New Baltic Sea fishing quotas draw fire

EU fisheries ministers have set new quotas for Baltic Sea fishing, with one industry group saying some quota increases don’t match scientific data.

EU fishing industry group Europêche, in a statement, noted a slashing of Bothnian sea herring quotas by 24 percent to 120,872 metric tons (MT), and a 5 percent cut for sprat. For sprat, the group said stocks were “doing very well,” and didn’t need the cut.

The ministry did increase plaice stocks by 18 percent, but Europêche said current science could have allowed a quota increase of up to 118 percent.

"Our fishermen are anxious that TACs in the long term will not reflect stock development,” said Kathryn Stack, Managing Director of Europêche. “These cuts come at a time when we are adapting to the discard ban and are just months away from a revision of all the technical rules, leaving practically no room for adjustment."

The group also criticized the cut in Baltic cod by 20 percent to 41,143 MT eastern stock and 12,720 MT for the western stock.

“The western stock has grown steadily over the years with many areas seeing record numbers in the last decade,” Europêche wrote. “Fishermen in this area have been working under the strict management plan and a cut in the quota will be seen as a blow to their hard work and commitment.”

Stack also said Europêche was concerned about fishery closures being extended to protect spawning periods.

“It will be extremely detrimental to the coastal fishery and is essentially a slap in the face to fishermen,” Stack said. “Not only will there be little benefit but it will be actually harmful to the stocks since it will displace effort from a good period with abundant stocks to vulnerable areas. We also hope that science will soon overcome its problems with the cod stock assessment in this area. For the western stock, we had 4 versions of advice this year and the eastern stock is still data-poor."

Not everyone shares Europêche’s opinion on cod stocks. Activist group Greenpeace issued a statement on the day of the hearings calling for cuts in cod quotas.

“With Baltic cod stocks in a worrying state, there is no room for complacency: ministers must set sustainable fishing limits for all stocks, not least cod, and allocate the lion’s share of the quotas to low-impact fishermen.”

Greenpeace was not available for comment following the ministry’s decisions on cod quotas, but in its statement the organization implored the ministry to lower the “artificially inflated” fishing limits for cod to no more than 29,220 MT, which Greenpeace said is more in line with current science.


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