EU talk of limiting salmon catch stirs debate

4:16 min

Salmon stocks are dangerously low in many Swedish rivers yet an EU proposal to cut the size of the annual catch by 80 percent is facing staunch opposition. And in northern Sweden the proposal is pitting small fishing companies against sport anglers.

"The salmon rivers basically through the whole of Sweden, from the north to south, have less and less fish coming here to spawn," says Glenn Douglas, who belongs to the group Let Wild Salmon Come Home, which supports the EU’s efforts to limit the catch of wild salmon. "Only ten percent of the salmon survive when they leave the rivers on their way into the Baltic.”

Decades of mismanagement along the rivers leading to the Baltic Sea caused the salmon populations to plummet in Sweden. And while authorities were able to turn around the trend in the late 90's, there are once again signs salmon populations are dwindling.

Now EU parliamentarians are negotiating a deal to reverse the trend by cutting the annual catch by 80 percent. The proposal would limit the industry's haul to 53,000 salmon a year, compared to the current 250,000 limit.

But the Swedish fishing industry strongly opposes the measure.

"This proposal does not take into account the gains made in the salmon population over the past 15 years," says Henric Svenberg, the chairman of the Swedish Fishermen Association, which represents about 70 percent of the licensed fishing companies in the country.

Svenberg fears the EU proposal would have disastrous consequences for the commercial salmon fishing industry along Sweden's northern coast.

"The plan even puts a time limit on it – salmon fishing in the Baltic would be gone in seven years," he says.

The EU will vote on the proposal in October.

By Gabriel Stein