ICES square in the Baltic scope area. (Photo: Stockfile/FIS)
Does flexibility in fisheries management equal overfishing?
Sunday, October 08, 2017, 00:00 (GMT + 9)
Next week sees the EU decide the Baltic quotas for next year and Baltic Sea member states seem to be very reluctant to implement a regional eel fishing ban, if they are to do it they would like an EU wide eel fishing ban.
This is also the intention of the EU Commission, commissioner Karmenu Vella explained to Director Fisheries Secretariat Ian Isakson during the recent Our Ocean conference in Valletta, Malta.
Eel has been listed as “critically endangered” by CITES since 2009 and catches in the Baltic are the highest reported in the EU, targeting mature adults. But to save the eel the EU need to stop the fishing for juvenile glass eels as well.
ICES advice has been clear and consistent for a decade. The stock status remains critical. All anthropogenic mortalities including fisheries should be reduced to zero, or kept as close to zero as possible.
Eels live a long time but spawn only once and the life cycle of the eel cannot yet be completed in captivity. While fishing is far from the only threat that the critically endangered eel face, starting with the prohibition on fishing in the Baltic is a reasonable first step.
For Baltic cod, severe socioeconomic problems have been caused by overfishing and environmental deterioration. This leaves member states in the familiar October situation, where Ministers are left haggling into the night over what can be as little as a hundred tonnes of cod.
It is worth investing in this stock, the top predator in the ecosystem, by fishing less than scientific recommendations. Fishing capacity should be adjusted downward to reflect the quotas that have been in place for several years.
Lower quotas for the cod stocks and ecosystem based management measures, such as redirecting the sprat fishery to provide more food for the cod and reduce the frequency of the M74 disease in salmon are solutions which will likely help to solve the socioeconomic problems more quickly and be environmentally beneficial.
Given its condition, if Western Baltic cod is not a candidate to be fished below Fmsy, then it begs the question what are the F ranges in the Baltic management plan for? Are they only used as a means to overfish and avoid the clear legislation in the CFP and the UN Johannesburg Declaration in which the EU committed to ending this practice from 2015?
Sticking tape solutions such as the EUR 3.2 million made available by the Danish government to Baltic cod fishers this year or the opening of the illegal flatfish fishery are merely sweeteners that make the agreed medicine, fishing below Fmsy and growing stocks above Bmsy, a more bitter pill to swallow.
Written by Ian Isakson - Director Fisheries Secretariat