Experts advise stopping herring from being caught

It is the greatest crisis at least since reunification. And it could be the end of fishing in the Baltic Sea. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea recommends stopping herring fishing.

Former fishing trawler in Rostock-Warnemünde

FIt is looking increasingly bad for German fishermen in the Baltic Sea: The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommended on Friday that fishing for herring in the western Baltic Sea should be stopped from next year. Besides the cod, the western herring is the most important fish species for the German Baltic Sea fishery. Both stocks have been under severe pressure for a long time.

The EU Council of Ministers will make a binding decision on the political level in the fourth quarter of the year and, as far as third countries are concerned, in talks with the respective governments. However, the assessment of the experts is the basis for this.

The ICES recommendation for western cod has been postponed to September for technical reasons, but here, too, there will probably be no positive surprises: the long-overfished population has recently recovered, but has only produced few offspring since 2017, such as the German expert in the responsible committee of the ICES, Christopher Zimmermann from the Thünen Institute for Baltic Sea Fisheries, explained. The situation with the eastern cod is so “miserable as hell” that it is only a matter of saving the stock from disappearing.

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“We are not sure whether the small coastal fishery can still be saved,” says Zimmermann. She is in the greatest crisis at least since reunification, the marine biologist continues. According to Zimmermann, the reasons for this are, among other things, climate change. A milder winter that set in later in the herring spawning areas in the Greifswalder Bodden led to the larvae hatching earlier. But they cannot find enough food and starve to death.

The environmental protection organization Greenpeace demanded a complete stop of the Baltic Sea fishing for the next few years. The environmentalists are primarily responsible for the dilemma on politicians who have failed to initiate measures in good time. “Control measures such as the establishment of large protected areas to preserve the marine nature and fish stocks or fishing stops have been missed and so the artisanal fishing companies operating near the coast have to spoon out the soup,” wrote fishing expert Thilo Maack in a statement on Friday.

The German Fisheries Association warned against the end of the industry in the region. “Then the structures would break down,” said the association’s press spokesman, Claus Ubl, on Friday to the German Press Agency. He criticized the imbalance in the herring catch restrictions. While the catches in the western Baltic Sea have been reduced by over 90 percent in recent years, the reduction in the Kattegat, Skagerrak and eastern North Sea fishing areas is significantly lower. “The herring stock cannot recover that way, of course.”