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Minister of Agriculture must follow the scientific advice

ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, has today recommended lowering cod quotas for the western stock of the Baltic Sea for 2009.

”This year European politicians must follow the scientific advice given by ICES, says Katarina Veem, Programme Director of Baltic Sea 2020.

”Lower quotas are decisive if we want cod stocks to recover in the Baltic Sea. It would contribute to a much needed upswing for cod fishery.”

ICES classifies the Western stock as being at risk of reduced reproductive capacity, due to high fishing pressure. Over the last 9 years there have been relatively low numbers of cod reaching mature age. This is primarily caused by unfavourable environmental conditions and continual high levels of fishing on the mature stocks. ICES therefore advise that the landings for 2009 should not exceed 13 700 tonnes.

ICES rekommendationer ligger till grund för EU-kommissionens förslag om fiskekvoter för bland annat Östersjön 2009. Kvotbeslutet tas av Ministerrådet, där Sverige representeras av jordbruksminister Eskil Erlandsson, i oktober. Ministerrådet har under flera år avvikit från ICES rekommendationer om torsken.

For the eastern stock ICES sees potential for an increase in quotas, given that illegal fishing can be stopped. ICES estimates illegal landings, outside the allocated quota, to be at least 30 to 40 percent for this fish stock. The advice can therefore only be seen as a TAC (total allowable catch) if illegal landings stop completely.

ICES recommendations are the basis for the European Commission's proposal on fishing quotas for the Baltic Sea in 2009. The final quota decisions are taken by the Council of Ministers in October each year, by the Ministers of Agriculture. The Council of Ministers has for several years set quotas higher than what has been recommended by ICES.

Research clearly shows that cod is a key component of the Baltic Sea ecosystem. Evidence suggests that the depletion of cod stocks is a contributing factor to algae blooms.

” The next few years we will work to influence politicians in the fishing nations around the Baltic Sea and in the long term, the European Common Fisheries Policy must be reformed. At this point it is essential to focus on reducing the quotas so the cod stock can provide a higher yield and balance the ecosystem”, says Katarina Veem.