The European Commission has implemented a full emergency ban on commercial fishing of the imperilled Eastern Baltic cod until the end of the year.
The dual factors of climate change and long term Baltic Sea overfishing have led to a significant decrease in the levels of Eastern Baltic cod stock in EU waters. Scientific advice has cautioned that unless immediate action is taken, the steep decline in stocks risks becoming a full-scale collapse; which would have a substantial impact on the 7,000 European fishing vessels which include the cod in their catch. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which provides the EU with advice on fishing quotas and ecosystem preservation, notes that ‘fishing at any level targets the remaining few commercial sized cod, thus further deteriorating the stock structure and reducing its reproductive potential’.
The EU’s Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, 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.”
The ban on fishing Eastern Baltic cod came into immediate force on its announcement yesterday, 23 July; and will be in effect until 31 December 2019. It was issued under the terms of the Common Fisheries Policy, which include provision for emergency fishing bans in order to preserve stock; and will apply to all fishing vessels. The ICES has advised that the emergency ban is likely to lead to an increase in cod populations of around 4%; and that habitat preservation should become a significant priority in order to maintain stock levels.