Unsustainable fishing threat to the Baltic Sea

Poor fisheries management – quotas set in excess of scientific advice, indiscriminate gear catching by-catch of unwanted species, too many boats and inadequate control mechanisms – continues to put fish stocks, marine ecosystems, livelihoods and coastal communities at risk. There have been drastic changes to the Baltic fish populations causing ripple effects for the entire Baltic Sea ecosystem as well as causing changes to lower levels of the food chain and contributing to other problems such as eutrophication.
 
Overfishing does not only deplete the specific fish caught, it also changes the sea’s food web structures. Predators, such as seals and seabirds are affected negatively when the fish they normally eat decrease, while prey fish and organisms increase and take over as their natural predators like cod in the Baltic Sea disappear.
 
Fishing in the Baltic Sea is regulated by the European Common Fisheries Policy. Specific quotas are set for each of the most important commercial species. Because the quotas historically have been higher than the reproductive capacity of the ecosystem, they have led to decreased or depleted fish stocks. Overfishing also occurs through by-catch and illegal fishing.

The diagram below showcases the complexity of the Baltic Sea ecosystem where both the activities out at sea as well as on land have an impact on the well being of fish stocks and overall marine ecosystem of the Baltic Sea.
 
 
	© WWF Poland/J. Włodarczyk
Polish fishing boats
© WWF Poland/J. Włodarczyk
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A complex set of often interactive processes contributes to the current state of the Baltic Sea
© WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme

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