Baltic plan agreed

The European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on a multi-annual plan for cod, herring and sprat in the Baltic Sea earlier this week.

The Baltic plan is the first plan under the European Commission’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which aims to ensure that fishing is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries described the plan as good news for Baltic fish stocks and for the fishermen who depend on them for their livelihood.

"I am very pleased that Member States and the European Parliament have reached an agreement on the multi-annual plan for the Baltic, the first such plan under our reformed Common Fisheries Policy,” he said. “The plan sets the basis for the sustainable management of the most important fish stocks in the Baltic Sea.”

Nature conservation organisation Birdlife has said that the Baltic plan includes badly needed measures to stop the incidental bycatch of seabirds, but fails to end overfishing.

It says that, despite the efforts of the European Parliament, the final agreement leaves room for loop holes that could still allow fishing quotas to be set at too high levels and hence fail to allow stocks to recover and be maintained above levels that could produce a Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).

However, the European Parliament did manage to include in the final agreement measures to minimise the impacts of fishing on the marine environment, including reducing the accidental catching of seabirds, dolphins, and sea turtles. These specific measures had not been included in the original proposal by the European Commission.

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy at BirdLife Europe, said, “The important progress in tackling seabird bycatch does not compensate for backtracking on fishing quotas. It is shocking that the first plan implementing the new Common Fisheries Policy is already betraying the promise to end overfishing.”

Member States now need to put in place regional technical measures for the Baltic, and BirdLife Europe says it will closely follow the process to ensure they don’t use the freshly provided loopholes when setting the annual catch limits in October.

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