Europe sets total catch allocations, but is this enough to rebuild fish populations?

October 13, 2021 — Marine conservation groups are skeptical of the total allowable catch (TAC) allocated to European member states this week by the EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council.

The main points of contention over the 2022 TACs concern 10 main fish stocks in the Baltic Sea.

Specific changes from last year’s TACs include a 45% reduction in herring by-catches in the central Baltic. Herring bycatch has already been reduced by 50% in the Western Baltic due to low biomass levels.

An advocate of a healthy ocean ecosystem, Our Fish welcomes the Council’s decision to set fishing limits for sprat, central Baltic herring and plaice below the maximum limit recommended by scientists. The organization expressly indicates that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Talk to FoodIngredientsFirst, Rebecca Hubbard, Program Manager at Our Fish, says, “This will have a positive impact on the ecosystem and other fish populations. We hope to see many more in the future.

Several NGOs, including Coalition Clean Baltic, FishSec, Our Fish, Oceana, Seas at Risk and WWF, have expressed their common disappointment that the fishing limits are still higher than the European Commission’s proposal and are not in line with scientific advice. clear.

However, the NGOs recognize that “progress has been made in taking into account the ecosystem impacts of fishing”.

NGOs hope that the 2022 TAC restrictions will mark the start of the recovery of fish populations.TAC for 2022
The agreement determines how much of each species of fish the countries will be allowed to catch next year. It also defines the conditions applicable to fishing vessels operating in the region.

The Council continues to set a specific TAC for by-catches of cod stocks due to the lack of improvement in the figures. The same will be true for salmon in the main basin despite a moderate increase in the TAC for salmon stocks in the Gulf of Finland.

The TACs for plaice and sprat were increased by 25% and 13%, respectively.

Hubbard explains that although the Council has agreed to stop targeted fishing for eastern and western Baltic cod, scientists recommend a zero catch. The stipulation, however, is essential because two out of three of these fish populations are endangered.

“Unfortunately ministers have decided that some fish may still be caught as ‘unintentional’ by-catch, which means rebuilding these populations will take much longer,” Hubbard laments.

The European Commission’s proposal to limit fishing in the Baltic is prudent given the very degraded state of the Baltic ecosystem. Baltic cod stocks have disappeared; one stock of herring is gone, while another is on the verge of collapse, says Nils Höglund of Coalition Clean Baltic. According to the NGOs, the commission’s proposal took into account the wider ecosystem and the interactions between species.

These stipulations in the 2022 TACs are seen as a clear step towards implementing the ecosystem approach to fisheries management, as required by the Common Fisheries Policy.

Justyna Zajchowska, senior marine conservation specialist at WWF Poland, expressed concern that ministers set four of ten total allowable catches (TACs) in excess of scientific advice, including salmon.

Fish populations still under threat
Based on current projections, “the Baltic Sea ecosystem will continue to degrade” if permission continues to be given to already overfished fish, according to Hubbard.

She explains: “The decision to consider ecosystem interactions is welcome; however, continued permission to fish overfished and extremely unhealthy populations must cease.

If overfishing does not stop, the Baltic Sea ecosystem will not perform essential climate mitigation functions or support fishing communities.

According to AGRIFISH, the approved TACs and quotas are based on scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Furthermore, the TACs allegedly reflect the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

If overfishing does not stop, the Baltic Sea ecosystem will not be able to support fishing communities.Some of the most notable measures of the new TACS include restrictions applied to recreational fishing and temporary fishing bans during specific periods to protect cod spawning.

Hubbard hopes that the restrictions set by the latest TACs will mark the beginning of the recovery of fish populations.

“A number of fish populations are so chronically overfished that positive decisions made today won’t solve the problem overnight or in a year, but they will start the process,” says Hubbard.

Höglund of the Clean Baltic Coalition says the continued setting of TACs according to “old harvest thinking” indicates that the system is broken.

“Science and European law formed the basis of the Commission’s initial proposal, and the Commissioner has clearly stood his ground, and for that he and his team deserve praise, as do the states that supported him. However, several Member States have again chosen short-term gains for a few fishermen on large boats, fishing fishmeal,” explains Höglund.

Low impact fishing required
Norway pout fishing TACs were included in the agreement with the start of the season in November. As the stock is partly present in UK waters, the TAC will be revised at the end of the year to include consultations with the UK.

“Baltic Fisheries Ministers must continue to listen to the ocean and science, and now prioritize access to the small amount of fishing that remains for low-impact, low-emission fishing vessels. carbon, so we can try to salvage a future that involves a living Baltic Sea and the climate protection benefits it can offer,” says Hubbard.

Hubbard believes the future of the Baltic Sea hinges on better decisions that reward the “most responsible and sustainable fishermen”.

NGOs agree that the decisions taken this week respect the common fisheries policy’s legal obligation to comply with ecosystem-based fisheries management and hope for more substantial results in the future.

“We are concerned about the short-sighted outlook given the serious circumstances we face in the Baltic Sea,” concludes Jan Isakson, director of FishSec.

Earlier this year, ocean lobby groups were surprised by the European Commission’s proposal for Baltic fishing limits for 2021. They welcomed plans to preserve fish stocks, especially for herring from the Western Baltic.

They feared that not enough was being done to help fish populations recover.

By Inga de Jong

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