Troubled waters for Baltic fishermen
After long hours of discussion, EU Fisheries Ministers have finally agreed fishing opportunities for 2018 for the ten stocks in the Baltic Sea following talks in Luxembourg. The total allowable catches (TACs) were agreed in the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy which aims to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels by 2020.
For the important pelagic stocks, central herring sees an increase of +20% while Western and Bothnian herring stocks undergo a sharp decrease of -39% and -40% respectively. The two stocks of salmon saw a reduction of -5% whilst the sprat TAC was slightly raised by 1%.
Despite the healthy state of the plaice stock, the 10% reduction in the quota is a disappointment, adopted as a consequence of the application of the precautionary approach forced by insufficient scientific data. The agreement provides a roll-over for Western cod and a reduction of -8% for Eastern cod.
â€˜Fishing companies have to survive another critical year, the loss of 39% of Western herring really hurts after last yearâ€™s reduction of Western cod,â€™ said Peter Breckling of German fishermenâ€™s association Deutscher Fischerei Verband (DFV).
â€˜These heavy cuts are especially difficult for small-scale coastal fisheries. These fishermen have little room for manoeuvre and may need financial support to survive next year.â€™
EuropÃªche also highlighted the excellent perspectives for the Western cod, as reflected by the latest scientific advice from ICES for 2019. According to scientific data, the stock is forecasted to reach the highest biomass levels ever recorded and the TAC could be tripled if conditions remain the same. This positive trend was not reflected in the TAC decided by decision-makers.
â€˜Fishermen find it hard, indeed impossible, to understand and accept that the TAC for cod in western Baltic is set below what science says can be taken sustainably and in line with MSY policy,â€™ commented Michael Andersen of the Danish Fishermen's Producer Organisation (DFPO).
â€˜When, further to this, a closed period is continued, without scientific recommendation from ICES, it makes all the political declarations about social considerations seem empty. It actually shows blatant disregard for the fact that there are people involved,â€™ he added.
In addition to the adoption of TACs in the Baltic Sea, the Council of Ministers also decided to postpone negotiations on the proposed ban of marine eel fisheries to a later stage. EuropÃªche has welcomed this decision in view of the impact of the cuts proposed, particularly for the small scale fishermen represented by its member organisations.
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