A recipe for ending illegal fishing in the Baltic Sea | WWF

A recipe for ending illegal fishing in the Baltic Sea

Posted on 28 March 2007
WWF is urging EU fisheries ministers to increase penalties for illegal fishing and trading.
© Claus Christensen
Copenhagen, Denmark – Knowing where the cod on your plate comes from could dramatically reduce illegal fishing in the Baltic Sea.

WWF research shows that introducing a system where fish can be traced from "sea to table” would help cod stocks recover, boost the revenues of legal fishermen, and significantly reduce the growing problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU).

Cod collapse
According to WWF, nearly one in two cod caught in the Baltic falls outside legally agreed upon quotas. In the Eastern Baltic, it is estimated that 35–45 per cent more cod is landed than reported.

Globally, cod catches have suffered a 70 per cent drop over the last 30 years, and WWF predicts that if this continues the world’s cod stocks will disappear in 15 years.

“If the unsustainable exploitation of cod stocks continues, the fishery, particularly in the Eastern Baltic, could collapse in the near future,” stressed Lasse Gustavsson, Director of WWF’s Baltic Programme. 

“Illegal fishing is more than a crime against fish. It decimates stocks, distorts the market for legal fish and destroys consumer confidence.”

Fish traceability system
Establishing an effective tractability system to verify the origins of a fish catch would reduce the market for illegal fish, ensuring that those operating legally stay in business and illegal operators are put out of business.

Despite an existing European Union “fish to fork” framework, lack of effective monitoring and enforcement have failed to deter illegal fishing operations.

That is why WWF is calling on EU fisheries ministers attending a meeting on illegal fishing in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 28 to 29 March to introduce an effective traceability system for cod and to improve fisheries control, monitoring and surveillance and provisions for major buyers to ensure that their fish comes from legitimate sources.

The global conservation organization is also urging the EU to increase penalties for illegal fishing and trading throughout member states.

“If we and our children are to enjoy fish from the Baltic, no minister, retailer or supplier should tolerate illegal fishing,” says Gustavsson.

“Fishing illegally should be as unacceptable in the future as child labour is today.”

For further information:
Lasse Gustavsson, Director
WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme
Tel: +46 70 105 30 55
E-mail: lasse.gustavsson@wwf.se

Espen Nordberg, Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer
Tel: +45 26 25 70 14
E-mail: e.nordberg@wwf.dk