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Fishermen and scientists collaborate in a unique project for the development of the Baltic cod

The stocks of cod in the southern Baltic Sea are approaching the levels seen in the 1980s, partly because of successful spawning, reduced illegal fishing and a more efficient management. But still, the individual size of the cod is relatively small. With support from BalticSea2020 the Sweden Cod Fishermen's Producer Organisation (STPO), in collaboration with researchers from the Institute of Marine Research (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), will develop sustainable cod fishing in the Baltic Sea to improve the average size of the cod.

Large, well grown cods are valuable to the fishing industry and the Baltic Sea ecosystem. The project "Towards length optimized fishing in the Baltic Sea" will develop fishing techniques that allow cod´s becoming larger and also show that these methods are applicable in practice in our daily work.

- The project will be a unique opportunity for fishermen and scientists to jointly find ways of further development of the Baltic cod fishery and thus reach a continued favorable stand development. It is a partnership that is groundbreaking and could serve as a model for future cooperation between fishermen and scientists, says Staffan Larsson, head of Sweden's Cod Fishermen's Producer Organisation (STPO).

The project is expected to develope a strategy for the fisheries in the Baltic Sea and gives examples on fishing methods. In addition, the project will provide a better understanding of the factors influencing the growth of cod in the Baltic Sea. If the project proves successful, it could also be launched to other fisheries in the Baltic Sea.

The project is divided into two phases. In a first step, the conditions in order to influence the size of the cod are investigated. The studies include:

  • Biological conditions on growth and why cod often is meager. The Institute of Marine Research will analyze data on food availability and other environmental factors.
  • Presumption for, while maintaining profitability, changing size composition of cod catches.
  • An analysis of current management and fishing to see to what extent these counteract changing fishing methods.

The first phase ends with a seminar between fishermen and scientists.

The second phase builds on the conclusions of the first and aims to translate the findings into practice. This project will design and develop tools to improve the selectivity and demonstrate that it is possible to profitably engage in fisheries which also allow the cods to grow and become larger.

- This is a very promising initiative from Sweden's Cod Fishermen's Producer Organisation (STPO), who wants to be proactive and contribute to a better management of the cod, which is the base for their operations. Additionally, the project will examine typical questions about the cod condition which the management need answers to, says Jacob Hagberg, project manager for the program area Fishery, at BalticSea2020.