Before the meeting of the EU fisheries ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, who are discussing the catch quotas for the coming year, scientists from the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel pointed out the situation with herring and cod offspring in the western Baltic Sea. Investigations in the Kiel Fjord would have shown that the stocks are not at all well, as in previous years. The last better cod vintage from 2016 has not reproduced successfully until today, according to marine ecologist Rainer Froese. This is an alarm signal.
The researchers see a connection with climate change and the warming of the Baltic Sea. The warm winter had ensured that most of the fish spawned too early, i.e. before the larvae had a sufficient food base. A food predator such as the comb jelly, which appeared frequently, then turned out to be an additional evil.
The Thünen Institute for Baltic Sea Fisheries has been pointing out dwindling populations for several years. The findings from Rostock are particularly important because institute director Christopher Zimmermann is a member of the Council for International Marine Research (ICES), whose recommendation forms the basis for setting catch quotas in the EU. In the previous year this was, based on the herring: catch stop; a decision was made to reduce the odds by 65 percent. For cod, the EU target was minus 60 percent. While the fishermen in Schleswig-Holstein mainly land cod in their nets, their colleagues from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania concentrate on the herring. The following applies to everyone: Quota cuts can threaten the existence of the company.
Due to a slight recovery in Western cod, the ICES is calling for a quota increase of 21.8 percent this year and for a ban on fishing for Western herring. In a proposal for the ministerial meeting, however, the EU Commission advocated a reduction of eleven percent or a halving of the catch.
Thünen Institute Director Zimmermann complains about the Geomar expertise that it contains far too small a quantity of fish and that it only has the value of a regional survey. It does not contain any statistically valid findings on the development of fish offspring in the western Baltic Sea. In any case, the future fate of the cod and herring stocks will be decided by the spawning events in the Kattegat / Skagerrak area.
Meanwhile, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, the protection organization Our Fish and the environmental association BUND are pointing out overfishing in the Baltic Sea and calling for cod and herring to be stopped. Since this would be synonymous with a thinning of the professional fishing fleet, according to the BUND a socially acceptable compensation should be made by the state and federal government to those affected. In fact, there is already a discussion going on in the EU about scrapping premiums for cutters.