Stock Collapse At Risk If Denmark Keeps Pushing For Cod Catches

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Temporary closure called for by Oceana for the critically overfished western Baltic cod as a decision is to be made by EU fisheries ministers on Baltic stock quotas for 2017 on October 10th–11th

On Monday 10th October, European Union fisheries ministers will convene in Luxembourg at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council to decide on fishing limits, or total allowable catches (TACs), for commercial fish stocks of the Baltic Sea. Due to the extreme state of western Baltic cod following decades of overfishing and mismanagement, Oceana calls for a temporary total closure of all targeted cod fisheries in the western Baltic Sea (subdivisions 22-24, see map) to allow the stock to recover and ensure a future for its fisheries. However, the Danish and German governments are reluctant to invest in its future, preferring instead to continue overfishing and keep the stock at dangerously low levels.

Governments are supposed to be guardians of the law.

“The EU Common Fisheries Policy requires governments to rebuild stocks at sustainable levels. Ignoring scientific advice is bordering to illegal” explains Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Western Baltic cod is the most overfished stock in the region and its recovery would provide a huge source of jobs and food if managed responsibly. Ministers still have the chance to make the right decision next week and we hope for everyone’s sake that reason prevails and Baltic cod is given a chance to make a comeback.”

Fishing limits for two Baltic cod stocks will be decided next week: the eastern, which although lacks data, is considered to be in poor condition, and the western, fished predominately by Denmark and Germany (approx. 44% and 21% of total landings respectively), which is in a critically bad state. The western Baltic cod stock has a very low biomass, high fishing pressure and recruitment (amount added through reproduction) currently at its lowest ever recorded levels. Scientific recommendations by ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) state the western Baltic cod quota should be capped at 917 tonnes for 2017 – a huge 93% reduction on the previous year. Denmark doesn’t want reductions higher than 20% which equates to landings ten times above scientific advice. Continued overfishing risks a stock collapse which would result in huge and likely permanent socioeconomic consequences to the region. Smaller scale fisheries are hardest hit by sustained overfishing and ministers must act to protect the most vulnerable by providing increased quotas of alternative species whilst stock recovery is prioritised.

Under the Common Fisheries Policy, overfishing in the EU must end by 2020 or governments will face legal consequences. In addition to this, the similarly legally binding Baltic Multi Annual Plan (BMAP), formally enacted this year, sets limits for overexploited stocks, such as western Baltic cod. Polish MEP and BMAP rapporteur Jarosław Wałęsa has stated that if the Council fails to set limits in line with BMAP he will take them to court himself.