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Fisheries Brief no. 20: Crucial decisions in the short and long term

There will be a great deal at stake when Sweden’s Minister for Rural Affairs Jennie Nilsson joins the EU’s other fisheries ministers on 14-15 October at meetings to decide next year’s fishing quotas. Ahead of these, the Riksdag’s Environment and Agriculture Committee and the Committee on European Union Affairs will set out their instructions for Sweden’s negotiating position on 10-11 October. These next few days will therefore be crucial, both in the short term and long term.

nilsson eu large

In the long term: A new doctrine is needed for fishing in the Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is an inland sea that is species-poor and has a fragile ecology. Yet the same fisheries policy as regulates EU fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic is still applied. The quota must almost always be maximised in favour of fishing, not the environment and ecology. Not only has the cod stock collapsed as a result, but a number of other fish stocks are also in poor condition. Herring and sprat fishing is allowed to continue in the form of large-scale industrial fishing, where catches become pellets destined for mink farms or salmon farms. We are about to make the same mistake as with cod, but nobody seems to think that any errors have been committed. This comes as revelations surface about extensive misreporting within the Swedish herring and sprat fishing industry, which was reported but never directly acted on by the responsible authorities (Sveriges Radio’s Kaliber programme

The regionalisation of the EU’s fisheries policy provides a unique opportunity to adapt fisheries management to the special conditions that exist in the Baltic Sea, but for that to happen responsible politicians have to get involved. Regionalisation has now been reduced to just another bureaucratic exercise. As far as the Baltic Sea is concerned, it is not credible to talk about marine environmental issues without including the fisheries policy.

Sweden must spearhead a new fisheries policy that prioritises environmental considerations. Only then can we achieve sustainable fishing in the long term.

In the short term: Three important decisions
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) stated in its scientific recommendation that the eastern cod stock needs fishing to be banned for a number of years in order to have any chance of recovery. Responsibility rests heavily on Sweden and Jennie Nilsson to push through three important decisions when the fisheries ministers meet:

  • To follow the Commission’s proposal for no targeted fishing (zero quota) of the eastern stock and to accept no increases in the quota proposed for the western stock
  • To allow a small by-catch quota (2-3,000 tonnes) for small-scale fishing using passive gear
  • To move herring and sprat fishing away from the cod’s spawning grounds.

Sweden is not alone in this – several countries have expressed a clear willingness both to save the cod and to introduce measures to aid in its recovery – the relocation of large-scale herring and sprat fishing away from the cod’s spawning grounds is one such measure.

Jennie Nilsson and Isabella Lövin made promises back in the spring. It is now time to deliver on them.


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
Fisheries Brief no. 18: The Commission proposes a zero quota
Fisheries Brief no. 19: Recovery takes time