Update on Eastern Baltic Cod

Published on September 28, 2019

Below we provide a list of recent documents and correspondence concerning Eastern Baltic Cod (EBC), with the date of publication or corresponding meeting for each document.

We think it will aid clarity and discussion to put these documents in one place online. We hope that if all stakeholders see the same documents they may more easily share a common understanding and take joint initiatives to save what can be saved of Eastern Baltic Cod.


Latest news

In October 2019 the Baltic Sea Centre at Stockholm University published a policy brief ahead of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting on 14 October at which next year’s cod quota will be set. They recommend a continued ban on cod fishing in the southern Baltic Sea, subdivisions 24-26, for the whole year. In addition to “major reductions in the quotas for catches of herring and sprat in SD 24-26” and “significant reductions in flatfish trawling”.

On 8 October, three county governors in Sweden wrote to the government agency requesting that “the Swedish industrial pelagic fishery is not allowed in the area where cod fishing is forbidden. Within the EU, Sweden should work toward the same conditions for fishermen from other countries.”

On August 30 the European Commission published its proposal for fishing quotas for the Baltic Sea in 2020, the final decision will be taken at the Council of Ministers in October. The Commission proposal is for the EBC fishery to be closed next year with no direct fishery as well as for an undisturbed spawning season in subdivisions 25 and 26 to be in place from 1 May to 31 August during which time the proposed bycatch quota cannot be fished.

In response to the Commission proposal WWF commented “No end in sight: European Commission shows no support to ban overfishing in the Baltic region.” There was further criticism in a joint statement from Seas at Risk, Our Fish, and Oceana who describe the proposal as “a lost opportunity”.  In a press release from the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, Coalition Clean Baltic and The Fisheries Secretariat the proposal was described as having “support and criticism” adding that “for eastern Baltic cod the science is clear, the stock is in crisis and so we welcome the proposal of no direct cod fishing. We also welcome the proposed spawning areas protections, which should be a key part of a comprehensive long-term rebuilding plan for both cod stocks. However we have serious concerns about the proposed bycatch TAC for eastern cod, for which no figures are yet presented”.

On August 30 in an op-ed from BalticSea2020, the foundation writes that “the fishing lobby misleads elected officials about the socio-economic importance of cod fishing”. In their article they highlight false socio-economic figures provided by lobbyists representing the large-scale segment of Swedish trawlers, highlighting the fact that there are far fewer than 200 cod fishermen in Sweden. By comparison, marine tourism and recreational fishing are of far more economic and social value, accounting for 30,000 jobs and 1.5 million participants respectively.

On July 25 the Polish Minister Marek Grobarczyk wrote a letter to Commissioner Vella in response to the Commission legislating for emergency measures in which he criticises the measure as it “will result in ineffective environmental protection and the collapse of the fishing sector.” The Minister states that “as a complementary measure it is indispensable to introduce a ban on fishing for the forage fishery in the Baltic Sea, which in a special way contributes to the destruction of the food base for cod and for other species”.

On July 23 the EU Commission approves emergency measures “to save the ailing eastern Baltic cod stock from impending collapse”. Emergency measures will ban, with immediate effect, commercial fishing for cod in most of the Baltic Sea until 31 December 2019.

On June 17 NGOs wrote to the Commission regarding the critical state of the Eastern Baltic cod stock. The NGOs provide a number of elements to be addressed in the implementation of emergency measures. They “note that spawning for eastern Baltic cod takes place right now, from May to 31st August. If action is taken quickly, i.e. measures in place by 1st July, it can have a beneficial effect on spawning and therefore on the future stock recovery.”

On June 3 the Swedish government writes in a press release that they will advocate for “a ban on fishing from the cod quota in the eastern stock during the period 1 July – 31 December 2019” in BALTFISH, the regional high level group. “During 2020, the catch quota for the same area, except for unavoidable by-catch, should be zero. In order to secure the cod’s access to food, Sweden also sees other measures need to be introduced, including the suspension of sprat and herring / herring within the geographical areas where this is scientifically justified.”

On May 29 this scientific recommendation led to renewed calls from NGOs for the EU to implement Emergency Measures with immediate effect and close the fishery. “The only sane response to the collapse of the eastern cod population is to stop all fishing now and develop a recovery plan, rather than wait for 2020”, said Nils Höglund, Fishery and marine policy officer, Coalition Clean Baltic. “With this clear advice from ICES, EU Member States must act without delay – and if they do not, the Commission must take action – there are still fish that can be saved, and spawning season is happening right now”.

On May 29 The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) published their scientific advice for Eastern Baltic cod and recommend that the fishery is closed, “there should be zero catch in 2020”.

On May 15 the German State Secretary Walter Dübner replied on behalf of Minister Julia Klöckner, stating that “given the strained state of the eastern cod, I am confident that the BALTFISH High Level Group will succeed in agreeing to appropriate measures to restore the stock”. An informal English translation can be found here.

On May 14 the Polish Minister Marek Grobarczyk wrote a letter highlighting that since 2015 he has called for “immediate remedial measures to help rebuild the stock” when it was clear that eastern Baltic cod was in a critical condition. He further highlighted the need for and benefits of closed areas that allow for undisturbed spawning. In addition Poland has implemented several national measures such as a trawling ban within 6 nautical miles of its coastline, changes to their fisheries control procedures and the introduction of fishing quotas for unregulated stocks such as sandeel that are one of the main sources of cod food. An informal English translation can be found here.

On April 26 the NGO Our Fish commented on the Danish ministers initiative saying it was “Far too little, far too late” in a press release. “The Minister’s proposal to reduce the quota by 70% is less impressive than she would have us believe – an enormous 7,233 tonnes of cod will still be fished, under the questionable auspices of ‘unavoidable by catch’, said Cathrine Pedersen Schirmer, Our Fish campaign coordinator in Denmark.

On April 25 the Danish fisheries minister Eva Kjer Hansen also reacted to the crisis in a press release. “Everything suggest that the biologist will recommend that the fishery is closed next year, but the fishery should be limited already this year”, said the minister, and continued: “Therefore I will propose that the cod quota for the eastern Baltic Sea is cut by 70 percent already this year”.

On April 24 the Lithuanian vice minister Darius Liutikas wrote “Lithuania has already initiated preparations for emergency measures….The emergency measures consist of closing fishing activities in Subdivisions 25-32 by two additional months in June and August 2019 for Lithuanian fishing vessels fishing for cod”. He added that “we are aware of the deteriorating condition of eastern Baltic cod stock…it is our national interest to protect eastern Baltic cod in a sustainable manner”.

On April 19 the Swedish agriculture and fisheries minister Jennie Nilsson and environment minister Isabella Lövin gave their view on the crisis for Eastern Baltic Cod in a debate article in morning daily Svenska Dagbladet. The article describes the dramatic decline of the stock and the many “large threats” against the cod stock, e.g. eutrophication and dead seabeds, parasites, lack of food and high fishing pressure. The government is working on “alternative course of actions that match the gravity of the situation”, including other environmental measures and seal management, that can help the stock recover, but “a full closure of the Baltic Sea cod fishery can not be ruled out”. An informal English translation can be found here.


Documents and correspondence

This article will be a living document and additional information will be added as and when it becomes available.

  1. Conclusions from the BSAC workshop on Eastern Baltic Cod on 29 Jan 2019.
  2. Report back to BSAC members from observers to the WKBALTCOD2 – ICES benchmark on Baltic cod Feb 2019.
  3. Letter by Baltic NGOs to Commission on 14 Feb 2019.
  4. Press release by Baltic NGOs re Eastern Baltic Cod on 21 Feb 2019.
  5. Commission response to Baltic NGOs on 13 March 2019.
  6. Letter from the Commission to Chairs of BALTFISH and BSAC on 27 Feb 2019.
  7. BSAC reply to Commission re Eastern Baltic cod on 22 March 2019.
  8. Letter from BSAC to Commission and BALTFISH regarding January workshop on Eastern Baltic cod on 4 March 2019.
  9. Letter of reply from BALTFISH to BSAC on 26 March 2019.
  10. Low Impact Fisheries of Europe: Final call for Eastern Baltic cod on 15 March 2019
  11. Document describing the ICES benchmark process.
  12. Document with the wording of articles 12 & 13 of the CFP.
  13. Letter to Fisheries Ministers of EU Member States in the Baltic Sea region from NGO coalition on 11 April 2019.
  14. Excerpts: Conclusions and findings of ICES benchmark report on Eastern Baltic cod on 5 April 2019
  15. ICES benchmark report for Eastern and Western Baltic cod stocks on 5 April 2019
  16. Debate article from Swedish Fisheries Minister and Swedish Environment Minister on 19 April (in Swedish)
  17. Debate article from Swedish Fisheries Minister and Swedish Environment Minister on 19 April (informal English translation)
  18. Letter from Lithuanian Vice Minister to Baltic NGOs on 24 April 2019
  19. Press release from Danish Minister on 25 April 2019 (in Danish)
  20. Press release from Our Fish responding to Danish Minister on 26 April 2019
  21. Letter from Polish Minister to Commissioner Vella on 14 March 2019 (in Polish)
  22. Letter from Polish Minister to Baltic NGOs on 14 May 2019 (in Polish)
  23. Letter from Polish Minister to Baltic NGOs on 14 May 2019 (informal English translation)
  24. Letter from Polish Minister to ICES on 29 May 2018 (in Polish and English)
  25. Letter from German State Secretary to Baltic NGOs on 15 May 2019 (in German)
  26. Letter from German State Secretary to Baltic NGOs on 15 May 2019 (informal English translation)
  27. ICES advice for Eastern Baltic cod in 2020 on 29 May 2019
  28. ICES stock annex for Eastern Baltic cod in 2020 on 29 May 2019
  29. ICES response to EU request on immediate measures to safeguard Eastern Baltic cod on 29 May 2019
  30. Press release by Baltic NGOs in response to ICES advice on 29 May 2019
  31. Press release by the Swedish Government on 3 June 2019 (Swedish)
  32. Letter by NGOs to Commissioner Vella on 17 June 2019
  33. Press release by EU Commission on July 23 2019
  34. COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) 2019/1248 of 22 July 2019 establishing measures to alleviate a serious threat to the conservation of the eastern Baltic cod (Gadus morhua) stock (Published 23 July)
  35. Letter from Polish Minister to Commissioner Vella on July 25 2019 (informal English translation)
  36. Letter from European Commission to NGOs regarding emergency measures on 30 July 2019
  37. European Commission proposal for Baltic Sea quotas in 2020 on 30 August 2019
  38. European Commission annex for Baltic Sea quotas in 2020 on 30 August 2019
  39. WWF press release in response to Commission proposal for Baltic Sea quotas on 3 September 2019
  40. Press release by Seas at Risk, Our Fish and Oceana on 30 August 2019
  41. Press release by Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, Coalition Clean Baltic and FishSec on 4 September 2019
  42. Op-ed by the BalticSea2020 Foundation in the Sydsvenskan newspaper on 30 August 2019 (informal English translation)
  43. Policy brief from the Baltic Sea Centre at Stockholm University in October 2019
  44. Open letter by three Swedish governors on 8 October 2019 (Swedish)