Baltic Sea NGOs oppose ‘unscientific’ EU fishing quotas

The BALTFISH meeting in Helsinki this week wants the European Commission to heed scientific advice for sustainable management of fish stocks in the region.

Baltic herring / Credit: Tom Blom Fiskare

The Baltic Sea Fisheries Forum BALTFISH is taking a stand against the European Commission’s proposals for fishing quotas in the region.

Meeting in Helsinki this week, BALTFISH brings together major Baltic Sea NGOs – including the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation FANC – to study proposals on fishing limits for salmon, western herring and eastern cod stocks.

According to BALTFISH, the EU’s plans about the size of fishing stocks are not scientific.

“The scientific advice on Baltic salmon clearly states that commercial landing should be 58,900 salmon. The Commission proposal of 86,575 is not in line with that advice” says Tapani Veistola, Senior Adviser at FANC.

“Ministers at the EU October Council should follow the scientific advice on Baltic salmon, not the Commission’s proposal” he says.

The BALTFISH meeting in Helsinki – which provides a platform for discussion on important fisheries issues in the Baltic Sea – also has problems with the European Commissions proposals on Baltic herring stocks.

“On western Baltic herring the science advice for the second year in a row is for zero catch. The Commission ignored the advice last year and member states then made it worse by increasing the total allowable catches” says Nils Högland, Fisheries Policy Officer at Sweden’s Coalition Clean Baltic.

More discussions on fisheries still to come 

While the final decisions on fishing quotas for the Baltic Sea will be decided at an EU meeting in October, the Helsinki talks this week agreed on some of the proposals.

“For easterb Baltic cod the science is clear, the stock is in crisis and so we welcome the proposal of no direct cod fishing. We also welcome the proposed spawning areas protection, which should be a key part of a comprehensive long-term rebuilding plan for both cod stocks” says Lindsay Keenan, Fisheries Policy Officer at the Stockholm-based Fisheries Secretariat.

“However, we have serious concerns about the proposed by-catch for total allowable catches for eastern cod, for which no figures are yet presented” adds Keenan.

By-catch is the unwanted fish, and other marine creatures, trapped by commercial fishing nets during fishing for a different species.

BALTFISH participants have pointed out this week the need for more detailed introduction of fishing gear that reduces by-catch; and more precise monitoring of risk vessels.

In general, the group tries to raise awareness about ecosystem problems in the Baltic Sea to the European Commission, and improve cooperation among Member States.

“Many Baltic stocks are in crisis, the Common Fisheries Policy has a deadline of 2020 for stocks to be managed sustainably, and in the midst of a biodiversity and climate emergency, decisions taken during Finland’s presidencies of the EU and BALTFISH will be crucial” says Tapani Veistola.