Ailing Baltic cod caught in political vortex

EU ministers decide on 2016 Baltic fishing quotas

Press release - October 22, 2015
Brussels - EU fisheries ministers meet today to agree 2016 quotas for stocks in the Baltic Sea. With Baltic cod stocks in a worrying state, there is no room for complacency: ministers must set sustainable fishing limits for all stocks, not least cod, and allocate the lion’s share of the quotas to low-impact fishermen.

Last year, Baltic nations deferred action to stop overfishing Western Baltic cod to this year’s decision on 2016 quotas. This deadline now serves as a litmus test for the Council’s commitment to recovering fish populations. Fishing limits for Eastern cod stocks are even more contentious, as ministers from countries most concerned by this fishery – including Denmark, Germany and Poland - are likely to oppose catch limits recommended by scientists.

Justine Maillot, Greenpeace EU oceans policy officer, said: "European ministers have already missed their agreed goal to end overfishing for all – or at least most - stocks by 2015. An additional delay beyond 2016 would just keep feeding a vicious circle that depletes our seas and risks the future of fishing communities. It is time for Europe’s governments to adhere to the recommendations from scientists and meet their obligations to end overfishing once and for all."

For several years, ministers have artificially inflated the fishing limits for Eastern Baltic cod, with fishermen barely catching 60 per cent of the allowed quota because of poor stock conditions. For 2016, scientists have recommended cutting catches to no more than 29,220 tonnes [1], yet ministers are set to significantly exceed this limit (by 41 per cent).

Once quotas are set at EU level, European countries are required to minimise the negative impacts of fishing by allocating quotas to fishermen on the basis of environmental, social and economic criteria [2]. However most, if not all, EU countries have so far failed to apply clear criteria and are therefore failing to provide incentives to fishermen that use low-impact fishing methods [3].

Low-impact fishermen have been side-lined for decades, despite the fact that they represent around 50 per cent of the employment on board EU fishing vessels [4]. Baltic fishermen and those from other regions have recently formed alliances to advocate in favour of preferential quota access for low-impact fishermen, and demand an end to overfishing [5].

Notes:

[1] International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advice on Easter cod: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2015/2015/cod-2532.pdf

[2] Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy requires EU governments to use transparent and objective criteria, including those of an environmental, social and economic nature, when they allocate fishing opportunities to their fishermen.

[3] http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/en/Publications/2015/EU-countries-fail-to-promote-low-impact-fishing/

[4] STECF, the 2015 Annual Economic Report on the EU fishing fleet: http://stecf.jrc.ec.europa.eu/documents/43805/1034590/2015-07_STECF+15-07+-+AER+2015_JRC97371.pdf

[5] http://lifeplatform.eu/the-low-impact-fishermen-of-the-baltic-region-join-their-forces-2/

Contacts:

Justine Maillot – Greenpeace EU oceans policy officer: +32 (0)2 274 19 22,

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 19 11,

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs: www.twitter.com/GreenpeaceEU

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.

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