Tonight we have taken some very difficult, but much needed decisions concerning fishing in the Baltic Sea.
Indeed, many Baltic fish stocks and ecosystems are in an alarming situation. This is not only a concern for the environment, but also a concern for the many local communities whose livelihoods depend on these ecosystems.
There was broad agreement around the table that if we do not address the root causes of this worrying situation, both nature and fishing businesses stand to lose.
Therefore, first, we agreed on a very significant reduction of fishing opportunities for key stocks. This will ensure that six of the eight fully assessed Baltic stocks are managed in line with maximum sustainable yield.
For two stocks, western herring and eastern Baltic cod, unprecedented reductions were agreed that are in line with the Baltic Management Plan. For western herring, a reduction of 65% will set the stock on path to be no longer threatened in 2023. For eastern Baltic cod, all targeted fishing will be banned and only a limited quota will be allowed for unavoidable by-catches, in order not to choke other fisheries.
However, we also agreed that a significant reduction of total allowable catches was not in itself sufficient to protect some stocks. Therefore, as a second category of action, we agreed on a number of measures to close areas for several months in order to protect the spawning periods of vulnerable stocks.
Third, and very importantly, Baltic Member States – for the first time – made a clear written commitment to effectively and urgently address at source other causes of unhealthy fish stocks (such as pollution, eutrophication and habitat degradation resulting from industrial and agricultural activities), through the implementation of EU rules and, where appropriate, through additional measures. This is crucial as fishing is only one – and sometimes not the main – cause of poor stock status.
Finally, we recognised that, without appropriate financial support, this year's decisions may have serious short-term socio-economic consequences for some fishermen, even if the majority of the fleets will remain profitable. Therefore, the Commission will urgently consider all possible initiatives in order to achieve the economic, social and sustainability objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, of the Baltic Management Plan and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, and in particular to achieve and maintain a balance between the fleet and fishing opportunities. The necessary restructuring of these fleets will be an immediate priority in this context, including through funding support.
I would like to thank the Finnish Presidency for an excellent cooperation. I am convinced that the package of measures agreed today will put the Baltic Sea on a path to sustainability. To the benefit of fishermen and coastal communities.
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