The Council of the European Union has retained last year’s Western Baltic cod limit for anglers next year, but increased it for commercial fishermen.
It has agreed that anglers can keep five fish a day, reduced to two during the spawning period between February and March. The Council also decided to maintain the prohibition of recreational fishing for Eastern Baltic cod in sub-division 24 (beyond six nautical miles from the baselines) and sub divisions 25 and 26.
The Western Baltic cod stock has for decades been of huge importance for anglers from Germany, Denmark and Sweden and generates many jobs in the region.
For commercial fishing, despite what is described as an ‘improving’ but still ‘fragile’ Western Baltic cod stocks, the Council decided against the European Commission’s proposal – but within the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) – and has increased the total allowable catches (TACs) by 5% compared from the previous year (from 3,806 tonnes in 2020 to 4,000 tonnes in 2021).
Our Fish Programme Director, Rebecca Hubbard, said: “By continuing to push fish populations to their very limits and beyond, we fail to change to future for Baltic Sea health and cause continued pain and suffering for its coastal communities.”
European Anglers Alliance (EAA) member, the German Fishing Association (DAFV), accepted the decision of the Council in principal, but warned against treating all fishing sectors in the same way. It said: “It should be considered that anglers are responsible for the number of cod caught in the Western Baltic Sea to a lesser extent than professional fishermen, yet generates a much higher economic turnover and more jobs.
“Against this background, the EAA calls for the socio-economic aspects to be taken into account in any data collection on recreational fishing catches that the EU may consider.”
A coalition of NGO’s (Non Government Organisations), including Seas at Risk, Our Fish, WWF, Oceana and Coalition Clean Baltic, welcomed the agreement reached by the Council in accordance with scientific advice for eight of 10 fish populations in the Baltic, but warned the agreement was not enough to save herring, cod or the Baltic Sea ecosystem and the communities that depend upon them.