Save the Baltic Sea Cod – protect coastal fisheries

The cod is the Baltic's most important predatory fish, but after many years of overfishing, cod stocks are now in crisis and decision-makers and researchers appear unable to do anything about the situation. Science has failed to predict what has taken place. Fishing policies have failed, while any measures taken have rather worsened the situation. BalticSea2020 is now launching a project to strengthen cod stocks, including a recommendation for a permanent ban on trawling for cod.

Only small cod in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea cod stocks are badly depleted. During the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of tons of Baltic Sea cod were caught annually, but then stocks collapsed. Isolated years of successful propagation could not prevent the crisis we are faced with today. Currently, to all intents and purposes, there are only small cod, in far too poor condition to hunt for food. The larger cod that are needed for reestablishment of stocks are almost non-existent and the primary reason for this is an unsustainable and harmful fishing method – bottom trawling. If we do not take extremely stringent measures, the Baltic Sea cod may be beyond saving. This particular species is genetically unique and cannot be replaced by cod from the North Sea. This is why what is happening is an attention-grabbing evolutionary experiment.

Small cod upset the balance of the Baltic Sea
The cod is the Baltic Sea's foremost predator fish and to remain in balance, the ecosystem requires a viable stock with substantial numbers of large cod. Without large predatory fish, stocks of Baltic herring and whitebait will increase. These then bring about a risk of reduction of the amount of zooplankton, which in turn can lead to an increase in the amount of phytoplankton. Other large predators, such as pike and walleye cannot replace cod as they are coastal – or too few, like salmon. After decades of overfishing, cod is no longer fulfilling its role as top predatory fish in the ecosystem. Despite some good ideas from time to time, we now see how a failed fisheries policy affects both the environment and the fishing industry. Powerful concrete efforts are required, and they are needed now.

Sustainable fishing without trawling
Fishing politics is finding a balance between environmental interests and the fishing industry. When it comes to cod fishing, the environment has been made to cede to the demands of the fishing industry. For a long time, politicians have been awarding the fisheries larger quotas than science has recommended, but even when these recommendations have been heeded, the situation has continued to worsen. The state of the Baltic Sea cod is now so serious that scientific models, upon which management plans and quotas have been based, can no longer be used because the cod are growing too slowly to be able to reach maturity. Now cod stocks are in such poor condition that professional fishermen,despite extensive fishing efforts, have for several years been unable to obtain the quotas they have been allocated. In Öresund, trawling is prohibited for maritime safety reasons. There, there is a normal cod stock of large cod, which is something that is missing in the Baltic Sea.

We all want a fishing business that provides us with thriving coastal communities and good fresh fish. Today’s cod fishing is mainly carried out by a handful of fishing vessels that bottom trawl – a fishing method that is not ecologically sustainable. Bottom trawling has, amongst other things, contributed to the disappearance of most local cod stocks along the Swedish west coast. Several environmental organisations are demanding a cessation of bottom trawling, and a decision was made at the recent political party congress of the Social Democrats to place a ban on it.

In 2017, BalticSea2020 will launch a project to develop a plan for saving stocks of cod in the Baltic Sea. By means of this, we want to ensure future sustainable cod fishing that benefits the local business community. We will be working with scientific, financial, regulatory and social analyses to provide all interested parties with information upon which decisions may be made.

 

 

radda ostersjotorsk
Foto: Aquamind

Project status

Start: 2017-01-01
End: 2017-12-31

Contact at BalticSea2020

Conrad Stralka



PROJECT MATERIAL

2017-07-02 - Press release
BalticSea2020 starts new project to save the Baltic cod (in Swedish)
2017-05-16 - Article in Svenska Dagbladet
The cod of the Baltic is about to disappear
2017-04-11 - Article on trawl ban
Important decision on trawl ban at the Social Democrat Congress
2017-03-09 - Chronicle in "Rädda Östersjön"
Does Sweden dare to take the first step? (in Swedish)
2016-12-24 - Debate article in "Dagens Nyheter"
Is Santa able to save the cod in the Baltic Sea? (in Swedish)