The good news: On 15 March, the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission finalised the negotiations on the multiannual plan for the management of the Baltic Sea cod, sprat and herring stocks – the so-called “Baltic Plan”. It is the first plan under the European Commission’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which aims to ensure that fishing are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
The European Parliament managed to include measures to minimise the impacts of fishing on the marine environment, including reducing the accidental catching of seabirds, dolphins, and sea turtles, in the final agreement. These specific and important measures had not been included in the original proposal by the European Commission. The Baltic Sea is a well-known hotspot for bycatch of seabirds with about 76.000 seabirds (mainly marine diving ducks) drowning in fishing nets every year.
The bad news: The “Baltic Plan” fails to slam the door on overfishing. During 10 months of negotiations between the European Commission, the Council (Member States) and the European Parliament, there had been disagreements on how to ensure that fisheries management would end overfishing. Despite the efforts of the European Parliament, the final agreement fails to ensure an end to overfishing. It leaves room for loopholes that could still allow fishing quotas to be set at too-high levels and hence fail to allow stocks to recover and be maintained above levels that could produce a Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).
“The important progress in tackling seabird bycatch does not compensate for backtracking on fishing quotas. It is shocking that the first plan implementing the new Common Fisheries Policy is already betraying the promise to end overfishing,” Ariel Brunner, senior head of policy at BirdLife Europe, stated.
Member States are now tasked to put in place regional technical measures for the Baltic. BirdLife Europe will closely follow the process to ensure they don’t use the freshly provided loopholes when setting the annual catch limits in October. We hope that the upcoming fisheries management plan for the North Sea does not make the same mistakes as the Baltic plan.