During ‘Our Baltic Conference’ organised under the auspices of Commissioner Sinkevičius on 28 September 2020, the ministers of fisheries, agriculture and environment of Baltic Sea Member States committed to step up efforts to reduce pressures on the marine environment of the Baltic Sea by signing a Ministerial Declaration.
Three topics were addressed during the conference: eutrophication, fisheries and pollution from marine litter. Speakers pointed out that at least 97% of the Baltic Sea suffers from eutrophication. This leads to excessive growth of algae, biodiversity impact and economic losses. Other pressures include contaminants, seabed loss and disturbance (e.g. impact from bottom-trawling on the seafloor integrity and habitats), overfishing, perturbed or disrupted food-webs, marine litter, and underwater noise. Currently, the Baltic Sea is far from reaching Good Environmental Status as required by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The joint commitments aim to turn the tide to the benefit of fishermen’s livelihoods, coastal communities and the environment.
For sustainable fishing, the EU Common Fisheries Policy sets a number of rules for managing European fishing fleets and catches. In some European seas, there are requirements for selective gear to reduce unwanted bycatch. Measures can also be undertaken regarding the loss of fishing gear at sea and its impacts on biodiversity. The discussions showed that the three topics addressed in the conference are closely interlinked. Cooperation between stakeholders is therefore essential. Commitments in the Ministerial Declaration on securing sustainable fisheries and aquaculture include:
- favouring cooperation between fishery and environmental organisations;
- achieving the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy;
- when and where necessary - limiting the use of fishing gear most harmful to biodiversity and reducing by 2025 the footprint of sea-floor disturbance by bottom-contacting fishing gears, particularly in sensitive areas;
- inviting further development of new, more selective and less harmful fishing gear;
- applying appropriate management measures and when justified, remedial measures including spawning closures to rebuild the depleted fish stocks in the Baltic Sea;
- stepping up fisheries control and enforcement to promote a culture of compliance among operators; and
- improving monitoring of incidental by-catches of the critically endangered population of harbour porpoise and other endangered marine species and implementing where relevant proportionate and precautionary measures based on scientifically documented information for their favourable recovery and conservation.
Read the Ministerial Declaration to discover the full range of commitments. Dive into the Map of the Week to learn about the distribution of different fishing gear used by the fleets of European Union and European Economic Area countries.
The data in this map are provided by EUROSTAT.