Environmental protection, yes, but with a human measure, please: this is how politicians should speak, as European Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius did on Monday before the Council of ministers will not meet in Luxembourg to discuss catches in the Baltic Sea for 2022. The decision has not only an ecological dimension, but also a social dimension, said the Lithuanian. Indeed, the two-day struggle between the 27 EU countries shows that at a certain point, the ecological and the social can no longer be reconciled. This point has obviously been reached in the Baltic Sea.
“Our future looks dreadfully dark,” said a Baltic fisherman in an NDR (“The Last Catch”) report on his craft that aired earlier this year, and concluded: “This will be the end of the season. day soon. ” So sad, so possibly. This is indicated by the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers on Tuesday – to the chagrin of fishermen, to the satisfaction of environmentalists, in part against the vote of the federal government.
In the western Baltic Sea, fishermen will not be allowed to target cod, let alone herring, than before. Both species were once considered “breadfish” in the western Baltic Sea. The Council of Ministers therefore largely followed the Commission’s proposal, itself based on the recommendations of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Only by-catches of nearly 490 tonnes of cod and 788 tonnes of herring should be allowed to Europeans. For Germany this means: 104 tonnes of western cod as by-catch, plus 435 tonnes of western herring. There should be exemptions for fishing vessels of less than 12 meters fishing with “passive gear”. But that was not enough for the federal government.
Germany does not want to accept the fishing restriction
Secretary of State Beate Kasch, on behalf of Julia Klöckner, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, said the restrictions on catching western herring were unacceptable from a German perspective. Germany has already had to accept drastic reductions in fish in recent years: 94% compared to the 2017 catches. The stock also extends beyond the Baltic Sea into the Kattegat and Skagerrak. There, catch quotas were reduced significantly less over the same period. “Our Baltic fishermen may not have to accept drastic cuts again, but the stock will be fished further north,” said the state secretary. Minister Klöckner had unsuccessfully requested that the herring catches for the two zones be decided at the same time in December. The federal government, meanwhile, sees cuts in cod as the “only chance to rebuild these stocks”.
Klöckner’s ministry now wants to convene a roundtable to discuss the future of the industry. According to the states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein, only just over 400 professional fishermen have recently been counted on the Baltic Sea. In 2010, there were around 650, and in the early 1990s more than 1,300. The state is already helping the industry with subsidies and bonuses. Klöckner is now calling for the temporary closure of fishing vessels to be encouraged in 2022 to protect the herring and cod stocks. In collaboration with the Länder, the ministry wishes to examine whether other scrapping bonuses are offered.
Representatives of environmental associations also speak of a “disaster” and a “tragedy” for small fishermen in the Baltic Sea. They would now have to pay for the overfishing, which was mainly caused by the use of large trawls. Six in ten are “outside safe biological limits”, according to the Federal Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND). This means that the stocks are no longer large enough to be able to reproduce. The cod population has already reached a tipping point, will not recover for the foreseeable future even without pressure from the fishery and is therefore threatened with extinction, BUND predicts. The only thing that would help is a consistent halt in catches and the complete closure of the breeding areas.
As a brackish sea, the Baltic Sea apparently suffers particularly from overfishing, pollution, over-fertilization and warming. Scientists therefore believe that it is possible to identify in advance the developments in the Baltic Sea which are still to come in other marine regions. “We do not have long to prevent a complete collapse of the Baltic Sea ecosystem,” said BUND chairman Olaf Bandt.