Baltic Sea fishing quotas agreed for 2022 with huge cuts in the cod catch

Published on
October 13, 2021
A Baltic Sea fishing boat. The Council for the European Union reached an agreement on next year’s fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea at the latest AGRIFISH Council meeting in Luxembourg this week, with some total allowable catch (TAC) levels still exceeding scientific recommendations.

The Council for the European Union reached an agreement on next year’s fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea at the latest AGRIFISH Council meeting in Luxembourg this week, with some total allowable catch (TAC) levels still exceeding scientific recommendations.

Following much of the European Commission’s proposal published in August, substantial quota reductions have been made for multiple stocks, including an 88 percent cut for western Baltic cod to just 489 metric tons (MT).

It was also agreed that there should be additional recovery management measures, such as limiting fishing to unavoidable by-catches for main basin salmon and western herring, as well as extended spawning closure and a ban on recreational fisheries for western Baltic cod.

There was also agreement on the joint recommendation of Baltic member states for more selective fishing gear for flatfish, which will enable an increase in the plaice total allowable catch (TAC) without putting the ailing cod stocks at risk.

Additionally, the council agreed increases for herring in the Gulf of Riga, sprat, and salmon in the Gulf of Finland.

The European Commission acknowledged the new agreement comes at a difficult time for the Baltic Sea, which has also seen environmental pressures and challenges stemming from pollution taking their toll on fish stocks.

“Restoring the marine environment and the fish stocks in the Baltic Sea is at the heart of the commission’s approach to setting fishing opportunities and I am happy that the council has agreed to follow it for most of the stocks,” E.U. Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said. “In recent years, the problems in the Baltic have had a devastating impact on our fishers. This is why our comprehensive approach, with concrete actions targeting [the] environment, is crucial. The decisions reached are difficult, but necessary so that the Baltic Sea can remain the source of livelihood for fishermen and women today and tomorrow.”

The cuts come after the E.U. fisheries ministers attending the meeting were subjected to multiple calls for improved limits on Baltic Sea stocks. Our Fish Program Director Rebecca Hubbard warned the council that it was “running against the clock” to stop the collapse of the Baltic Sea ecosystem and to deliver on political promises to halt the climate and nature crises.

“Fisheries ministers have repeatedly set fishing limits for Baltic Sea fish stocks above scientific advice over the past decade, leading to huge declines in fish populations,” Hubbard said. “In 2020, ministers improved on their track record, however they still set one-fifth of fishing limits in the Baltic Sea above the best available scientific advice, thereby contravening the deadline to end overfishing by 2020, and failing to avert an ecological crisis.”

While many of the cuts brought the TACs back in line with scientific advice, others missed the mark – which NGOs called out and expressed disappointment over. Fisheries ministers agreed to close targeted fishing on salmon in the south Baltic, but still set bycatch TACs for all countries and allowed recreational catch-and-release fishing of wild salmon – which a coalition of NGOs including Our Fish, Oceana, Seas at Risk, and the WWF said fails to meet the scientific advice.

“We are satisfied that E.U. fisheries ministers listened to some extent to the progressive proposal from the European Commission on Baltic sprat, central Baltic herring, and plaice fishing-limits, which is a clear step towards implementation of the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management, as required by the Common Fisheries Policy,” WWF Poland Marine Conservation Senior Specialist Justyna Zajchowska said. “On the other hand, WWF is concerned that ministers set four out of the 10 total allowable catches (TACs) exceeding scientific recommendations, including for salmon.”

The 2022 TAC for eastern Baltic cod remains at 595 MT. Western herring is down 50 percent on this year to 788 MT, Bothnian herring is 5 percent less at 111,345 MT, central herring is down 45 percent to 49,751 MT, while Riga herring rises 21 percent to 47,697 MT.

Sprats, plaice, and Gulf of Finland salmon quotas have been increased by 13 percent, 25 percent and 6 percent respectively to 251,943 MT, 9,050 MT and 9,455 MT.

The main basin salmon quota for 2022 is down 32 percent year-on-year to 63,811 MT.  

Photo courtesy of Janis Smits/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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