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Fisheries Brief no. 18: The Commission proposes a zero quota

The Commission is proposing a ban for 2020 on all targeted cod fishing in the eastern stock, with a sharp reduction in the quota for the western stock also proposed. The Council of Ministers will make the final quota decision in mid-October. The Council of Ministers is often opposed to the Commission’s proposals and allocates larger quotas than those set out in scientific recommendations.

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Late realisation about the western stock
In 2018 the Council of Ministers significantly increased the fishing quota for 2019 for the western stock. This was despite the spawning stock biomass having started to approach the reference point at which continued fishing risks the stock. However, following one year of good recruitment, the Council of Ministers was allowed to raise the quota (because the ICES had produced an optimistic calculation). The ICES and the Commission now state that the spawning stock biomass and recruitment have been as weak in subsequent years as before, and are substantially reducing the quota again.

The management of the western stock by the Commission and the Council of Ministers is a clear example of how commercial fishing revenues are being put before a sustainable cod stock. It also suggests that the ICES has not always complied with the precautionary principle.

Ban on all targeted cod fishing in the eastern stock
For the eastern stock the Commission is proposing a ban on all targeted cod fishing. The spawning stock biomass is below the reference point and will not recover in the medium term even if fishing is banned for a number of years.
It is also important to point out that the Commission’s proposal seeks to safeguard small-scale coastal fishing by allowing a smaller by-catch quota for fishing with passive gear.

  1. Fishing ban complies with legislation, directives and agreements

    When the Commission presented its proposal to stakeholders, it was made clear that fishing bans are consistent with legislation such as the Common Fisheries Policy, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and agreements such as the Baltic Sea Action Plan, which all set targets for sustainable fishing and good ecological status. If the fisheries ministers were to amend the Commission’s proposal, they risk violating the legislation they themselves introduced.

    High hopes for Nilsson and Lövin

    We have high hopes for the Minister for Rural Affairs Jennie Nilsson and Minister for the Environment Isabella Lövin as the negotiations now get under way. Looking back at previous negotiations, the failure of their predecessors is a contributory factor in the current crisis facing the Baltic cod, yet Sven-Erik Bucht was always satisfied regardless of the result. For this year’s negotiations, Jennie Nilsson is a new face and unfettered by history. As the new Minister for the Environment, Isabella Lövin can finally act on the demands she made in her book “Tyst hav” [Quiet Sea]. “The government is prepared to act forcefully to save the cod in our inland sea,” wrote Nilsson and Lövin in an opinion editorial earlier this year.

    Four pieces of advice for the negotiations with fisheries ministers
    1. Don’t be fooled by talk of socioeconomic considerations. Cod fishing in the Baltic Sea lacks socioeconomic importance however you look at it. This time the cod stock and the ecology of the Baltic Sea must be put first.
    2. Pay attention to complex arguments about different exemptions, and say no if this means that the fishing ban on cod is eroded. Only a small by-catch quota is reserved for fishermen fishing with passive gear, such as nets or pots.
    3. The Council of Ministers will have to postpone decisions on by-catch quotas until December. Political vigilance must last until then.
    4. Discarding of cod has been banned since 2015, but despite that thousands of tonnes of perfectly good fish for human consumption continue to be discarded. Introduce the control measures against discards that were agreed back in 2015.

Cod fishing in the Baltic Sea 2020 – The Commission’s proposal
Cod in the Baltic Sea is divided into two stocks: the western stock – subdivisions 22-24, and the eastern stock – subdivisions 25-32. In subdivision 24, stocks are mixed, which requires special consideration when determining fishing opportunities.

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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
Fisheries Brief No. 13: List of measures for the Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs
Fisheries Brief no. 14: The system that fools itself
Fisheries Brief no. 15: Good job government! Now the real work begins
Fisheries Brief no. 16: Navigating the hidden perils of the fisheries policy
Fisheries Brief no. 17: Prioritise the environment over a handful of jobs