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EU cuts Baltic Sea cod quota

The European Commission put an emergency ban on cod fishing in July in most of the Baltic Sea.

The European Union Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH) cut the western Baltic Sea cod quota by 60 percent going into 2020 to 3,806 metric tons, 8 percent lower than the commission's previous proposal. Cod quota in the eastern part was reduced to only bycatch.

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The ministers, who met in Luxembourg on Oct. 15, set the total allowable catches (TAC) for 10 of the commercial fish stocks in the Baltic Sea, imposing significant cuts for most species, except herring in the Gulf of Riga.

The EU had placed an emergency ban on cod fishing in July in most of the Baltic sea in an attempt to prevent the collapse of eastern stocks.

The ban, which came into effect immediately, is supposed to last until the end of this year.

The European Commission previously proposed a 68 percent slash to the western cod quota in the Baltic Sea to not more than 3,065 metric tons.

The eastern cod fishery quota was significantly reduced by more than 92 percent to 2,000 metric tons and restricted to by-catch only for 2020 compared to last year's total allowable catch (TAC).

The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), however, recommended zero cod catches be made in the 2020 fishing season in the eastern Baltic Sea, as well as a precautionary approach to the western cod Baltic Sea quota.

Total allowable catch (TAC) for eastern Baltic Sea cod has been reduced annually since 2014, and reached 24,112 metric tons in 2019.

"Some courageous decisions had to be taken to preserve the health of the Baltic Sea fish stocks and the longer term sustainability of fisheries in the area," Jari Leppa said, the Finnish minister for agriculture and forestry and president of the council.

On the other hand, the final 2020 quota for herring increased 11 percent to 34,445 metric tons compared to the year prior.

The council agreement was based on a commission proposal earlier this year and ICES advice, which take into account the commitment to meet the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

NGO's outraged

Non-governmental organizations allegedly pointed fingers at the EU governments for ignoring the ongoing overfishing crisis in the Baltic Sea.

"It is of great concern that ministers continue to disregard the science," Ottilia Thoreson said, the director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Baltic ecoregion programme, "How are we to end overfishing and achieve global and regional goals on sustainable fisheries if our decision makers ignore the facts?"

Other NGO's expressing dissatisfaction include Our Fish and Seas At Risk.

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