Baltic Cod and Western herring fisheries: Council agrees negotiating position

The EU is taking new measures to help fishermen cope with the harmful socioeconomic effects of the severe fishing restrictions on cod and Western herring in the Baltic Sea which are already in place and agreed for 2020.

The Council today defined its position (general approach) on a regulation which amends two existing pieces of legislation: the Baltic multi-annual plan and the current European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The new rules agreed by the Council will in particular  allow for permanent cessation to be used to scrap vessels targeting Baltic cod and Western Baltic herring.

In October the Council took bold decisions to allow for a gradual recovery of the Baltic cod and Western herring stocks, but we are all very well aware of the disruptive socio-economic consequences that these will have on local fishing communities. We hope to reach agreement with the European Parliament as soon as possible on new rules that will help fishermen adjust to this transition and thereby support the recovery of these weak stocks.

Jari Leppä, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry of Finland and President of the Council

Background and next steps

For a variety of reasons linked mainly to environmental and anthropogenic factors  the ecosystem in the Baltic Sea has been in a fragile state for decades. In 2019 ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, published alarming scientific advice on the state of the Baltic cod stocks and the Western herring stock in the Baltic Sea.

In response to the situation the Commission adopted first emergency measures in July 2019 prohibiting the fishing of Eastern Baltic cod until year-end. Subsequently, in October 2019, the Council decided to close targeted fisheries for Eastern Baltic cod in 2020 and to significantly reduce fishing activities with an impact on Eastern Baltic cod. The fishing opportunities for Western Baltic cod and Western herring, were also significantly reduced. These measures for 2020 are likely to lead to redundant fleet capacities and to severe socio-economic consequences for the related coastal communities and fishing sector.

The European Commission submitted its proposal amending regulations 2016/1139 and 508/2014 following a political commitment made during the October Agriculture and Fisheries Council to address the socio-economic crisis in the Baltic Sea fisheries.

The general approach reached today constitutes the Council’s mandate for future negotiations with the European Parliament. The Council is now ready to start negotiations as soon as the EP has agreed its stance.

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