– The delicate ecosystem of the Baltic Sea is seriously disturbed. It’s emergency mode and time to pull the handbrake. Large commercial food fish in the Baltic Sea such as cod, sturgeon and sprat are now at alarmingly low levels. Getting the oceans and their people back on track is crucial to healthy marine ecosystems and a sustainable economy, says WWF Secretary-General Gustav Linde.
Tough for sturgeon, sprat and Baltic cod – but green for bream
The flounder, the most common fish species in the Baltic Sea and a driver of the ecosystem, has become a sad baby. The fish are small, reach sexual maturity early, and the number of large herring has also declined – and there is a risk that these species will suffer the same fate as Baltic cod. Extensive trawling at sea is depleting stocks. Increased fishing pressure and low spawning biomass mean that sturgeon get a red light in this year’s (previously yellow) guide.
– When the balance in ecosystems is disturbed, species and habitats are at risk of extinction. In addition to pressure from fishing, the oceans are also exposed to many other threats such as climate change, eutrophication and the release of environmentally hazardous substances, says Inger Melander.
Even Baltic Sea sprats (mostly used to prepare fishmeal) have begun to slip from green to yellow. Quotas have been exceeded and management is ineffective. The situation for Baltic cod remains poor, as the species remains under red light in the fish guide. The stock is too small and the people are getting worse. One of the few species looking brighter is bream, which is getting the green light this year. Knowledge and database about inventory has increased.
Strömming got a red light in this year’s Fiskguide. Illustration SLU, Artdatabanken.
Red light for Norwegian cod and North Sea shrimp
Cod from the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea caught by bottom trawls now end up on red (formerly yellow) light.
North Sea shrimp also continue to get a red light in the Skagerrak, Kattegatt and Norwegian Channel. This is due to over-catch and dragging of fish, shrinking reproductive stocks and lack of control.
Mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic are moving from green light to yellow light, as a result of extremely high fishing pressure, misreporting, and low biomass. Even spring-spawning herring in the Northeast Atlantic, common in our herring cans, end up light yellow due to intense fishing pressure. It is brightest for sprats caught in drift trawls in the Skagerrak, Kattegat and the North Sea. It switches from yellow light to green light due to decreased fishing mortality and increased abundance of spawning fish.
Globally, the situation has worsened for the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), where all fishing is given a red light regardless of fishing method. It is estimated that only 31 percent of the original inventory remains. For those who want to eat tuna, you can choose skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) from the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and some parts of the Pacific Ocean. It is on the green light if fished with a hand line or rod.
Globally, today approximately 93 percent of all commercial fish stocks are overfished or overfished.
This year’s newcomer is on the green light – giant prawns grown in Europe
This year’s newcomer that got the green light in the guide is the giant prawn (Pinius fanami) grown in ground recirculating systems in the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The good news is that whitefish and flounder roe imported from certain parts of the USA’s Great Lakes are now getting the green light, says Inger Melander.
Opt out of red light fish – buy green
Food chains, buyers and restaurants can contribute to more sustainable consumption by removing types of seafood with red light and increasing their proportion with green light.
Swedes eat about 12 kg of seafood per person per year, which equates to 1-2 fish meals per week. Salmon, herring, cod and prawns account for the bulk of consumption, with salmon being the most popular. Other common species are Alaskan pollock, mackerel, pollock, rainbow trout, and tuna.
Bream gets the green light in this year’s fish guide. Photo: WWF
Facts: Fishing Guide, WWF’s consumer guide to fish and shellfish, is available digitally and as an app. It helps consumers, grocery stores and restaurants make sustainable choices and contributes to WWF’s work for sustainable marine ecosystems and sustainable fishing.
The guide covers 95 species, 23 of which – or one in four – are greenlit. There are only five species in the red light: shark, fish, eel, Argentine red shrimp, and Swedish lobster. Read the entire fish guide.
The criteria are: 1) Health of fish stocks 2) Monitoring and management 3) Impact of fishing on the ecosystem (habitats, marine species, drafts, bycatch etc.) 4) Human rights violation 5) Greenhouse gas emissions in relation to fishing 6) Appearance of ghost nets and the impact of lost fishing gear.
For farmed species, they look at the origin of the feed and cultivation and their environmental impact, as well as management efficiency. Environmental toxins are not covered.
The guide uses traffic lights: Green (good choice), yellow (be careful), red (don’t do this). WWF’s assessments and advice are based on publicly published scientific evidence.
Certifications like MSC, ASC and KRAV do not automatically get the green light and are outside the traffic lights. WWF recommends primarily choosing green light species and secondarily certified fish products.
facts: Herring (Clupea harengus) lives in the Baltic Sea and is the same species as herring. Management takes place in four regions: the Gulf of Bothnia, the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Riga and the Western Baltic Sea. The EU Commission calls for a moratorium on herring/flound fishing in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia (autumn 2023). For cod in the Western and Eastern Baltic Sea, it is proposed to continue the entire fishery, as well as for the herring fishery in the Western Baltic Sea. Swedish fishing vessels take approximately 40 percent of the catch in coastal areas (Hanno Bay, Sveland Bay or Gävle Bay). There is uncertainty about how removing the signs will affect cod and cod recovery. cod In the Baltic Sea it continues to decline in an alarming manner. In eastern and larger cod stocks, reproduction is occurring at a much smaller size than before. The state of western cod stocks is even worse. Biomass is well below the biologically sustainable level. If you fish out different parts of the ocean food web, you usually get unwanted impacts on the ecosystem. Large predatory fish such as cod are important because they balance other fish species and serve an ecosystem function.
For nutritional advice, Read more on the Swedish Food Agency website: https://www.livsmedelsverket.se/livsmedel-och-innehall/mat-och-dryck/fisk-och-skaldjur
Food fish (some examples) Green light: bream (Swedish fishing) – Rainbow (Swedish) – look (Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea – fished with purse seines) Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) – for example, cultivated in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, etc. – Skip Jack (tuna) (Katsounos pelamis) is caught using a hook or rod in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, or some parts of the Pacific Ocean, oyster Grown in France Freshwater crayfish (Farmed Turkey) Bream (Swedish fishing in Lake Mälaren, Lake Vänern and the Baltic Sea) American whitefish and sole roe, sea bass (caught by handline or rod in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean)
Yellow light: Farmed Norwegian salmon – haddock (e.g. Barents Sea, Norwegian Sea (net, longline, Iceland)) mackerel (Northeast Atlantic Ocean) – sprat (Baltic Sea) Char – (Swedish) catfish (Iceland) Alaska pollock
red light: cod (Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea) – caught with bottom trawls – North sea shrimp (Skagerrak, Kattegat, Norwegian Channel, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian Fishing) – Yellowfin tuna Fishing in the Indian Ocean – Skip Jack (Tuna) caught in the Indian Ocean (wallet and net) Baltic herring (Baltic Sea) – eel
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