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Estonia's fishing sector worried about herring quota reduction plan

If the EU significantly reduces next year's herring fishing quota, it will be a serious blow to the Estonian fishing industry. The current proposal suggests a cut of more than 10,000 tons.

The sprat and herring autumn fishing season is already well underway. But how many boats will continue to go to sea at this time of the year in the future will soon become clear.

Estonia's current quota is almost 55,000 tons.

"For the Gulf of Riga quota, the European Commission has proposed a 20 percent reduction, while scientists suggested 17 percent. In the opening section, the scientists' recommendation was around 40 percent, while the Commission has proposed a 60 percent reduction. So it will still affect both Estonian and Saaremaa fishermen to a large extent," said Mart Undrest, head of the Estonian Fishermen's Association.

Decisions are made by researchers who have described herring stocks in the Baltic Sea as poor. There is a need to introduce restrictions to protect the fish, they say.

"In the Gulf of Riga herring, it has to be said, is above average. But the offshore herring stock is very close to a historic low," said Markus Vetemaa, researcher and director of the Estonian Marine Institute at the University of Tartu.

"The reason has been a change in the food base due to a long-term decrease in salinity, and competition with sprats for food, as sprats are plentiful. As a result, the average weight of herring has fallen, /.../ and there are more fish caught per ton than before. Additionally, it has to be said that the early and warm springs of recent times have not been good for herring, and this has also contributed. Finally, I admit that scientists are also concerned about the quality of catch statistics in the mixed sprat-herring fishery."

However, fishermen draw conclusions based on their own catches. They say the situation around Saaremaa is better than people say.

"After all, the quota has been cut all the time for years and years, and we understand that it may even be necessary to a certain extent, but we do not see that there are fewer fish in the sea. Here, people are very keen to take herring, but in reality, herring catches have been increasing all the time. We think that scientists are way behind us, and that is wrong. But well, Brussels does what Brussels wants," said fishing entrepreneur Arne Salong.

The whole fishing sector is worried about a possible cut to quotas.

"Reductions such as the one in [the Gulf of] Bothnia, where the quota is 68,000 tonnes this year and only 1,000 tonnes for next year – a reduction of 98 percent – are not sustainable. If you shut down all these supply chains, ships, and industries for a year or two at a time, they will not recover in this way. And the socio-economic impact on certain coastal and rural areas will be enormous as a result," Undrest said.

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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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