2006 Baltic fish quotas: ‘Cod stocks continue to give cause for concern’ – Fishupdate.com

2006 Baltic fish quotas: ‘Cod stocks continue to give cause for concern’ Published:  25 November, 2005

THE European Commission has tabled a proposal on fishing possibilities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks in the Baltic Sea for 2006. While the state of most Baltic fish stocks is fairly good, allowing for stable or even increased fishing possibilities to be proposed, the cod stocks continue to give cause for concern. The objective, the EC state, is therefore to rebuild these cod stocks and protect those in a sound biological state while maintaining, as far as possible, the economic activities of the fleets concerned. With regard to cod, the Commission proposes to increase fishing possibilities but only as a step towards a long-term recovery plan for which the Commission will shortly table a proposal. Thus measures would have to be taken in parallel to reduce the fishing effort by 10 percent in 2006, in addition to the setting up of temporary closures.

Commenting on this proposal, Joe Borg, Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “Our common aim is to ensure the recovery of the Baltic cod stocks while keeping the economic constraints on the fleets concerned as low as possible. For this gradual approach to succeed, fishing possibilities and reduction of effort must go hand in hand.”

Fishing possibilities on other stocks would remain more or less the same except for an increase in herring and a decrease in sprat. Traditionally, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas have been implemented through a single Council Regulation. This year, however, fishing opportunities will be set through two separate Regulations, this one covering the Baltic Sea, and the other, all other areas. The two proposals will be discussed at the December Council.

The Commission is preparing a long-term recovery plan for Baltic cod, which it intends to present to the Council in December.

This plan would not become applicable before January 2007. Meanwhile, in setting the fishing opportunities for 2006, the Commission has opted for a TAC which is close to current catch figures, in order to provide economic stability for the industry. At the same time, and as a condition for a TAC which is higher than that recommended by scientific opinion, the Commission is seeking the immediate introduction of an effort limitation scheme. This scheme will be close to that which will form the backbone of the future recovery plan, and can be extended in future until fishing mortality reaches a level that is sustainable in the long term. Effort limitations will take two different forms: closed periods of two months in the Western Baltic, and three months in the East, as agreed by the International Baltic Sea Fisheries Commission (IBSFC); and an additional closure for 10% of the remaining days of the year, over and above the IBSFC agreement. This second closure could be implemented in a number of different ways. For these closures to be effective, they must cover all fishing activities which are catching cod. Additional control measures are included in the proposal, which will be crucial to ensuring its success.

The Commission proposal takes account of the latest scientific advice from the independent International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Commission’s own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF), as well as input from stakeholders. According to ICES, cod stocks in both the Eastern and the Western Baltic are outside safe biological limits. The eastern stock in particular is close to a historic low, and fishing mortality is well above long-term sustainable levels.

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