Ignoring the Science: EU Commission 2019 Baltic fishing limits outstrip ambition to end overfishing

NordenBladet – Our Fish is concerned that that the EU Commission is again choosing to propose fishing limits above what science says is safe.

Brussels September 3rd, 2018: Responding to the publication of the European Commission proposal for Baltic Sea fishing opportunities for 2019 on Friday, September 1st, which includes increased quotas for plaice and western cod and reductions for Western herring, Our Fish Program Director Rebecca Hubbard said:

“While moving in the right direction, Our Fish is concerned that the EU Commission is again choosing to propose fishing limits above what science says is safe. This is not only a warning for EU ambition on ocean governance, it sets a low bar for EU fisheries ministers to deliver on their duty to end overfishing. Despite this, fisheries ministers can still respond to EU citizens’ expectations and restore ocean health by setting limits that will end overfishing in the Baltic Sea in 2019.”

This year the EU Commission has proposed TACs that follow scientific advice in some cases, while not in others. Most notably it goes against scientific advice and proposes continued overfishing for Central Baltic herring, eastern Baltic cod, western spring spawning Herring, and removes extra protection for the blighted Western Baltic cod stock by lifting fishing restrictions during the spawning season.

Total allowable catches, TACs, are the limits set for fishing by European Union, EU, vessels. The proposal includes many TACs for which the Commission has followed scientific advice, but also a number for which it has not. On 15-16 October, the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers (AGRIFISH), made up of the 28 EU member state ministers responsible for fisheries, will negotiate and agree on the 2019 TACs for the Baltic Sea. The ministers can agree to changes to the proposal for any fish stock. In the past, they have repeatedly set limits that exceeded the scientific advice and continued overfishing.

“We have seen some improvements with Baltic fish stocks, but we are still too far from safe, healthy and profitable fisheries. In October ministers can end overfishing in the Baltic. The longer they yield to short-term interest and delay ending overfishing, the greater the loss to communities dependent on these fisheries and to the health of the ocean. Deciding to continue overfishing may be politically easier but it harms the fish stocks, risking the viability of the fishing sector in the long-term,” Hubbard said.


1. TACs are set annually for Baltic stocks and should conform to the EU’s reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which entered into force in January 2014. The policy requires that fishing limits for all stocks be sustainable by 2015 where possible and by 2020 at the latest. The 2015 target can be delayed only in exceptional cases in which meeting it would seriously jeopardise the social and economic sustainability of an affected fleet. In those instances, catches must be reduced incrementally and progressively to end overfishing of the stocks as soon as possible.
2. The Commission receives scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Scientific, Technical, and Economic Committee for Fisheries to inform the setting of these catch limits.
3. For a more detailed analysis of the Commission’s proposal see this summary from the Fisheries Secretariat:

Dave Walsh, Our Fish Communications Advisor, +34 691826764
Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Program Director, +34 657669425

About Our Fish

Our Fish works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish works with organisations and individuals across Europe to deliver a powerful and unwavering message: overfishing must be stopped, and solutions put in place that ensure Europe’s waters are fished sustainably. Our Fish demands that the Common Fisheries Policy be properly enforced, and Europe’s fisheries effectively governed.

Our Fish calls on all EU Member States to set annual fishing limits at sustainable limits based on scientific advice, and to ensure that their fishing fleets prove that they are fishing sustainably, through monitoring and full documentation of their catch.


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