The fishing quotas for the Baltic Sea in 2024 have been officially determined but the Danish Fishermen’s Association questions the science
After intense negotiations at the EU’s Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg, the fishing quotas for the Baltic Sea in 2024 have been officially determined.
One significant achievement of these negotiations was securing a higher sprat quota than initially proposed by the EU Commission. This accomplishment acknowledges the ecological importance of sprats in the Baltic Sea and the economic significance of this species to the fishing industry.
Another crucial consideration was the necessary and inevitable bycatch quota for cod. This quota is crucial to enable flatfish fishing to continue, given the frequent presence of cod as bycatch. Finding this balance between bycatch and conservation is essential for the sustainable management of the Baltic Sea’s resources.
Biologists have consistently advised low fishing quotas for various fish stocks in the Baltic Sea, following a precedent set in previous years. Denmark, one of the countries deeply invested in the Baltic Sea’s fishing industry, played a crucial role in these negotiations. The nation successfully advocated for the inclusion of a bycatch quota for cod, recognising that cod is a common bycatch in flatfish fishing.
Moreover, Denmark managed to secure a more favourable sprat quota than what was originally proposed by the EU Commission. The Commission initially suggested a 23% reduction in the sprat quota compared to the previous year. However, through diplomatic efforts and negotiation, this reduction was limited to 10%, benefiting both the environment and the fishing industry.
The fishermen are paying the price for years of political failure in the Baltic Sea
Unfortunately, from the Danish fishermen’s point of view, the outcome paints a grim picture, with minimal fishing opportunities expected in the Baltic Sea next year, further exacerbating the challenges faced by the fishing industry.
“This is a grave situation with the potential to decimate what remains of the fishing industry in the Baltic Sea. Year after year, we have diligently followed the recommendations of biologists. Yet, we are now confronted with an environmental catastrophe. The fishing industry is on the verge of collapse. We can’t do more than we already have. It is high time for comprehensive actions to rectify the situation in the Baltic Sea,” expressed Svend-Erik Andersen, Chairman of The Danish Fishermen’s Association.
Over the past years, there has been a significant reduction in fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea. This highlights the urgent need to address all contributing factors affecting fish stocks in the region. The Baltic cod population presents a substantial challenge, as despite the closure of targeted cod fishing for several years, the stock’s condition remains precarious. As a response, the bycatch quota for cod has been further reduced from 214 tonnes to 148 tonnes, signifying a 30% decrease.
“The fishing industry in the Baltic Sea has been gradually diminished to the point where virtually no fishing opportunities remain. This reduction has made no discernible difference to the state of fish stocks. Regrettably, authorities have not adequately addressed the other pressure factors that are now more significant than fishing. These include issues with seals, cormorants, and nutrient discharges,” emphasised Svend-Erik Andersen.
The Danish Fishermen’s Association also expressed frustration at the retention of restrictive regulations, including closed fishing periods and bycatch rules, which continue to hamper the fishing of species such as plaice in the Baltic Sea. These rules persist despite the presence of abundant and sustainable fishing opportunities.
“We are eager to eliminate some of these regulations that have no impact on cod stocks but prohibit fishing for plaice during the best times of the year when catching them is most viable. Unfortunately, these regulations persist,” stated Allan Buch, Chairman of the Baltic Sea Committee in The Danish Fishermen’s Association.
In the pursuit of sustainable practices and healthy, environmentally friendly seafood options, the fishing industry is striving for a more balanced approach to regulations. This would allow fishermen to catch species that biologists deem sustainable and contribute to the well-being of coastal communities.
FSK-PO Advocates for Sustainable Fishing in the Baltic Sea
FSK-PO, an advocacy group, strongly believes that inspiration should be drawn from Sweden’s approach to reserving fishing for consumer species and the use of gentle gear in the Baltic Sea. The use of gentle fishing techniques, specifically in the western Baltic Sea, has emerged as the most economically significant fishery in the region. This approach selectively targets medium-sized fish while minimising damage to the seabed environment. Furthermore, it ensures that Denmark maximises its financial gains from fishing, as consumer demand and premium pricing drive local economies in smaller ports along The Danish inland waters.
FSK-PO also contends that decisions regarding the eel fishery should not be part of annual fisheries negotiations. They argue that the management of eel stocks in the EU should be governed by the separate “eel regulation” adopted by all member states in 2012. This would ensure a more focused and holistic approach to eel conservation and sustainable management, benefiting both the species and the communities that rely on it.
Summary of quotas for primary stocks
The negotiations encompassed quotas for ten different fish stocks, with seven of them being particularly relevant to Danish fisheries. The approved quotas for 2024 are as follows:
– Cod in the western Baltic Sea: 340 tonnes for bycatch (a 31% reduction compared to 2023, ameliorated from the originally proposed 72% reduction).
– Cod in the eastern Baltic Sea: 595 tonnes for bycatch (unchanged from 2023, maintaining the originally proposed levels).
– Herring in the western Baltic Sea: 788 tonnes for bycatch (unchanged from 2023, diverting from the originally proposed 50% reduction).
– Herring in the central Baltic Sea: 40,368 tonnes (a 43% reduction compared to 2023, an improvement from the originally proposed 60% reduction).
– Sprat: 201,000 tonnes (a 10% reduction compared to 2023, an improvement from the originally proposed 23% reduction).
– Flatfish: 11,313 tonnes (unchanged from 2023, consistent with the originally proposed levels).
– Salmon: 53,967 pieces (a 15% reduction compared to 2023, aligning with the originally proposed levels).