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Fisheries Brief no. 13: List of measures for the Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs

Jennie Nilsson, the Minister for Rural Affairs, and Isabella Lövin, the Minister for Environment, recently wrote an opinion editorial for Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) about the crisis facing Baltic cod. It is good that the Baltic cod is now on the agenda of both ministers. Although a number of factors have contributed to the crisis, we believe that it is a case of keeping the focus on an aspect that can be influenced in the short term – the fisheries policy.

Save the Baltic Cod asked some researchers and experts to put together a list of measures for the Minister for Rural Affairs to help save the Baltic cod:

1. Raise the issue to a political level immediately. Do not wait until just before the Council of Ministers in October. A vital measure is that the Swedish civil servant who chairs the Baltic Sea Fisheries Forum (BALTFISH) receives political support and clear instructions for meetings with other Member States around the Baltic Sea.
Long-term measures to aid the recovery of the cod stock need to be prepared and supported now (see points 3 and 4).

2. Consult with the Commission on emergency measures which would involve a ban on cod fishing as early as this year. Emphasise that any such ban does not replace the need for long-term measures.

3. Work to ensure that the Council of Ministers decides in favour of at least a five-year ban on fishing of the eastern stock. This is the length of time needed to put a new management plan in place. To return a cod stock to good condition, with a balanced population in terms of age and size, will take considerably longer.

4. Instruct the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management to provide the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and EU bodies with the basis for a long-term recovery plan that should include:
• Taking particular account of the importance of cod for the ecology of the Baltic Sea;
• Giving the stock an opportunity to achieve normal growth, size and age composition before fishing resumes, with these being important criteria in any new management plan;
• Moving fishing of the cod’s main food source, herring and sprat, away from the cod’s breeding and nursery grounds;
• Working to ensure that when the ban on fishing is lifted, the current bottom trawling method is replaced by other fishing methods that enable more cod to reach a large size.

5. Work towards the introduction of efficient and effective monitoring to ensure compliance with current and future regulations.

The state of cod in the Baltic Sea has been described in previous Fisheries Briefs. Many parties have recently drawn attention to increasingly worrying signs: WWF, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen) and the Swedish Anglers Association (Sportfiskarna) have written an open letter, filmmaker Peter Löfgren has produced a new documentary, 18 years after his film ‘Den sista torsken’ (The Last Cod), and in the Aftonbladet newspaper Nils Höglund, Fisheries Policy Officer at Coalition Clean Baltic, describes cod in the Baltic Sea as “zombie fish”.

Click here to read previous Fisheries Briefs:
Fisheries Brief No. 1: How big is the fishing industry?
Fisheries Brief No. 2: Discards continue despite ban
Fisheries Brief No. 3: The Baltic Sea cod – a unique and isolated species
Fisheries Brief No. 4: The role of cod in the ecosystem
Fisheries Brief No. 5: Historically low catches of Baltic Sea cod
Fisheries Brief No. 6: Baltic Sea cod quotas
Fisheries Brief No. 7: Who is entitled to the fish?
Fisheries Brief No. 8: Is the Minister for Rural Affairs in charge of fishing matters?
Fisheries Brief No. 9: Responsibility rests with the fishery ministers
Fisheries Brief No. 10: EU’s fisheries policy spectacle damages cod
Fisheries Brief No. 11: Crucial year for Baltic cod
Fisheries Brief No. 12: Continued cod fishing is harmful