Earlier this month a scientific assessment by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advised that that the quota for cod fishing be reduced by 70 per cent otherwise North Sea cod population were at risk of disappearing altogether if action was not taken. After analysing the scientific evidence available and discussing measures with Member States, the European Commission has decided that emergency action is necessary and has decided to ban commercial fishing for cod in most of the Baltic Sea until 31 December 2019. The Commission has previously taken such emergency measures to protect vulnerable stocks, namely for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay and for northern sea bass.
Karmenu Vella, the commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries said: ‘The impact of this cod stock collapsing would be catastrophic for the livelihoods of many fishermen and coastal communities all around the Baltic Sea. We must urgently act to rebuild the stock – in the interest of fish and fishermen alike. That means responding rapidly to an immediate threat now, through the emergency measures the Commission is taking. But it also means managing the stock – and the habitat it lives in – properly in the long term.’
Oceana, an international organisation dedicated to protecting and restoring the oceans, welcomes this crucial move to prevent the collapse of this vulnerable fish population and stresses that any delay in the ban’s implementation risks any chance of recovery in the stock status for decades.
Andrzej Białaś, policy advisor at Oceana, commenting on the announcement from the European Commission said: ‘Baltic cod is an iconic species that plays a key role in the Baltic Sea ecosystem, both environmentally and commercially. It has been supporting the livelihoods of fishing-reliant communities for decades. The temporary ban comes at a critical time – the middle of the cod spawning season. Now, there is a chance to protect whatever little amount of cod is still left in the Baltic Sea, although a longer-term action plan is nevertheless crucial to guarantee its proper recovery.’
While this fishing ban is a vital immediate step to help protect this vulnerable stock, the Commission and Member States will revisit the need for longer-term action later in the year, when ministers meet to decide on next year’s fishing opportunities.
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