Tag: cormorant

The Finnish coastal FLAGs’ letter to the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

by balticfisheries

The Finnish coastal fisheries action groups' letter to Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

In their reply to the Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius The Finnish coastal fisheries action groups emphasize the important role of the coastal small-scale fisheries in the Baltic Sea region. The Finnish coastal groups ask EU Parliament's and Commissioner's contribution in abolishing the trade ban on seal products in the European Union.

27 May 2020

To: Mr Virginijus Sinkevičius

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Dear Sir,

We are grateful for your answer to the Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project’s open letter, dated 17 December 2019, regarding seal- and cormorant-caused damages to the Baltic Sea coastal fisheries.

We the representatives of the Finnish coastal fisheries action groups would like to emphasise the character of small-scale coastal fisheries and their important role in the Baltic Sea region.

We noticed that the reasons you cited in your answer for the downward trend of fisheries —such as dependence on cod, changes in operational costs, structural problems, overfishing and weakness in marketing strategies — ­­­­­­­­­­­concern only a part of the EU fleet. These causes are not the main concerns of the Baltic small-scale fisheries, which are threatened more by overgrown grey seal and cormorant populations. It is vital that the EU Commission and the Parliament delve more specifically into the questions and challenges of the Baltic Sea region we presented in our letter.

Baltic Sea coastal small-scale fishing is artisanal by nature. Small, only 5- to 6-meter, vessels use passive gear with very little environmental impact; gillnets, fyke nets and longlines are used in inshore waters. The operating units are almost without exception family-owned and don’t have a chance to hire workers. It is common that one family member fishes and the other works processing the catch and doing direct sales. Coastal fishing does not concentrate on any single species but requires fishing multiple species, depending on season. From an economic perspective, small-scale fisheries are important in preventing depopulation and maintaining the vitality of the coastal areas.

The issue of seal- and cormorant-caused damages on small-scale fisheries has been reported to the European Commission on several occasions. As you highlighted in your answer, “the impacts can be mitigated using measures to prevent or reduce damage caused by these protected species and by compensating the economic losses.” All the measures and policies mentioned are undoubtedly important and necessary, but unfortunately, in the present situation, they are not adequate. Despite all these efforts, we have not succeeded in responding to the crisis. Quite the opposite: coastal small-scale fishing is disappearing from our Baltic coasts.

The crisis that the fishers face every day on the sea ultimately affects consumers. Fish as an essential part of the diet has significant positive value for public health. Coastal small-scale fisheries play an important part in the food security of the Baltic Sea region. Especially now during the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of local food security has risen, highlighting the role of fisheries. The economic compensation paid to fishers suffering from seal- and cormorant-caused damages is not a solution and does not bring fish to consumers’ dining tables.

When the grey seal population was monitored in the Baltic Sea area last year, over 38,100 individuals were counted. This means that the estimated population size is around 47,650–63,535 individuals [1]. The Baltic grey seal population is now almost 5 times bigger than the LRL target that HELCOM has set.

In November 2019, the Natural Resources Institute Finland published a report, “The impacts of seals and cormorants experienced by Baltic Sea commercial fishers”. The report noted that the fishermen share the same experience in the Baltic Region: “The impacts of seals and cormorants are often serious obstacles for the continuation of the fishing livelihood”. As the research concluded: “Steps forward necessitate wide collaboration across sectors both regionally and internationally.” [2]

As we understand it, the European Commission responsible for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries seeks to promote, to maintain and to secure the development of sustainable fisheries. Appealing to this mission, we ask you and the EU Parliament to help the Baltic fishermen navigate this deepening crisis and ensure the future of the Baltic small-scale coastal fisheries.

We would like to ask your contribution in:

-           Abolishing the trade ban on seal products in the European Union

-           Acknowledging the importance of the work aiming for a sustainable balance between traditional coastal fishing and sustainable levels of seals and cormorants, including ecological, economic, social and cultural aspects.

-           Looking for further possibilities to reduce the grey seal population to a sustainable level. The management plan for Baltic seals (2007) is based on statistics from the year 2005.

-           Unifying the interpretation of the Commission guidelines on derogations under Article 9 of the Birds Directive. The Cormorant clause is currently interpreted in different ways by the Baltic Sea Region States, leading to legal uncertainty and incoherence.

In 2015 United Nations member countries agreed on the UN Sustainable Development outcomes and the strategy that guides and promotes implementation during the years 2016–2030. The programme and its objectives apply without distinction to all countries. Primary goal 14, Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, concerns ecosystems of seas, marine resources and fishing. All requirements of the sub-objectives of primary goal 14 are also relevant to Baltic small-scale fisheries. Sub-objective 14.b provides access for small-scale fishers to marine resources and markets and this rise the small-scale fisheries as a specific objective. It is clear that the overgrown seal and cormorant population precludes all actions to reach the goal described in sub-objective 14.b. Baltic small-scale coastal fishing is about to disappear.

We need action from the European Commission on this serious situation and your contribution to secure the traditional livelihood of small-scale coastal fisheries in the Baltic Sea.

______________

[1] Hylkeet, 2019, LUKE: http://www.luke.fi/tietoa-luonnonvaroista/riista/hylkeet/. [2] The impacts of seals and cormorants experienced by Baltic Sea commercial fishers, 2019, Kristina Svels, Pekka Salmi, Juhani Mellanoura and Jari Niukko: http://jukuri.luke.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/544854/luke_luobio_77_2019.pdf

Yours sincerely,

Esko Taanila 
South Finland FLAG ESKO, Finland

Iiro Majuri
Coastal Bothnian Bay FLAG, Finland

Maria Saarinen
FLAG Archipelago Sea, Finland 

Jonas Harald
FLAG Ostrobothnia, Finland

Mika Halttu
FLAG Bothnian Sea and Lake Pyhäjärvi, Finland

The European Commission Must Act to Secure the Future of Small-Scale Coastal Fisheries in the Baltic Sea

by balticfisheries

17.12.2019

Open letter to Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius

We, Baltic Sea fishermen and the Steering group of the Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project, want to express our deepest concern for the future of traditional coastal small-scale fishing in our region. Fishing as a traditional source of livelihood has always played a vital role in the socio-economic and cultural development of the coastal communities of the Baltic Sea area. We represent the transnational cooperation of 14 Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) operating in the coastal areas of Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Germany to secure the future of traditional small-scale fishing in the Baltic Sea Region.

As a result of successful conservation efforts and including the adoption of the Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 banning the trade of seal products in the European Union, the populations of great cormorants and grey seals have significantly increased in the Baltic Sea. Predation by seals and cormorants reduce the profitability of aquaculture facilities. Coastal small-scale coastal fisheries have been reporting serious economic damages during the last 20 years and a large proportion of fishers have given up professional fishing, negatively affecting the livelihoods of the coastal communities they should be underpinning.

The long-lasting species-centred protection policy and consequences of the seal trade ban have led to a situation where very numerous seal and cormorant populations are one of the most severe threats to the traditional coastal fishing livelihood. On the Baltic coastal areas the amount of fish preyed on by seals and cormorants is about the same as caught by fishing. Recent studies have confirmed that seals eat fish of the same size as those taken by the fishery [1]. The impact of seals and cormorants on fish stocks is serious.

As appreciation for fish has increased due to health and climate awareness, prices have also increased. At the same time, the local catches have diminished. It has caused a situation where, instead of being able to use the local catch of the Baltic Sea, more fish is imported.

The great cormorant is protected under Directive 79/409/EEC (the Birds Directive). The population of the great cormorant has increased significantly over the last 20 years and is now considered to be in a healthy state. Growing cormorant numbers cause severe damage to coastal small-scale fisheries: reducing catch size, damaging stock and scaring fish away from fishing gear. In its Resolution of 4 December 2008, the European Parliament has called for the adoption of a European Cormorant Management Plan to minimize the heavy impact of cormorants on fish stocks and fishing (2008/2177(INI))[2].  Besides the seaside, there is an increasing amount of confirmed cases where cormorants visit rivers and destroy the whole fish population of a river. Besides the damage to fish stocks, cormorants have caused proven permanent damage to vegetation in certain areas and are a particular threat to juvenile fish.

The discussion around the Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 on trade ban in seal products has set the public opinion against all seal hunting. Grey seals are protected by all countries in the Baltic Sea region. In 2019, when the grey seal population was monitored in the Baltic Sea area, over 38 100 individuals were counted. This means that the estimated population size was 47 650 – 63 535 individuals [3]. Some experts estimate that the population size is now close to the carrying capacity of the environment. After recovery of the populations, controlled hunting is allowed in certain Baltic Sea states. The current national hunting regulations allow hunting of seals to some extent, but the seal product trade ban makes it worthless and contrary to hunters’ ethical values. Thus, the permitted quotas are never reached.

The HELCOM targets for grey seal populations, based on LRL (Limit Reference Level, i.e. safe biological limit) in the Baltic, are set at 10,000 individuals in all units. The abundance of grey seals is above the LRL of 10,000. Good status is achieved for each species when i) the abundance of seals in each management unit has attained a Limit Reference Level (LRL) of at least 10,000 individuals to ensure long-term viability, and ii) the species-specific growth rate is achieved indicating that abundance is not affected by severe anthropogenic pressures. The population has met the conservation targets all over the Baltic.

We, the undersigned Baltic Sea fishermen and the Steering group of the Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project call on you, Mr Commissioner, in light of the EU Common Fisheries Policy’s objective to contribute to a fair living standard for those who depend on fishing activities[4], to promptly undertake all measures necessary to solve the clear conflict between increasing grey seal and great cormorant populations on the one hand, and small-scale coastal fisheries on the other.

We need action from the Commission on this fundamental matter if the future of small-scale coastal fisheries in the Baltic Sea is to be secured.


[1] Lundström et al. 2012
[2]www.luke.fi/tietoaluonnonvaroista/riista/hylkeet/
[3]ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/cormorants/files/Cowx_Report_for_Parliament.pdf
[4] Cf. Article 2 paragraph 5 letter f) of the CFP Basic Regulation 1380/2013


We remain at your disposal for any questions you may have.

Kind regards,

The Steering group of the Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project

Esko Taanila
South Finland FLAG ESKO, Finland

Lars Wellin                                                           
SydostLeader, Sweden                                          

Maria Saarinen
FLAG Archipelago Sea, Finland

Anders Jansson
Fisherman, the Member of the Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project, Sweden  

Esa Lehtonen
Natural Resources Institute Finland

Erko Veltson
Fisheries Information Centre and Harju Kalandus, Estonia

Thorsten Wichman                                               
FLAG WMO, Germany

Kirsi Pohjankoski
Leader Sepra, Finland

Iiro Majuri
Coastal Bothnian Bay FLAG, Finland

Sten-Olov Altin                                                   
Leader Mittland Plus, Sweden   

Partners in the project

Grown populations of seal and cormorant cause a severe threat to the continuation of the fishing livelihood in the Baltic Sea Region

by balticfisheries

Grown populations of seal and cormorant cause a severe threat to the continuation of the fishing livelihood in the Baltic Sea Region, confirms a new study

Grown populations of seal and cormorant cause a severe threat to the continuation of the fishing livelihood in the Baltic Sea Region, confirms a new study The Impacts of seals and cormorants experienced by Baltic Sea commercial fishers.

A newly published report by the Natural Resources Institute Finland based on 219 interviews of fishers in six countries in the Baltic Sea Region confirms that the impacts of seals and cormorants are a severe threat to the continuation of the small-scale coastal fishing livelihood. The study was carried out in co-operation with The Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant project, a transnational co-operation operated by the Leader groups and Fisheries Local Action Groups in Sweden, Finland, Germany and Estonia. For the first time, the seal and cormorant induced damages are estimated this extensively in several Baltic Sea countries.

The Baltic seal and cormorant populations cause direct and indirect damages on especially traditional small-scale coastal fisheries, such as changes in fish stocks and behaviour, reduction of catch, and damages in gear and on the fish. The report discusses the multiplicity of the impacts and warrants for a wide cross-sectional collaboration together with fishers and other stakeholder groups when designing mitigation of the seal and cormorant induced problems.

“The effects of seals and cormorants would often necessitate changes in fishing strategies and making investments, but the possibility for fishers to find new paths has become narrowed. In this situation, engaging and attracting younger persons to become commercial fishers is challenging,” the report states.

Link: The Impacts of seals and cormorants experienced by Baltic Sea commercial fishers

Contact information

Project manager Esko Taanila
Tel. +358 44 3774516
E-mail: esko.taanila@sepra.fi




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