The European Commission has adopted a proposal to offer financial aid to members of the fishing industry affected by the closure of Eastern Baltic cod fisheries.
The Commission introduced a temporary ban on the fishing of Eastern Baltic cod earlier this year, which will be in effect for the rest of 2019, after growing concerns over stock losses. In October 2019 ministers agreed to reduce Baltic Sea fishing quotas for cod by 60% in the Western region of the Baltic Sea, allowing only bycatches in the Eastern Baltic. The Commission has acknowledged the risk of ‘severe and unavoidable economic hardship’ which would be posed to the region’s fishing industry as a result of the stricter quotas; and has offered to deploy financial aid to those affected through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Under the proposal, Member States will be permitted to redirect portions of the funding which they have received under the EMFF but not yet spent towards owners of fishing vessels who wish to decommission the vessels they use to fish for Eastern Baltic cod. Member States will not receive additional funding to go towards the financial aid they allocate to the fishing industry; and the EU’s overall budgetary contribution will not be affected.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “Eastern Baltic cod is suffering from an exceptional crisis – scientists tell us that we are losing three times as many fish to environmental pressures than to fishing. Nowhere else in Europe do we find this situation. Today’s proposal seeks to turn this around: by creating conditions that will help the cod stock to recover, while supporting the local communities who depend on this stock. Both fish and fishermen in the Baltic Sea deserve a future.”
The Commission has also recommended increased levels of data collection and monitoring for fishing activity in the Baltic Sea, in order to gather comprehensive, reliable data on stock levels and how they are affected by fisheries. Vessels fishing for cod in the Eastern Baltic Sea in 2020 must be fitted with some form of electronic monitoring system; while at least 20% of cod fishing vessels in the region must have an observer on board.