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Fisheries Brief No. 8: Is the Minister for Rural Affairs in charge of fishing matters?

Bottom trawling is one of the reasons why Baltic Sea cod stocks are in crisis. Stopping bottom trawling is one measure that could be implemented immediately and would have a significant impact on the ability of stocks to recover. That is why it is interesting that most political parties stated during the summer that they want to work to get the EU to stop bottom trawling for cod in the Baltic Sea.

As the EU has a common fisheries policy, and fishing in the Baltic Sea is an issue that concerns all the countries fishing there, it would be meaningless for Sweden to unilaterally stop bottom trawling. Such action would have no effect on the ability of Baltic Sea cod stocks to recover. Instead, what needs to be done is to influence the decision-making process in the EU, something that many politicians state is virtually impossible. But nothing is impossible if you try.

Does the Minister for Rural Affairs have any political control over fishing matters? If you read the answer to a written question in the Swedish parliament, you would get the impression that the answer is no: https://www.riksdagen.se/sv/dokument-lagar/dokument/skriftlig-fraga/sveriges-ordforandeskap-i-baltfish_H5111518 (Only in Swedish).

It is impossible to take action without political control. Instead, fisheries management continues in the same way as it always has. This is the civil servant-controlled fisheries policy that was unable to act and take measures when cod stocks reached a crisis point. A representative of BalticSea2020 wrote about that in a debate article earlier this summer: https://www.svd.se/sverige-kan-driva-pa-for-att-radda-torsken (Only in Swedish).

There are four measures that the Minister for Rural Affairs – and the government – should take immediately if they are serious in their desire to save the Baltic Sea cod:

Firstly, the EU Commission should encourage member states to participate in early dialogue. This is an excellent opportunity for the government to demand drastic measures, including stopping bottom trawling for cod in the Baltic Sea.

Secondly, the government, via the appropriate authority, should demand that the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea’s (ICES) advice to the EU Commission be changed so that effective measures can be taken when stocks are in the process of collapsing. There is very little difference in ICES reports today compared with when the cod stocks were 10 times larger.

Thirdly, the government should instruct the Swedish chairman of the BALTFISH High Level Group to bring up the issue of drastically reduced fishing pressure on cod in the Baltic Sea. This can be achieved by stopping bottom trawling so that the stocks have a chance to recover.

Fourthly, the government should speak to colleagues in Poland, Denmark and Germany now, and neither wait until the meeting of ministers in October nor rely on reports from officials, who may want to defend the current management system.

kalenderThe autumn’s fisheries policy decision process:
End of August: BALTFISH submits its views to the Commission
August/September: The Commission submits its proposals to the Council of Ministers
Mid-October: Fisheries ministers decide on quotas for 2019


Click here to read previous Fisheries Briefs:
Fisheries Brief No. 1: How big is the fishing industry?
Fisheries Brief No. 2: Discards continue despite ban
Fisheries Brief No. 3: The Baltic Sea cod – a unique and isolated species
Fisheries Brief No. 4: The role of cod in the ecosystem
Fisheries Brief No. 5: Historically low catches of Baltic Sea cod
Fisheries Brief No. 6: Baltic Sea cod quotas
Fisheries Brief No. 7: Who is entitled to the fish?