‘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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Failure to act on ambition

Fishing boats in Ireland. Photo: WIlliam Murphy/Flickr

As experienced and successful politicians, ministers are adept at obfuscation; the Teflon characteristics that Bertie Ahern was celebrated for. So how to respond to a minister responsible for fisheries when he asserts that, “the state of fish stocks generally is improving”, as if he is an innocent observer, while ministers continue to set fishing limits above scientific advice, 38 out of 62 assessed stocks are outside safe biological limits, and it is not known how many stocks have actually been restored to healthy levels? For the duration of the present government this minister has held responsibility for fisheries, yet in this time the rate of EU overfishing has even increased. So does “generally improving” resonate as a reasonable response?

He goes onto reiterate “his commitment that all fish stocks should reach the target of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2020”. But this is not what the legislation, which he was pivotal in negotiating as chair of the EU Presidency in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2013, states. The law is unequivocal on this:

“In order to reach the objective of progressively restoring and maintaining populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield, the maximum sustainable yield exploitation rate shall be achieved by 2015 where possible and, on a progressive, incremental basis at the latest by 2020 for all stocks.”

“…at the latest by 2020 …”, there is no “should” in there, and there is clear reference to ‘above biomass levels’.

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Sustainable fishing seminars in Valencia

The Seminar on Mediterranean Fisheries (‘Seminario sobre el Caladero Mediterráneo’) concluded last weekend in Valencia. Fishermen and administrators, as well as environmental NGOs and scientists, held a debate about fishing regulations in the region. The long-term objective was to simplify the current regulations and to adapt to the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Diverse topics were discussed: technical regulations in the Mediterranean, CFP adaption (with an emphasis on minimizing bycatch), international coordination, innovative techniques and the future of marlin and blue tuna fisheries.

Read more here… (Spanish only)


EU Fisheries Council and European Parliament reach agreement on the future of EU fisheries subsidies

Today the European Union’s Fisheries Council and the European Parliament secured a deal on the future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The EMFF will make available approximately €6.5 billion from 2014 to 2020 to support the EU’s fisheries sector and its maritime policies. It will be instrumental in effective implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, or CFP, including its targets to end EU overfishing and restore fish stocks.

Read more here…