Commission proposes reductions on Baltic cod and salmon

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
5 September 2006, at 1:00am

EU - Today, the European Commission tabled a proposal on fishing possibilities and associated conditions for a number of fish stocks in the Baltic Sea for 2007.

Commission proposes reductions on Baltic cod and salmon and increases on herring and sprat - EU - Today, the European Commission tabled a proposal on fishing possibilities and associated conditions for a number of fish stocks in the Baltic Sea for 2007.

While the state of most Baltic fish stocks remains fairly good, in particular the major herring stock in the central Baltic, scientists still express serious concern about the condition of the cod stocks.

They have again recommended the closure of the Eastern Baltic cod fishery until a management plan is set up. On 24 July, the Commission adopted a multi-annual plan to rebuild and maintain cod stocks in the Baltic Sea at safe biological levels. It is expected that this plan will come into force next year. Instead of a closure, therefore, the Commission proposes continuing with a gradual approach involving a 15% reduction in cod catches as provided for in the multi-annual plan. An overall increase is, however, proposed in herring and sprat catches and no change on plaice. This proposal should be discussed at the October Fisheries Council.

Commenting on this proposal, Joe Borg, Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: This proposal confirms our commitment to the application of a gradual approach which aims to help rebuild cod stocks and protect those stocks which are in a healthier state while, at the same time, keeping economic pressure on the sector as low as possible.

The proposed multi-annual plan for Baltic cod, proposed last July, will combine staged reductions in fishing mortality with increases in closed periods, and limits to the year-on-year variation in Total Allowable Catches (TACs) so as to provide stability for the industry (see IP/05/1055). (Fishing mortality measures the number of fish taken by fishing in the course of a year as a proportion of the average number of fish present in the stock that year.)

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has reiterated its recommendation for a complete closure of the eastern cod fishery until a long-term management plan has been adopted and has come into force. Recognising that such a closure would undermine the economic basis of the fishery, and should therefore be avoided if at all possible, the Commission proposes instead to manage the stock in line with the future multi-annual plan by anticipation.

However, the 10% reduction in fishing mortality foreseen by the plan would actually lead to an increase in the TAC for Eastern Baltic cod in 2007, due to the exceptional number of young fish joining the stock this year. To allow these young fish to be overexploited when the stock as a whole is in such fragile condition would be irresponsible. The Commission is therefore proposing to reduce the TAC by the maximum amount of 15%, in line with the plan's provisions for responding to exceptional circumstances. The proposed TAC for eastern cod is therefore 38 522 tonnes, compared with 45 339 tonnes this year, and for western cod is 24 140 tonnes, as against 28 400 tonnes in 2006.

The proposed TAC for salmon in the main basin is reduced from 451 260 individual fish this year to 361 001 so as to bring it into line with both the actual level of landings and the scientific advice. In recent years, catches have been lower than the TAC set.

The central Baltic herring stock shows encouraging signs of health, and the Commission is therefore proposing to raise the TAC by 15% from 115 842 tonnes to 133 218 tonnes next year. Sprat stocks are also in reasonable condition, permitting a proposed TAC of 428 918 tonnes, a slight increase from this year's 420 826 tonnes.

Closed areas and periods are an important part of the Commission's strategy for ensuring sustainable fisheries in the Baltic. They not only reduce fishing effort, but also facilitate control and help prevent undeclared landings. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has recently estimated that landings of eastern Baltic cod are misreported by up to 35-40%, which in itself is sufficient to undermine any recovery measures put in place. In 2007, the Commission proposes maintaining the closed areas and periods agreed in 2006, while increasing the number of additional closed days for demersal gear (close to the sea floor) by 10% in line with the multi-annual plan. The derogation exempting vessels under 12 metres using bottom set nets from this measure is, however, maintained.

The Commission proposal reflects the latest scientific advice from the independent International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and the opinion of the Commissions own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF). It also takes account of input from stakeholders, in particular from the Baltic Regional Advisory Council.

The Commission has also discussed the TACs and quotas and associated conditions with Russia within the framework of their new bilateral fisheries agreement expected to enter into force in the course of 2007. This agreement is due to replace the International Baltic Sea Fisheries Commission (IBSFC) from which the European Union withdrew as of the end of 2005, following the accession of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the EU.

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