The health of the Baltic Seas fish stocks is not only a precondition for commercial- and recreational fisheries, but also of fundamental importance for the whole ecosystem and environment of the inland sea. During the last 10 years, several large commercial fish stocks have declined, where the collapse of the Eastern cod in 2019 was the culmination. Today, similar signs among several other fish stocks can be seen – one of them being the herring. There is no doubt that the low-resolution theoretical model – the so called Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY*), that has driven the cod stock to collapse and now contributes to the negative development in other fish stocks, does not work.
BalticWaters2030´s long-term vision for the Baltic Sea fisheries policy
BalticWaters2030s long-term objective is to fundamentally change the rules for commercial fishing in the Baltic Sea, so that large-scale demersal and pelagic fishing ceases, in favour of small-scale coastal fishing, while breaking the negative trend of the Baltic Sea fish populations.
In order not to risk the viability of the Baltic Sea’s commercial fish stocks, a new management model needs to be developed, one that puts ecosystems and biodiversity first. Until a new model is in place, the precautionary principle must be applied, and quotas need to be set under the limit values determined by MSY. For this to happen, politicians need to engage and actively work towards a reformation of current management models. They can no longer passively accept what is imposed in the form of scientific criteria that have mainly been formulated for commercial fishing.
The Foundations long-term objectives
The vision of the foundation is that fisheries in the Baltic Sea are coastal based with boats under 12 meters.
Fishing shall mainly be conducted with passive gear
Fishing shall mainly be conducted for human consumption
Fishing should be local, where fishing boats depart from, and land their catch, in the same harbour or coastal region. In that way, fishing could contribute to local businesses, tourism and provide the region with local caught fish.
Industrial fishing trawlers with a home port far from the fishing grounds and catches that are landed abroad to become fish meal or mink feed harm the environment and the ecosystem and has no place in a future Baltic Sea fishery.
Trawling is a harmful and inappropriate fishing method in the Baltic Sea. This applies to industrial pelagic trawlers of herring and sprat, as well as for bottom trawling for cod. The basic rule should therefore only allow trawling in specific, well-defined areas, at occasional times of the year and on specified fish populations.
BalticWaters2030´s fisheries policy objectives for the coming two years
There has been a negative development of the herring during a long time. Since the 1970s, the number of mature herring in the Central Baltic has decreased with nearly 80 % and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) assesses that the fishing pressure is too high. Today, the stock is below scientific recommendations for sustainable fishing. Simultaneously, industrial fishing is allowed to proceed, and even increase.
The current government, where the fisheries issues are run by the Minister of Rural Affairs Anna-Caren Sätherberg, means that we should not limit the industrial fishing, as the causal relationships between declining stocks and catches are too vague, and that there can be other factors affecting the herring stocks. Despite researchers’ warnings and a solid knowledgebase, the government chooses to wait based on the argument “we know too little”. This is an incomprehensible logic, and a game of fire. If the herring collapses in the same way as the cod, then it could lead to a disaster for the Baltic Sea environment.
The BalticWaters2030 will, during the coming two years, run the campaign The good herring. The purpose is to shape the opinion by compiling and disseminating facts about the role of herring in the Baltic Sea, its biology, genetics, and economics. We will, on a regular basis, meet politicians and authorities in order to obtain a change in how commercial fisheries are managed and to stop the negative development.
Important questions that the foundation aim for to be implemented in the short term:
That a decision is taken to move the trawling border to 12 nautical miles in favour of coastal, small-scale fishing and protection of our archipelago.
That pervasive changes in the management of herring are initiated to consider amongst others population composition, age composition and genetics.
That Sweden takes a political initiative and attributes to ICES and the Commission a demand to revise the current management model.
To highlight the important role of the fisheries policy for the environment and the ecosystem of the Baltic Sea.
* MSY is described as the largest annual catch of a fish stock that can be produced in the long term, that is how much fish can be caught annually without reducing the stock.
In the Baltic Sea Brief, we write about current environmental policy issues related to the Baltic Sea analysing the effects of political decisions and new research. Most of our briefs is in Swedish, but if you find a brief you are intrested in you are welcome to contact us and let us know! Translated briefs are found under Publications.