In response to predicted stock collapse, the EU announced earlier this week that it plans to implement an immediate ban on fishing cod in most of the Baltic Sea. This follows alerts from scientists that there could be a “rapid decline” in cod “if no action is taken”.
The European Commission oversees the management of fish stocks in European seas, and, in a statement, the Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “We must act urgently to rebuild the stock, both in the interests of fish stocks and fishermen.”
Last year, the EU released a report showing it was a long way off hitting its overfishing targets. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, the EU has a target of ending overfishing in its waters by 2020.
In 2009, the EU released the Green Paper which stated: “European fish stocks have been overfished for decades and the fishing fleets remain too large for the available resources. The paper went on to advise that the EU should set ambitious targets to stop overfishing.
However, overfishing has continued in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, and the Baltic, as well as in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, where it’s estimated that just under 90% of all fish populations are still being overfished.
The Commission says that overfishing is a contributing factor to the decline of cod in the Baltic. But, there are other factors too. For example, it warned that other environmental problems are also to blame, like a “lack of salinity, too high water temperatures, and too little oxygen, as well as parasite infestation.”
According to the EU, the ban will last until the end of the year. The Commission noted, however, that it “should not be taken as an excuse for not acting upon the factor we fully control and which over the decades has contributed to the current situation — fisheries.”
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