Urgent Situation for the Baltic Herring - the Fish You Should Skip

28 September, 2023

Several stocks of the Baltic herrings in the Baltic Sea are seriously threatened according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s latest Fish Guide.

The Baltic herring is an engine in the ecosystem and when the stock shrinks, it has consequences, says fishing expert Inger Melander.

Fyra vanligas matfiskar och deras trafikljus i fiskguiden 2023. Grafik: Johan Hallnäs/TT

The Baltic Sea’s ecosystem is in serious imbalance and the fact that the Baltic herring stock continues to shrink is not good, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF. Due to continued overfishing and slower growth, the Baltic herring gets a red light in their latest Fish Guide.

Bottom trawled cod from the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea also end up in red after previously being in yellow. Red light means that WWF urges food chains, consumers, and restaurants to select these fish.

The Baltic herring is exposed to overfishing and is smaller and leaner than before. The large-scale trawl fishing depletes the stocks, says Inger Melander, expert on fisheries and markets at WWF.

According to a proposal from the European Commission, all directed fishing for Baltic herring in the central Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia should be stopped next year. On October 23 to 24, the EU’s fisheries ministers will meet to determine the quotas for next year’s fishing.

Swedes eat an average of 12 kilos of fish and shellfish per person per year. Graphics: Johan Hallnäs/TT

We hope they will follow the Commission’s proposal, but it is unfortunately more likely that they will choose more short-term financial solutions, says Inger Melander.

The sprat is another fish that changes color group in this year’s Fish Guide. It goes from green to yellow because fishing quotas are exceeded and management is deficient according to WWF.

A glimmer of light in this year’s report is that the bream in the Baltic Sea go from yellow to green light. The stock is judged to be doing well and fishing of the current scale does not seem to affect the ecosystem negatively. Other good news is that whitefish and halibut roe imported from some parts of the United States and land-farmed giant shrimp are getting the green light.

These are giant prawns that are grown in land-based recirculating closed systems in places such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland with a low environmental impact, says Inger Melander.

One fish that should continue to be avoided is the yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean, regardless of the method used when fishing it. The stock is overfished and only 31 percent of the original stock remains. In addition, the fishery has a high proportion of bycatch of other marine species when fished.

Fish is not just food or sustenance for professional fishermen. They play a very important role in the marine ecosystem. Healthy marine ecosystems with biodiversity are a must for viable fish stocks to thrive and grow and they are also more resistant to climate change, says Inger Melander.

The guide uses the traffic lights: Green (good choice), yellow (be careful) and red (don’t).

When classifying, the following are taken into account:

1) Fish stocks

2) Control and management

3) The impact of fishing on the ecosystem (habitats, marine species, discards and bycatch, etc.)

4) Violation of human rights

5) Emission of greenhouse gases in connection with fishing

6) Occurrence of lost fishing gear left in seas and lakes

For cultivated species, they look at the origin of the feed, how the cultivation takes place and what environmental impact it has, as well as the efficiency of the management. Environmental toxins are not covered.

Certifications such as MSC, ASC and KRAV do not automatically get the green light and are outside the traffic lights. WWF recommends primarily choosing species with a green light and secondarily certified fish products.

Source: WWF

Text: Petra Hedbom/TT
Graphics: Johan Hallnäs/TT
UW Photo: Johan Candert

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