Brussels proposes financial aid for Baltic cod fishers

Published on
November 4, 2019

The European Commission (EC) has adopted a proposal offering support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to fishermen affected by the closure of the Eastern Baltic cod fishery to permanently decommission their fishing vessels.

"Eastern Baltic cod is suffering from an exceptional crisis – scientists tell us that we are losing three times as many fish to environmental pressures than to fishing. Nowhere else in Europe do we find this situation. [This] proposal seeks to turn this around: by creating conditions that will help the cod stock to recover, while supporting the local communities who depend on this stock. Both fish and fishermen in the Baltic Sea deserve a future,” said Karmenu Vella, E.U. commissioner for environment, maritime affairs, and fisheries.

Eastern cod is one of the key fisheries in the Baltic Sea, but the stock is in very poor shape. At the European Council meeting on 14 and 15 October, fisheries ministers followed an EC proposal and agreed to reduce fishing possibilities in 2020 to almost zero.

The Commission said that while this step was necessary to give the stock a chance to recover, it also recognizes that it means severe and unavoidable economic hardship for the fleets and fishing communities traditionally targeting this stock.

In particular, the proposal allows the affected member states to use some of their unspent EMFF funds to support vessel owners wishing to permanently decommission their vessels targeting Eastern Baltic cod. At the same time, it caps the number of vessels that can fish for Eastern Baltic cod, ensuring that capacity withdrawn from the fleet with EMFF support lowers the pressure on the cod stock and helps it recover over time.

The proposal does not increase the EMFF funding per member state nor the E.U.'s overall budgetary contribution.

In addition, given the exceptionally fragile state of the Baltic Sea ecosystem, the Commission proposes to reinforce control and data collection in the Baltic Sea, even beyond the current closure period.

Starting from 2020, vessels fishing for cod in the Eastern Baltic Sea should be equipped with a vessel monitoring system or other equivalent electronic monitoring system. Furthermore, at least 20 percent of these vessels should have observers on board. This will allow scientists to gather more and better data on how the stock is doing and how fisheries are affecting this stock.

Photo courtesy of Konrad Uznanski/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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