Europêche: Baltic cod cut proposals "disastrous"

Published on
September 29, 2016

Small-scale fishermen and fishing communities will be hit hard if the European Commission (EC) proceeds its plan to make severe cuts to next year’s Baltic cod quota, according to Europêche.

The European Union fishing sector representative body has hit back at the EC's recommended Baltic cod allocations for 2017, which proposes quota reductions for the Western and Eastern stocks of 88 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

The quota proposed for Western cod amounts to 1,588 metric tons (MT), while the quota proposed for Eastern cod amounts to 24,927 MT, which the EC said are based on scientific advice received earlier this year that recommended large reductions in fishing to help these stocks recover from their currently very low levels. The proposals are also in line with the newly-adopted Baltic Management Plan.

However, Europêche said the problem is not the stock but the way the advice has been assessed and now includes advice for recreational fishermen. The latter are not regulated by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but have been offered 61 percent more quota than the commercial sector.

"The number of active fishing vessels in the Danish Baltic fleet has been continuously reduced in the last 15 years from around 700 to just 200 vessels, the majority belonging to the small-scale fleet who will feel the biggest impact from these potential cuts, leading to a certain collapse of local fishing communities,” said Javier Garat, president of Europêche.

The fishing body believes the socio-economic effects of the proposals could have “disastrous consequences” for many small harbors that have become dependent on fishing for cod, plaice, flounder and dab after the termination of the industrial fishery for herring and sprat.

"With a more fair and manageable decrease, we can still increase stock biomass and still be in line with the Baltic plan. Instead, small-scale fishermen have been sacrificed on the altar of fundamentalist MSY (maximum sustainable yield) at the expense of vulnerable, coastal communities," said Garat.

In recent weeks, the EC has held talks with stakeholders in the countries most concerned by the expected quota reductions. These discussions highlighted concerns about income and jobs.

Together with EU member states' administrations, the commission has been exploring mitigation measures that could be put in place to address those concerns while allowing the cod stocks to recover. It has also invited member states to consider using EU funding for temporary financial support for the most affected fish producers.

Some member states are now planning to put such support measures in place, said the EC.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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