Sustainable fishing is the new goal
17 September 2012
Next year the EU is expected to change its strongly criticised fisheries policy. "Environmentally, socially and economically sustainable fishing” is the new goal, which entails a change of the rules for both fishing fleets and fish. Four Lund University researchers are now investigating what this means for fishing in the Öresund strait.
Seven out of ten fish stocks within the EU are currently overfished, as fishing grants have led to an excessive number of efficient fishing vessels. From now on, more funding will go towards developing services and products associated with catches, which do not damage the fish stocks.
“This could mean labelling the origin of the fish or guaranteeing its quality in other ways, processing it in local smokehouses or launching new fish dishes”, says Filippa Säwe from the Department of Service Management.
The latter proposal depends on fishers in the future not being permitted to throw the unwanted part of the catch back into the sea. They will have to bring everything back to harbour, giving consumers the opportunity to learn to make fish pies and soups out of ingredients that will be new to the fish counter.
Compared to its peers in the Kattegatt strait and the Baltic Sea, cod in the Öresund is doing quite well, since trawling in the strait is prohibited for the sake of shipping. The only commercial fishing which is permitted is net fishing. This is much better for the sea bed and even – as it is less super-efficient than trawling – better for the fish.
“The cod in the Öresund is doing unusually well, and what is more, it is quite large since people refrain from catching cod of the smallest permitted size. It is the fishing captains themselves who decide the size of the fish to be brought in, through the mesh size of the nets they use”, says biologist Anders Persson.
But it could be even better, according to his colleague Anders Nilsson:
“If we could wait a little longer and allow the fish to reproduce for one more season, we could have greater certainty that the fish stocks in the Öresund strait would become sustainable. In addition, the net fishers would be paid more per fish, since the cod would be larger”.
But such a voluntary limitation requires consensus, something which is in short supply around fishing in the Öresund. This is what Filippa Säwe and Johan Hultman found out from the interviews, harbour visits and meetings they conducted.
“First of all, professional fishers, sports fishers and subsistence fishers – often farmers or former professional fishers with fishing rights on the strait – frequently have different and sometimes conflicting interests. Secondly, there are conflicts between Swedish and Danish fishers, as the Swedish fishing rules are stricter than the Danish ones”, explains Johan Hultman.
The fact is that there is only one Dane in the professional fishers’ union, Öresundfiskarna, and he is not a fisherman but head of the Öresund aquarium in Helsingör. The new chair of the Öresundsfiskarna union is not a fisher either, but a researcher: it is Filippa Säwe.
“I was astonished to be asked, but of course I see it as a show of great trust!” she says.
In a perfect world, Filippa Säwe, as a neutral outsider, would be able to contribute by setting up a joint local administration of coastal fishing in the Öresund strait. Then the fishers themselves would ensure that their activities followed established rules so that fishing really became sustainable.
Even the provincial government in Malmö has shown interest in the idea of local autonomy for fishing in the Öresund. Since the new EU rules allow for smaller fishing areas, the Öresund strait could become a separate fishing area and would no longer have to be part of a larger area including the southern Baltic, where the conditions for the fish are quite different. But the extent to which the new opportunities will be successfully exploited depends on the various groups’ interest in cooperating, both across the strait and on either side of the water.
Text: Ingela Björck
This text was first published in the Lund University Magazine -LUM.
More about the Soundfish project
The four year Soundfish project is funded by the Formas research foundation with close to SEK 18 million. The participants are ecology researchers Anders Persson and Anders Nilsson, social scientists Filippa Säwe and Johan Hultman from Service Management and economist Staffan Waldo from SLU and Agrifood. The project also funds three doctoral studentships and a post-doctoral fellowship.