EU Commission seeks to curb Baltic salmon catches, raise others

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 22, 2013 12:14 PM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Fishermen in the Baltic Sea need to reduce their catches of some wild salmon by more than 50 percent next year to help depleted stocks recover, the European Commission said on Thursday.

But it proposed leaving limits on the main Baltic salmon haul unchanged versus 2013 and said fishing levels could rise for other species.

Overall, the proposals would increase fish catches for EU vessels in the Baltic Sea by 10 percent to 644,000 tons, worth around 412 million euros ($549.8 million).

EU restrictions on the size of catches regularly produce heated debate. Earlier this week, the European Union agreed on measures against the Faroe Islands, including a ban on Faroese mackerel and herring, after the Commission said it has been fishing unsustainably.

EU ministers will discuss the Commission's new Baltic proposals in October. If agreed, they would take effect from January 1 next year.

Campaigners have said the agreed 2013 quotas ignored scientific advice, which is why a 53 percent cut for Gulf of Finland salmon is necessary for 2014.

"The cut is good, but it's a sign of how bad the situation has become," Saskia Richartz, EU oceans policy director at Greenpeace, said. "Scientists warn that the situation for salmon is particularly critical along parts of the Baltic coast."

Salmon populations are particularly important, because the fish, which spawns in rivers, provides a link between land and sea, and different populations return to different rivers.

"If a river runs dry of salmon, the whole ecosystem around the river loses its link to the sea and the sea's nutrients," Richartz said.

In the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Bothnia, between Finland and Sweden, the Commission said previous limits had improved overall stocks.

For 2014, the Commission's proposals include increases in total allowable catches of eastern cod by 7 percent and a cut of 15 percent for western Baltic cod.

It put forward increases of 35 percent for Gulf of Bothnia herring and 59 percent central herring and a cut of 23 percent for western herring.

The Commission's annual catch limits are, it says, based on scientific evidence as well as on the newly reformed common fisheries policy, which is meant to end decades of over-fishing.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Jane Baird)