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Finland aims to overturn EU ban on herring fishing, Minister Essayah says

The European Commission recently announced plans to revitalize dwindling herring stocks by restricting fishing to incidental catches alongside sprat fishing.

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Sari Essayah during the Christian Democrats Party Congress 2023 in Joensuu Market Square
Essayah is a fourth-term MP from North Savo. She currently serves as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in the government of Petteri Orpo (NCP). Image: Ext-hans-peter Dhuy / Yle
Yle News

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Sari Essayah (CD) has described as "disproportionate and unreasonable" an EU plan to ban Baltic Sea herring fishing in waters close to Finland.

Essayah argued that the decision contradicts advice issued by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

"The proposal is not in line with the recommendations of scientists from ICES, who say that fishing could continue with a reduced quota," Essayah told Finnish news agency STT.

The European Commission said the decision was due to declining Baltic herring stocks, citing ICES guidance.

The change would allow for only a very limited Baltic herring quota as by-catches alongside sprat fishing.

"Scientists estimate that the size of the central Baltic herring stock has been around or below minimum levels since the early 1990s. The stock size of Bothnian herring fell below healthy levels due to the lower number of young fish and the smaller size of older fish," an EU press release stated.

The Finnish fishing industry has also strongly criticised the plans.

"It's a shock and a disaster," Kim Jordas, head of the Finnish Professional Fishermen's Association, said in a statement.

Minister Essayah noted that the proposed restrictions are still to be negotiated with other EU member states, as the plans would also impact many other countries in the Baltic Sea region.

In Finland, the proposed restrictions would necessitate a substantial restructuring of the fishing industry, Essayah noted.

"Herring is the most important catch in the [Baltic Sea] area and is also important for the security of supply. This would lead to job losses," she said.

Currently, the initiative is in the proposal phase, with EU ministers scheduled to make a decision at the end of October.

Finland's position will be determined next week when Parliament reconvenes from its summer recess, but Essayah made clear that Finland would actively advocate for revisions to the proposal.

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