– a threat to the Baltic Sea

BalticWaters’ new review – Improper and fraudulent fishery – a threat to the Baltic Sea – shows that misreporting and illegal discards are widespread practices and that the regulatory framework and its application are seriously flawed. Although frequent attention has been called to the problems with fishery compliance over the past 50 years, no effective action has been taken.

Commercial fish populations in the Baltic Sea are under severe threat. Warnings have been raised in 2022 of an altered ecosystem along the east coast, with major shortages of larger and older individuals in the herring stock, coastal fishermen with no catches, and fermented herring factories threatened with closure.

Herring is not the only vulnerable species in the Baltic. The cod stock has collapsed, the eel is endangered and numbers are declining dramatically for several other important species.

There are multiple reasons for this. Fisheries management is flawed on many levels, including ineffective fishery control, doubtful scientific data and a management model focused on a “maximum outtake” of fish even as the number of fishable-size fish is decreasing. Risks are generally brushed aside when determining allowable fish catches.

Politicians and responsible agencies have known for decades about serious problems with illegal discards, unreported by-catches and widespread misreporting of what is caught. But the problems persist.