Today, EU Member States and the Commission have come to an agreement on the 2021 fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea.
These negotiations came at a very difficult moment, both for the fishing community and for the environment.
Our fishermen and women in the Baltic region are hit hard by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The EU and Member States have made many efforts to soften the impact, but for many businesses, the situation is still precarious.
Thus the welfare of our fishing communities has been at the top of our minds throughout our discussions.
Unfortunately, the Baltic Sea is not in a good shape. The causes go well beyond fisheries, and we have to address all factors affecting the ecosystem. That is what we have agreed at the Our Baltic ministerial conference only three weeks ago, together with ministers of agriculture, environment and fisheries.
But while the causes of the current state of the Baltic are complex and manifold, it is clear that if we fish beyond our means today, we will pay the price tomorrow. We have to allow stocks to replenish to healthy levels. This was the rationale of the Commission's proposal. I am pleased that the Member States have kept to the same spirit.
We have found a compromise that works for the fishermen and women as well as for the fish stocks and future of coastal communities.
You will receive the exact outcome in more detail soon, but let me highlight a few major results:
-Firstly, on Eastern cod, the Council has reached a very responsible decision. The member states have accepted the very protective 595 tonnes TAC level for by-catch only and 4 months fishing closure. This fish stock has been below safe biological limits for several years, and is expected to stay at such low levels in the medium term, even without any fishing.
-For Western cod, the Council has increased the TAC by 5 %, which is lower that MSY point value. I am also pleased that the Council has followed our proposal and prolonged the fishing closure compared to this year.
-On Western herring, which is also in a difficult situation, Council has agreed on a 50% reduction of catches, which includes a remedial measure.
-For central herring, the TAC follows scientific advice and has been reduced by 36% compared to last year.
-The herring stocks in the Gulf of Riga and Gulf of Bothnia are doing much better, and fishing opportunities reflect this, with an increase of 15% and a roll-over of last year's TAC respectively.
-Regarding plaice, the Council has set the TAC bellow MSY point value with an increase by 5 %.
-For sprat, the Council has agreed on a 6% increase, in line with scientific advice.
-Finally, for the two salmon stocks, in the Main Basin and in the Gulf of Finland, the Council has agreed on a 9% increase and 8% decrease respectively, in line with precautionary advice.
To sum up, this means that 8 out of 10 TACs are set at sustainable levels in line with science, and for two stocks even below the MSY point value. For stocks where scientists could not give us MSY advice - the TACs were set in line with their precautionary advice.
I want stress that today's overall agreement is the only way to turn the situation around and help fishers communities build a prosperous future.
But as I mentioned earlier, reducing the fishing pressure alone will not solve the problems of the Baltic Sea. We have to move, urgently, towards a full implementation of all our legislation, including environmental legislation. If we don't do that, all the efforts we ask from our fishermen and women today, will be in vain. We cannot let that happen.
Finally, I would like to thank the German Presidency, the Estonian BaltFish Presidency, the Member States and my Commission colleagues for their hard work, their commitment and collegiality during these negotiations. The compromise we achieved today shows that we share the same goals: a thriving coastal community in Europe, based on healthy seas full of life.