Ladies and gentlemen,

Today the Council reached an agreement on the fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2022, based on the Commission’s proposal. I think we managed to find a responsible and balanced agreement that will help us to rebuild the fish stocks in the Baltic fisheries.

As you know, this has been a difficult time for the Baltic Sea region. It has been struggling with environmental challenges stemming from issues such as eutrophication and rising sea temperatures, caused by climate change. This is why – with all the concerned Ministers of the Baltic Sea – we have committed in last year’s “Our Baltic” conference to address these issues through a comprehensive approach, including a commitment to fully implement relevant EU environmental legislation. It is indeed crucial that we approach the problems in the Baltic with concrete action. And even though our fishermen and women are not to blame for much of this situation, part of the solution will have to come from fisheries.

The scientific advice for many stocks in the Baltic confirmed that we have a tough period ahead of us. ICES issued a zero catch advice for eastern Baltic cod and western herring, as well as for main basin salmon in the open sea and southern Baltic. They also advised a strong decrease for western Baltic cod and central herring. The message is clear: we have to be very, very cautious.

The Council, therefore, adopted, for several stocks, fishing opportunities with severe reductions, such as -88% for western Baltic cod. This is a drastic cut, but we are confident that if we take these measures now, we can turn the tide.

Member States also agreed on additional recovery management measures, such as extended spawning closure and a ban on recreational fisheries for western Baltic cod.

To ease the socio-economic repercussions on the people who make a living from fishing – and this includes the processing sector –the Council agreed on the Commission’s proposal to set a by-catch TAC for all the stocks for which the directed fishery has to be closed. This concerns western Baltic herring, eastern Baltic cod and the salmon in the southern main basin and will allow other fisheries with unavoidable by-catches of these species to continue. In this regard, I strongly welcome the agreement on the Joint Recommendation of Baltic Member States for a more selective fishing gear for flatfish. This is a big step forward, which will allow higher catches of plaice while reducing bycatch of ailing cod stocks.

The decisions taken at this Council were difficult, but necessary so that the Baltic Sea can remain a source of livelihood for local communities today and tomorrow. And let’s not forget that there is also some good news.

Today, Ministers have taken their responsibility and have acted in line with scientific advice.. I now also count on the other sectors to do their part. As a matter of priority, Member States need to attack the main sources of pollution, particularly from agricultural land use. Our fishermen and women should not be paying the price for what goes wrong on the land.

I therefore insist on a full and immediate implementation of our environmental legislation, as we have agreed, exactly one year ago, with the Our Baltic ministerial declaration. We now have to walk the talk.

On another subject, Ministers also discussed the preparation of the upcoming consultations with the UK and Norway, as well as the preparation of the ICCAT annual meeting. I want to thank everyone for their very valuable input. On this basis, we will now develop the EU positions.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Slovenian Presidency and Member States for their constructive cooperation even in the most difficult conditions. With this outcome, we stay on the path towards sustainable and profitable fisheries in the future, and a recovering marine ecosystem in the Baltic.

Thank you.

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