German fishing industry fearful as Baltic Sea stocks continue to fall

Photo: Jens B├╝ttner/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

Stocks of herring and cod are continuing to fall in the Baltic Sea, prompting fears in the German fishing industry that catch limits will be reduced even further for the year ahead.

At the start of the week, European ministers are due to announce the amounts of different kinds of fish that may be caught.

“It is catastrophic for German fisheries,” says Christopher Zimmermann, who heads the Thuenen Institute for Baltic Sea Fisheries and is an advisor to the European Commission.

However, Zimmerman also said that for the fourth time in a row, his institute had recommended closing down herring fishing, as stocks fall. The German fishing industry in the Baltic relies heavily on the catch of herring and cod.

His institute has also recommended reducing cod fishing in the western Baltic for the first time, saying there were no longer enough fish for targeted fishing, only for bycatch.

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner recently acknowledged the difficulties for the industry.

The size of the catch permitted for herring in the western Baltic has been reduced by 94 per cent between 2017 and 2021, according to Zimmermann.

As fish stocks fall, so does the number of people who make a living from fishing, from 650 in the states of Mecklenburg Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein in 2010, to 400.

Both German states are scrapping premiums for fishing boats and fishing cooperatives are being closed down.

Some observers are critical of the fact that the industry has been permitted to continue for so long. “We have had legalized overfishing in the Baltic Sea for over 20 years,” says Stella Nemecky, fisheries expert at the World Wildlife Fund, “we need every fish.”