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Fisheries Brief No. 7: Who is entitled to the fish?

There is a problem with fishing in the Baltic Sea. One reason is that cod catches are a mere tenth of what they were in previous decades. This development is also worrying local municipalities, who want active coastal communities. As fish stocks are depleted, the fight for the remaining resources increases. Who exactly is entitled to the fish? Is it the large-scale bottom trawlers, most of which come from the west coast of Sweden? Is it the small-scale coastal fishermen from the local municipality? Is it anglers from all over Sweden?

The Swedish fishing industry receives so many subsidies and grants that the management costs are the equivalent of two-thirds of the landing value. What are the values that society wishes to support and preserve? Sweden’s Minister for Rural Affairs Sven-Erik Bucht believes that fisheries policy “...benefits our fishing industry and our coastal communities, and provides both us and future generations with healthy food”. He may be right that fisheries policy benefits the large-scale fishing industry, but in other respects he is wrong.

Cod stocks are in such a precarious state that all Baltic Sea cod have been designated with a red light in the WWF’s seafood guide. A few years back MSC certification was revoked. The role of Baltic Sea cod as a food in Sweden is negligible. Most of it is exported or turned into fishmeal.

oresundBalticSea2020 asked Copenhagen Economics to study fishing in Öresund, where there has long been a ban on trawling and, as a result, cod stocks are robust, with cod of all sizes. Following the ban, both small-scale fishing and fishing tourism are flourishing. Small-scale fishing employs 160 smaller boats which, by means of passive tackle, create a landing value of DKK 36 million, half of which comes from cod. Fishing tourism generates local, direct income of around DKK 80 million. That is significantly more than the landing value of SEK 30 million generated by Swedish large-scale cod fishing in the Baltic Sea.

The report also shows how small-scale commercial fishing and fishing tourism complement one another in order to develop harbours and other services. Read the report here.

BalticSea2020 believes that the Baltic Sea environment requires vigorous cod stocks. In order to aid recovery, bottom trawling needs to be stopped. This would eventually lead to the cod growing sufficiently large and strong to spread along the coast and would create the conditions for both small-scale coastal fishing and fishing tourism.

One and a half million Swedes participate in recreational fishing every year. Statistics Sweden calculates that the value added from marine tourism is around SEK 15 billion in the Baltic Sea area. Our report from Öresund shows that incomes from fishing tourism more than exceed the landing value of commercial fishing.

There is a strong trend and a clear demand for locally produced food from consumers, the market and restaurants. The favouring of large-scale fishing
by official fisheries policy, with the associated extensive bureaucracy and limiting rules, makes it more difficult for small-scale fishermen to deliver, despite huge demand.

Stopping bottom trawling and prioritising small-scale cod fishing would benefit Baltic Sea fishermen, coastal communities, anglers and tourists.

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