Dividing the fishy spoils

  • 2002-11-07

Latvian and Estonian officials agreed on Nov. 1 on a division of next year's herring catch in the Gulf of Riga next, while Latvia announced it will insist on the right to fish smaller herring in its upcoming talks with the European Union.

The bilateral negotiations were held in Riga in order to divide the 41,000 ton herring quota assigned by the International Sea Fishery Commission (ISFC) for the Gulf of Riga.

According to Ain Soome, head of the fishery resources department at the Estonian Environment Ministry, Estonian officials argued from the position that the common quota has to be divided in accordance with the key requirement given by the ISFC, according to which 59.65 percent of the quota belongs to Estonia.

Latvian officials said earlier that Latvian fishermen's catch volumes had to be taken into account to guard against any possible reduction in the future.

The two sides ultimately decided that Estonia will be allowed to catch 26,037 tons of herring next year, of which 18,131 tons is Gulf of Riga herring, while the remainder - 7,906 tons - consists of rights to herring in the open part of the Baltic Sea.

Latvia's quota for next year is 21,130 tons in the Gulf of Riga and 204 tons in the open sea.

Soome said Estonia traded 3,006 tons of the Gulf of Riga quota, receiving the same amount of extra fishing rights from Latvia in the open part of the sea.

"An equal swap took place and the compromise was mutual," he said. "The decision is for one year."

Soome also said Estonia had been interested namely in getting additional herring in the open sea, since it was there that the country's fishermen used to go after their haul.

Next year's joint quota of 41,000 tons of herring in the Gulf of Riga is substantially less than this year's.

On Nov. 4 Latvia's Foreign Ministry announced that the country will seek the right to catch smaller-size Baltic herring - not conforming to the EU standard - in the northern part of the Baltic Sea and in the Gulf of Riga.

The amendment to Latvia's official position in the EU membership talks on the fisheries chapter was approved by the government on Nov. 4.

The Foreign Ministry claims that introduction of the regulation laying down common standards for fish products will create problems for Latvia's fishing industry since a large part of the country's traditional herring haul does not conform to EU standards.

The Baltic herring caught in the northern part of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga is of a smaller size than required in the respective legislation. The size difference, according to Latvian officials, is due to the natural environment, including salt level, water temperature, and feeding opportunities for the herring.

Generally, however, Latvia is satisfied with its fishing quotas for next year. Normunds Riekstins, head of Latvia's national fishing administration, said that results of talks with EU officials on exchange of fishing quotas should be seen as positive.

Next year Latvian fishermen will be allowed to catch 1,450 tons of cod in EU waters, while EU fishermen will be allowed to catch 950 tons of cod in Latvian waters.

Riekstins added that one novelty next year will be the requirement to track fishing boats by satellite to determine their location. He said Latvia's fishermen should not have any problems meeting the requirement since they are already obligated to have similar equipment under Latvian law.

Riekstins said that Latvian ships would not be able to fish in EU waters if they had not met this requirement.