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WWF: Finland Needs to Change Herring Fishing Practices

The Finnish branch of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) has called for Baltic herring fishing to be drastically reduced in light of the weakening condition of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystems and food chains.

“Herring populations in both the Gulf of Bothnia and central Baltic Sea in particular have declined. The Gulf of Bothnia’s herring stock has now fallen below the target level for the first time,” WWF Finland’s fish expert Matti Ovaska stated.

The environmental organisation has added its voice to the debate surrounding herring fishing in the Nordic region.

On one side of the dispute is the European Commission, which proposed a year-long, total ban on herring fishing in Finland due to declining Baltic herring stocks. The proposal would only grant a limited quota for Baltic herring as by-catches alongside sprat fishing.

In the same proposal, the EU establishes reserve stock levels that must be maintained. If the stock falls below the set level, the plan stipulates a one-year period to restore it above the threshold with a 95 percent probability.

The European Commission cites guidance from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) as the basis for its decision.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Sari Essayah (CD) is among the critics of the plan, describing it as “disproportionate and unreasonable.” She argues that the decision contradicts the advice given by ICES, which in her view supports the continuation of herring fishing with a reduced quota.

The Federation of Finnish Fisheries Associations also criticised the Commission’s proposal as excessive and based on outdated data.

Herring should be fished for human consumption rather than feed, WWF says

WWF Finland’s Ovaska says the EU’s proposal was driven by an aim to ensure that declining stocks recover.

“The Baltic Sea ecosystem is in a state of immense upheaval and herring has struggled to find nutrition. In the face of such a major uncertainty, a precautionary approach is necessary,” he tells Yle.

Ovaska further notes that it is up to fishing regulation bodies to decide what levels of risk are acceptable and whether a total suspension of fishing is warranted.

Given the complexity of the issue, WWF refrains from providing specific estimates for an appropriate herring fishing quota.

However, the organisation advocates for a comprehensive transformation of herring fishing practices, encouraging fishing only from near the coast and the use of herring for human consumption rather than for animal feed.

Currently, the majority of herring caught in Finland is destined for animal feed, for example in fur farms. Roughly a fifth gets exported, and only another fifth remains for human consumption.

According to Ovaska, attention should be paid to the overall state of the Baltic Sea, as dwindling fish stocks signal broader ecological issues.

“I believe that the larger picture is what we should be concerned about. More resources should be allocated to studying and forecasting these issues.”

Source : YLE

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