European Fisheries Ministers endorse Baltic Plan

European Fisheries Ministers endorse Baltic Plan

European Fisheries Ministers endorse Baltic Plan


Today the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers has endorsed a common approach to the multiannual Baltic Plan, a long-term management plan which establishes targets and conservation reference points for stocks and promotes regionalised decision making for fisheries in the Baltic. The common approach establishes the Council position for discussions with the European Parliament.

The plan concerns cod, sprat and herring and aims to make fishing in the Baltic more sustainable. European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella said:  "This plan is very important for us. It is the first multiannual plan to be adopted under the new Common Fisheries Policy and a litmus test for the basic precepts of  the policy itself. It is based on scientific advice, it is decided at regional level and it maintains an inherent flexibility that addresses the changing reality on the ground. "
Background on Baltic Sea fisheries

The proposal for a Baltic multiannual plan was adopted by the Commission in October 2014.  Next week,  the Parliament will vote on its position on this plan in its plenary session. Once both EP and Council decide establish their positions, negotiations between the two institutions can start in view of adopting the plan into law.

The main fisheries in the Baltic are cod, herring and sprat:
Cod in the Eastern Baltic and Western Baltic are considered to be separate stocks.
Different herring stocks exist in the Baltic, with the main stock being found in the sea's eastern basin. There are smaller stocks in the Bothnian Sea, the Gulf of Riga and the Western Baltic. The latter stock spawns in the western Baltic and then migrates into the Skagerrak and the Eastern North Sea in order to feed.

There is one stock of sprat.

Only three herring stocks (out of the seven stocks in total that are considered in the plan) in the Central Baltic, the Gulf of Riga and the Bothnian Sea are currently exploited at levels consistent with Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

The cod stocks are currently subject to a long term management plan, which does not address anymore the reality of the status of the stocks. The targets established in the plan are not coherent with the MSY approach. The plan introduced a parallel system of stock management by limiting the fishing effort, which scientists lately concluded as unnecessary. The main management tool for pelagic stocks is a yearly catch limit established by the Council.

The Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas are based on yearly political agreements in the Council and there can be large fluctuations from year to year. This makes it very difficult to ensure that fishing mortality will be consistent with MSY by 2015. The unpredictability in the level of future fishing opportunities makes it difficult for the industry to plan ahead, risking additional adaptation costs. Too high or exceeded TACs have contributed to fishing mortality leading to reduced yields and income.