No clear objective
The multi-species management objective of reaching maximum sustainable yield, msy, for the three species, as stated in the plan, is inadequate. A functional multi-species management also requires decisions about what should be prioritized; msy for all species together, or on a species-specific level? And msy in weight (biomass) or in value?
Since the various species interact to such a great extent catches cannot be sustainably maximized for all species simultaneously. The absence of a specified objective for management is especially unfortunate for the Baltic Sea, which is a species-poor sea where the interaction among the few species is crucial for the entire ecosystem.
Cod in focus
The multi-annual plan must take much greater account of the different ecological roles and functions of species covered by the plan. The recovery of the cod stocks is a top priority. F-values should be set for cod stocks first, and then for the other species.
The fact that cod play a key role in the Baltic Sea ecosystem is confirmed by historical data, particularly regarding the eastern cod stock where strong variations in population size has resulted in clear regime shifts and ecological cascade-effects across the Baltic Sea ecosystem.
Adapt to environmental variations
A multi-annual plan for the Baltic Sea must take greater account of environmental factors. The current proposal lacks a mechanism for responding to large and sudden changes in ecosystem conditions.
The extremely slow water exchange in combination with perennial human impact in the form of eutrophication and overfishing makes the Baltic Sea extra sensitive. Salinity, temperature and oxygen availability has great impact on the stocks’ productivity.
History also shows that large variations occur naturally in the Baltic Sea, and that they are often more powerful compared to many other marine environments. The process of setting quotas must keep abreast of large variations in recruitment and growth, as well as safeguard long-term preservation of stocks and ecosystem functions.