Overfishing causes collapse of cod fisheries in Baltic Sea

15.07.2016 07:33
Kategorie: News

Scientists suggest revision of maximum catch quotas

Cod is the great predator of the Baltic Sea and the main fish stock for German coastal fishermen. Now that the cod fishery is in a state of collapse, the implication of this for the fishing industry is serious. Scientists have strongly recommended reducing the cod catch by 87 percent.

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This is the ugly consequence of overfishing. The fisheries’ pressure on cod stocks had been too high for over 20 years. The larger, older cod that produced a lot of offspring is now almost completely missing from the picture,” said WWF fisheries expert Stella Nemecky in German.

The situation in 2015 was already very unfavourable, and had almost caused the industry to completely collapse. Hence, the presumptions for recovery and the scientific recommendations for maximum catch quotas need to be revised. Nemecky explained that a drastic reduction on the catch quotas had not been implemented over the years, due to the socio-economic effect this would have on the German coastal fishing industry. However, she added that further delaying the implementation of drastic cuts would be the nail in the coffin for fish stocks and the fisheries industry.

Indeed, if catch levels were to be based on scientific recommendations, it might be necessary to close down the fisheries industry completely for next year, or perhaps indefinitely. Such was the case for the cod fisheries in Newfoundland in the early 1990s, where the cod stock and industry collapsed completed and today, the cod has not yet returned.

In the Baltic Sea, in addition to the coastal fishing industries, there are also the recreational catches by fishermen who fish along the deep-sea routes. At the request of the European Commission, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has taken their “contribution” to the depletion of the cod stocks into account, and this has been set aside at 2,558 tonnes of the total cod catch every year on average from the Baltic Sea. Thereafter, there are only 917 tonnes of cod available from the western cod stock, and this is primarily divided amongst German, Danish and Swedish fishermen. Scientists have recommended not removing more than 3,474 tons of the total cod stock.

According to Nemecky, “the recreational fishermen do have an impact on the shrinking cod stock, as they are not required to adhere to restrictions like a minimum size for the fish they catch. In addition, the fishing sector needs to be more significantly involved in the recovery of the cod stocks.” The proposal by the German Anglers’ Association was indeed very welcome, but do not go far enough. If control is to be taken seriously, a daily catch limit for each angler can be a very effective measure. In other cases, it is already practised: For seabass (among other fishes in the North Sea), the European Federation of Anglers has proposed a catch limit of two fish per day for each angler. In addition, WWF calls for the protection of cod whenever they gather to spawn. Such a seasonal closure of the fisheries should, of course, apply to both recreational fishermen and fisheries alike.

More information: www.wwf.de