‘Baltic Plan’ gives hope to seabirds but fails to end overfishing

Baltic sea fishing. Photo: Flickr/Maciej Lewandowski
The just-agreed on Baltic Plan includes badly needed measures to stop the incidental bycatch of seabirds but fails to end overfishing. Photo: Flickr/Maciej Lewandowski

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.

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The Baltic fisheries plan is about more than just the Baltic

The Baltic Sea at Maasholm, Germany.
The Baltic Sea at Maasholm, Germany. The success of fisheries plan for this sea is the first step to get us on the way to healthy seas and oceans. Photo: Christof/Flickr

On 28 September, the European Parliament, led by MEP Jarosław Wałęsa, and the European Council, led by the Luxembourgish Presidency, go back behind closed doors to try and agree on a new plan for managing fisheries in the Baltic Sea.

You’ve probably already seen a couple of other blogs about it – I recommend Pew’s recap of what has happened so far. ClientEarth has also done a great job explaining the Maximum Sustainable Yield concept (the largest average catch that can be captured from a fish stock under existing environmental conditions) – and how the negotiations for the Baltic can set a precedent for incorrectly implementing management measures to end overfishing, creating a “wild child”.

So what is really at stake if we don’t manage fisheries correctly through these plans?

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Will EU Fisheries Ministers make the right move for the Baltic?

In the upcoming EU AgriFish Council meeting on the 20th of April, Fisheries Ministers will discuss the Commission’s proposal for the Baltic multi-annual plan (MAP) [2014/0285 (COD)], and in particular the Presidency proposal for a compromise. NGOs are now urgently urging Member States to adhere to the binding objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and especially to be mindful of the Fisheries Committee vote of 31st March.

So what should Fisheries Ministers carefully address?

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How the Nordics can set precedence for fisheries management in the EU

EU decision makers are in the middle of a debate on how to manage Baltic commercial fish stocks (cod, herring, and sprat) and the impact of fishing activities on the wider environment – including the incidental catch of seabirds, known as seabird bycatch. But how can this be achieved concretely in the Baltic? And why are the decisions taken for the Baltic region so important for the rest of European countries? Continue reading