Latvia obtains a promise from the European Commission on support measures for fishermen after introduction of the ban on cod fishing
On October 14, after long discussions, shortly after midnight, the EU Council of Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries, in Luxembourg, adopted the Regulation on fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2020.
The most difficult decisions, as foreseen, touched upon cod fishing. Due to the critical condition of cod stocks in the Eastern part of the Baltic Sea, the specialized cod fishing will not be permitted in 2020. Cod may be kept in the catch only if it is caught as an unavoidable by-catch, when fishing for other fish species (Baltic herring, sprats, flouder). Cod stock in the Western part of the Baltic Sea will also be affected by a considerable – 60% - decrease in fishing opportunities however, the Latvian share of fishing opportunities in this stock is so insignificant that it will not be a painful loss as compared with the Eastern cod stock.
Knowing already beforehand that due to the critical condition of cod resources, radical reductions are unavoidable, the key points of discussions in the Council were regulations, accompanying the fishing, and finding solutions to socio-economic crisis for cod fishermen. These were the key points Latvia had to defend.
With a particular insistence, it was achieved that from January 1, 2020, no exaggerated and actually infeasible requirements of placing observers or installation of surveillance cameras on vessels with a view to uninterrupted monitoring of the possible by-catch of cod during fishing for other fish species, will not be laid dawn for all the fishing vessels with the length above 12 meters. Just as the excessive requirements for electronic surveillance of vessels during coastal fishing, which, in Latvia, would apply to Nīca and Rucava areas and the coast of Liepāja City, have also been deleted from the proposal for Regulation.
Taking into account the socio-economic consequences, and the fact that the existing European Maritime and Fishery Fund is not, anymore, able to provide the possibility to support fishermen in the situation of crisis. Latvia persisted that the Regulation of the MFF must be amended immediately. This was achieved. Karmenu Vella, the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at the plenary meeting of the Council, clearly confirmed his determination to immediately come forward with and submit to the College of the Commission proposals for amendments to the Regulation on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for 2014-2020 that would allow to continue the measure of a complete termination of cod fishing for fishermen in the areas affected by cod fishing ban (Regulation permitted it only until the end of 2017). Thus, there is hope that owners of vessels and fishermen will be able to receive the aid for termination of cod fishing in 2020.
A considerable reduction in fishing opportunities will also affect other fish stock, important for Latvia, sprats. However, the reduction will be slightly less – 22% and not 25% as offered by COM before. This means that it will be possible to catch a maximum amount of this fish, permitted by conditions of the long-term fish stock plan, approved by the EU. Unfortunately, sprat is the species with a short lifespan and its fishing opportunities are considerably affected by spawning success, resulting in considerable fishing fluctuations.
On the background of a general reduction in fishing opportunities, there is good news, significant exactly for Latvia, namely, 11% increase in catch quota for Baltic herring in the Gulf of Riga, where only Latvian and Estonian fishermen are fishing.
Reductions in fishing opportunities for other fish species are not so considerable to significantly affect operation of Latvia fishermen.
The head of Latvian delegation – Jānis Grasbergs, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, after the decision made at the Council, emphasized: “It is not often when such difficult decisions must be made however, this is required by the critical condition of fish stocks. Fishermen also understand that the situation with cods in the Baltic Sea is bad and the possibility must be provided for cod stocks to restore. In these negotiations, our task was not to leave fishermen in a difficult situation without hope for support possibilities. Upon hearing the Commissioner’s firm resolution, we believe that solutions will be found. On the side of the Ministry of Agriculture, we will follow closely to fulfilment of this resolution and work respectively on our home assignment, starting implementation of the potential aid measures as soon as possible.”
Information on Latvian fishing opportunities for 2020* (as compared with 2019):
Western part cod (22-24 subdivision): 138 tons (-60%)
Eastern part cod (25-32 subdivision): 171 tons only for by-catch (-92%)
Baltic herring in the Baltic Sea: 4253 tons (-10%)
Baltic herring in the Gulf of Riga: 18 539 tons (+11%)
Sprats: 29 219 tons (-22%)
Salmon: 11 411 pieces (-5%)
*figures indicated are provisional, official figures will be available after publication of the Regulation.