The Commission has adopted a proposal offering support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to fishermen affected by the closure of the Eastern Baltic cod fishery to permanently decommission their fishing vessels.
‘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,’ said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
‘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.’
Eastern cod is one of the Baltic’s key fisheries in the Baltic Sea, and the stock is judged to be in very poor shape. At the Council meeting on 14-15th October, fisheries ministers followed a Commission proposal and agreed to reduce fishing opportunities in 2020 to almost zero.
According to the EU Commission, while this step is necessary to give the stock a chance to recover, it also recognises that it also means severe and unavoidable economic hardship for the fleets and fishing communities traditionally targeting this stock.
With this latest proposal, the Commission aims to mitigate the economic impact of the closure and extend a helping hand to those fishermen and women who will be hit hardest. The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) offers them financial support in this economically difficult situation.
In particular, the proposal allows the affected Member States, under certain conditions, to use some of their unspent EMFF funds to support vessel owners wishing to permanently decommission their vessels targeting Eastern Baltic cod. At the same time, the proposal caps the number of vessels that can fish for Eastern Baltic cod, ensuring that capacity withdrawn from the fleet with EMFF support reduces the pressure on the cod stock and helps it recover over time. The proposal does not increase the EMFF funding per Member State nor the EU’s overall budgetary contribution.
Given the exceptionally fragile state of the Baltic Sea ecosystem, the EU Commission proposes to reinforce control and data collection in the Baltic Sea, even beyond the current closure period. Starting from 2020, vessels fishing for cod in the Eastern Baltic Sea should be equipped with a vessel monitoring system or other equivalent electronic monitoring system. Furthermore, at least 20% of these vessels should have observers on board as part of a drive to gather more and better data on the stock and how fisheries are affecting this crucial stock.