In the Biodiversity and nature conservation section of the Baltic Sea Action Plan it has been agreed to increase knowledge on and protection of Baltic marine habitats, communities and species by i.a.
– the promotion of research aiming at developing additional methods for the assessment of, and reporting on, the impacts of fisheries on biodiversity, as well as
– by 2010 further developing in co-operation with the 1991 Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) a co-ordinated reporting system and database on Baltic harbour porpoise sightings, by-catches and strandings (HELCOM-ASCOBANS harbour porpoise database);
– the development and implementation of effective monitoring and reporting systems for by-caught birds and mammals.
Also, in the Action Plan it has been agreed that the Baltic Sea shall become a model of good management of human activities, including that all fisheries management will be developed and implemented based on the Ecosystem Approach in order to enhance the balance between sustainable use and protection of marine natural resources.
Further in the Action Plan, the Contracting Parties also request the competent authorities, in co-operation with the Baltic Regional Advisory Council (RAC) under the EU Common Fisheries Policy and HELCOM, to collaborate closely with the Contracting Parties in developing and implementing management measures for fisheries inside marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea area in order to fulfil conservation targets by 2010 and urge the competent fisheries authorities in co-operation with the Baltic RAC and HELCOM to take immediate actions for i.a.
– introduction of additional fisheries management measures based on the best available scientific evidence to achieve:
- that all caught species and by-catch which cannot be released alive or without injuries are landed and reported, by 2012;
- continued designation of additional/improved spatial and/or temporal closures of sufficient size and duration for fisheries to prevent capture of spawning and juvenile fish;
- the designation of additional permanent closures of sufficient size for fisheries to prevent capture of non-target species to protect important reproduction and feeding areas and to protect ecosystems, by 2012;
- the further development and application in all cases of appropriate breeding and restocking practices for salmon and sea trout to safeguard the genetic variability of native wild stocks, by 2012;
- the urgent adoption of measures to minimise by-catch of undersized fish and non-target species by 2012,
- by an evaluation of the effectiveness of existing technical measures, by 2008, to minimise by-catch of harbour porpoises, and to introduce adequate new technologies and measures.
The Contracting Parties have also agreed to safeguard the long-term viability of the Baltic seal populations according to HELCOM Recommendation 27-28/2, by following its general management principles, and by 2012, to finalise national management plans and by implementation of non-lethal mitigation measures for seals-fisheries interactions and invite competent authorities to establish an international co-operation network to agree on guidelines to promote the ecosystem-based management of coastal fisheries in the Baltic region (HELCOM FISH-PRO).
The HELCOM 2013 Copenhagen Ministerial Declaration includes a section for fisheries-related actions, especially within Marine Protected Areas, including commitments to address fisheries practices with negative impacts on conservation goals, to develop and implement sustainable fishing practises into management plans for marine protected areas and to further develop and test the HELCOM generic decision-support tool to map possible negative impacts of specific fishing gear types on threatened or declining species and habitats, and to recommend measures to tackle these impacts.
The Declaration also addresses ecosystem-based fisheries regarding i.a. safe limits for commercially exploited fish and shellfish populations, discard ban, multispecies managamenet plan, by-catch, coastal fish populations and aggregated fisheries data. See more on page 9 of the Declaration.
In the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) it has been agreed to increase knowledge on and protection of Baltic marine habitats, communities and species by i.a. the development and implementation of effective monitoring and reporting systems for all by-caught birds and mammals. HELCOM in co-operation with the 1991 Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) has also developed a database on Baltic harbour porpoise sightings, by-catches, strandings and hunted individuals.
In the HELCOM Copenhagen 2013 Ministerial Declaration it was decided to protect the Gulf of Finland ringed seal and it was stressed that immediate action is needed to significantly reduce by-catch and to improve the understanding of the other direct threats on the species. The Ministers also agreed to take decisive action to work towards a favourable conservation status of the harbor porpoise based on implementation of the CMS ASCOBANS Jastarnia Plan for the harbor porpoise in the Baltic Sea, in particular by addressing the pressing problem of by-catch (Declaration point 4B).
The ministers also decided to take action to reduce the negative impacts of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem and to this end, support the development of fisheries management and technical measures to minimize unwanted by-catch of fish, birds and mammals in order to achieve the close to zero target for by-catch rates of the Baltic Sea Action Plan and minimize damage to sea bed habitats (Declaration point 15B).