Act now while fuel prices are low to make the transition most painless
  • Privatisation of the Danish fishery, with their Individual Transferrable Quota system, makes reforming the allocation system by rewarding best practice fishers more difficult
  • MSY deadline is fast approaching and fishers are left facing a cliff-edge in 2019 when quotas may have to be slashed
  • Implement ecosystem based fisheries management and the landing obligation through taking a criteria-based approach to quota allocation

The negotiations for next year’s quotas will show if Denmark and Germany has changed their counterproductive approach to fisheries management. The EU Agricultural and Fisheries council of ministers on 9-10 October will make the final decision on the quotas.