Brussels, 3 September 2014
Baltic Sea: Commission confirms sustainability of herring stocks and proposes increased fishing opportunities for 2015
For the first time under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, the European Commission today tabled its proposal on fishing opportunities for the main commercial fish stocks in the Baltic Sea for 2015. Since some of the fish stocks are now fished at sustainable levels, the total allowable catch (TAC) will increase by 12% when compared to 2014 and will be set at approximately 629 000 tonnes.
An average increase by 31% is proposed for four herring stocks, while decreases are proposed for the western cod stock (–48%), sprat (–17%) and two salmon stocks (–15%). If the Council, in its October meeting, adopts the catch limits as proposed by the Commission, the number of stocks fished at sustainable level (MSY - Maximum Sustainable Yield) could double in the Baltic in 2015 from three to six stocks, according to scientists.
After a reduction of western herring catch limits in the past year, the Commission is able to propose a TAC increase of 12% for this stock. Western herring is expected to be at MSY level and will join the group of three other herring stocks which were at MSY already last year.
Since Baltic Member States last year adopted lower TACs than the levels proposed by the Commission, the Commission is able to propose for 2015 an increase of fishing opportunities for the two largest stocks of the Baltic Sea, i.e. herring in Central Baltic and herring in the Gulf of Bothnia for the second consecutive year. Their TACs will represent an increase of 51% and 35% respectively, while being within MSY level. For herring in the Gulf of Riga, the TAC will be increased by 26% and amount to 38 780 tones.
On the basis of this proposal, the value of fishing opportunities for herring stocks in 2015 could increase by almost €80 million to a total value of €164 million.
The Commission proposes to decrease the total allowable catch (TAC) for western Baltic cod by 48%, to 8 793 tonnes. This reduction reflects the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea's (ICES) decision to change the underlying data for establishing the TAC. It also corresponds to a TAC at MSY level and would follow the provisions of the Baltic cod management plan.
Due to changes in the eastern cod stock biology, ICES was unable to provide full assessment of the stock, hence its advice is based on methods applied to limited data of stocks. As a consequence, the Commission is not in a position to propose figures for 2015 yet. This is still expected in September.
After catch limits had to be reduced in the past years for two salmon stocks in the main basin and in the Gulf of Finland, the Commission is proposing further reductions by 8% and 23% respectively for next year in order to preserve the stocks. The reduction in fishing mortality will lead towards reaching 75% of the potential smolt production capacity in rivers which is considered to be MSY level for salmon stocks. The TACs for both salmon stocks are fully in line with scientific advice and are based on the harvest control rule proposed in the Baltic salmon management plan.
The Commission proposes to decrease the TAC for sprat by 17%, to 199 622 tonnes in line with scientific advice to reach MSY.
Scientists have developed a methodology that allows estimating the size of the plaice stock for which limited data is available. Based on this methodology, which has been applied for several years, the proposed TAC for plaice constitute a decrease by 5% to 3 249 tonnes.
The present proposal shall be discussed by ministers at the Fisheries Council on 13-14 October. It is based on scientific advice from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The Baltic Sea Advisory Council (BSAC) has been also consulted on this proposal, on the basis of the advice received from ICES.
Table: Overview of TAC changes 2014-2015 (figures in tonnes except for salmon which is in number of pieces)