Brussels -- The European Commission has tabled its proposal on fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2014. This is the annual proposal for the amount of fish which can be caught by EU fishermen from the main commercial fish stocks in the Baltic Sea next year. The proposals are based on scientific advice and aim to make fisheries in the Baltic Sea environmentally and economically sustainable in the short and long term. This is in line with the key principles of the recently agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
The latest scientific advice indicates that more stocks are now managed at sustainable levels – the so-called maximum sustainable yield (MSY) level - in the Baltic Sea. For 2014, the number of known stocks that can be fished at MSY level increased from three to five compared with 2013. The cuts in Total Allowable Catches (TACs) adopted in previous years have proved to be an efficient measure to support sustainability in the Baltic fishery.
The Commission proposes to increase TACs this year for eastern cod and stocks of herring in the Central Baltic and Gulf of Bothnia. Decreases for the remaining stocks either reflect the natural fluctuations within the MSY range or are linked to the improved perception of stocks’ status as a result of recent data revision. The Commission also proposes to reduce the number of days at sea for vessels fishing for cod in accordance with the Baltic cod management plan.
The proposed measures would result in an overall increase by 10 % up to 644 000 tones in fishing opportunities for Union vessels in the Baltic Sea for all species except salmon stocks. This would increase the value of fishing opportunities for 2014 by 12 million euros to a total value of approximately 412 million euros.
The present proposal shall be discussed by the Member States' ministers at the October Fisheries Council and will apply from 1 January 2014.
The Commission proposes to decrease by 15% (to 17 037 tonnes) the TAC for western Baltic cod and to increase by 7% (to 65 934 tonnes) the TAC for eastern Baltic cod. These changes are due to revision of scientific data that became available this year.
For the Western herring stock, after increases in TAC for two years in a row, scientists are advising the Commission to decrease the TAC for the next year in order to remain within limits producing the MSY. For 2014 this decrease is by 23% (to 19 754 tonnes). For Central herring by contrast, after decreases adopted in 2011 and 2012, the TAC can be increased for the second year in a row. For 2014 the proposed increase is 59% leading to a total of 143 500t. Similarly, the proposed TAC for herring in the Gulf of Bothnia amounts to 142 662 tonnes (increase by 35%). There are no changes proposed to the TAC for herring in the Gulf of Riga.
After decreases in TAC adopted in the last years for salmon in the main basin of the Baltic Sea, the Commission can propose to maintain in 2014 the same level of the TAC as for this year. The proposed TAC is in line with the scientific advice received and was calculated according to the target mortality rate proposed in the Baltic salmon management plan submitted to the Council and to the European Parliament. By contrast, according to scientists there is a necessity to reduce the TAC for salmon in the Gulf of Finland. Based on precautionary considerations, the commercial landings from sea shall be reduced by 53%, to the level of 7 256 pieces of salmon.
The Commission proposes to decrease the TAC for sprat by 11%, to 222 102 tonnes.
The scientists have developed a methodology to estimate the size of the plaice stock for which available data is limited. Based on this methodology, which has been applied for two years, the proposed TAC for plaice sees a proposed decrease of 12%, to a total of 3 002 tonnes.
The Commission's proposal follows scientific advice from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) and from International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). The Baltic Sea Regional Advisory Council (BSRAC) has been consulted on this proposal via the Commission's Consultation document from May 2013.