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Commercial Fishing

VELLA URGES FOR SUSTAINABLE BALTIC FISHING

VELLA URGES FOR SUSTAINABLE BALTIC FISHING

Karmenu Vella urges for sustainable Baltic fishing. Speaking after the Agrifish Council which dealt with fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea, held on 15 October, the  EU Fisheries Commissioner warned that the Baltic ecosystem is fragile with pollution and ensuing eutrophication.

And although some stocks are doing better than others, overfishing still exists and the biomass of some stocks is still not at a healthy level.

He said: “Therefore, there was broad recognition that our decisions for 2019 need to be ambitious and responsible, in line with the objective to reach maximum sustainable yield (or MSY) levels by 2020 at the latest.

“I am therefore happy to say that for 7 stocks out of 8 for which scientists provided an MSY-advice, we have fixed total allowable catches at sustainable levels.

“This means that in 2019 over 98% of estimated landings in the Baltic Sea will come from sustainable fisheries.

“And as we have said before, sustainable fishing pays off, so there is equally good news for our fishermen.

“Our decisions today will mean nearly 1 billion euros worth of landings with an average gross profit margin of above 30%, which is a very healthy level of profitability. And 9 of the top 10 most profitable fleets are going to be small-scale.

“We agreed to increase catches of western cod, sprat, plaice and Gulf of Riga herring. We kept the same levels of catches as last year for salmon in the main basin. And we decided to decrease catches for eastern cod, salmon in the Gulf of Finland and for western, central and eastern herring, as well as herring in the Gulf of Bothnia.

“On western cod, I am pleased that things are looking better in 2019. However, the stock is not yet seeing a sustained recovery. It is a good story that rests entirely on one good year in 2016. This is why it was important to limit the increase to levels that will still leave enough of that good year in the sea so that this fish can fill up the stock and produce more fish for the years to come.

“While Council today has decided to increase the catch limits by more than that proposed by the Commission, this increase will still keep this catch limit in the lower half of the lower MSY-range. This should still help us to stay at sustainable levels also in the coming years.

“This takes me to the fishery which has now become our biggest worry in the Baltic: western herring.

“Here, the Council agreed to a reduction by 48% and additional conservation measures to be taken by the Member States. This is less than what the Commission has proposed. However, it is still below the lowest point of MSY range based on the latest scientific information and it will allow the biomass to increase by around 4%. This was an essential criterion for me to be able to support the compromise.”

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