THE EU’s Fisheries Council has reached a political agreement on Fishing Opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2013, in a move that has been hailed as a great success by Maria Damanaki. However, WWF is concerned about the implications for Baltic salmon.
Western herring, Eastern cod and sprat will continue to be fished at MSY levels, while Central herring, Gulf of Riga herring and Gulf of Bothnia herring aim to reach this target by 2015.
Reflecting on the outcome, Commissioner Damanaki said: "Such a decision was only possible due to the extensive preparatory work carried out by the Presidency and Commission but also by BaltFish, the forum established by Member States around the Baltic Sea. This voluntary initiative is a good example of a regional platform for discussing Commission proposals or developing new initiatives at regional level. The Baltic Member States showed a clear commitment to keep to the objective of achieving fisheries at MSY levels by 2015 for almost all stock."
The total allowable catch (TAC) for the western cod stock has been adopted lower than initially proposed by the Commission in order to achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) sooner than forecast in the management plan.
Since the BaltFish proposals were within the limits of the scientific advice, and commonly agreed among all Baltic Sea MS, the Commission decided to agree with them as a final compromise in the Council.
The WWF has commended the Member States involved for moving even closer to sustainability by adopting some TACs that are close or at the same level as scientific advice.
However, the conservation organisation is concerned by the case of Baltic salmon, for which the Council agreed on the TAC twice as high as that advised by ICES scientists.
According to WWF, the vulnerable Baltic salmon stocks needs protection, since the salmon management plan is not yet in place. Problems of illegal fishing and high levels of bycatch are still threatening the stocks. Scientific advice was set to a maximum of 54,000 individual salmon to be fished in the Baltic Sea for 2013 but the Council followed the Commission recommendation to allow 108,762 salmon to be fished instead.
Sarunas Zableckis, European Marine & Fisheries Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office said: “WWF commends the European Council in setting the Baltic TACs at or close to the scientific advice but regrets that for the vulnerable and data deficient species such as the Baltic salmon, or plaice, the ICES advice was not followed.”
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