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Oceans and fisheries
News announcement25 February 2022Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries2 min read

Baltic Sea conservation: EU acts to protect harbour porpoises

Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)
Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) © Colette / Adobe Stock

Tomorrow, 26 February, new measures to protect Baltic Proper harbour porpoises from being caught in fishing operations come into effect.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, welcomed the development:

We are increasing the protection of these critically endangered marine mammals, but still more needs to be done in line with the European Green Deal and the Biodiversity Strategy 2030. These measures were proposed by the Member States directly concerned and, according to science, they are only the first step. We will continue to work closely with the Member States on additional measures to improve the protection of this iconic species and help the recovery of its population.

Baltic Proper harbour porpoises live in areas of the sea that are also subject to fishing and sometimes become entangled in fishing nets. To prevent this, 11 marine areas are now closed to fishing with static nets or fishing gears must be equipped with acoustic deterrent devices to warn away these marine mammals.

The new measures include:

  • A year-round closure for fishing with static nets in the Natura 2000 area of Hoburgs bank och Midsjöbankarna and in the Southern Midsea Bank,
  • A year-round closure for all fisheries, except for fishing with pots, traps and longlines in one area (Northern Midsea Bank),
  • A seasonal closure for fishing with static nets in nine Natura 2000 sites (Adler Grund and Rønne Banke, Adlergrund, Westliche Rönnebank, Pommersche Bucht mit Oderbank, Greifswalder Boddenrandschwelle und Teile der Pommerschen Bucht, Ostoja na Zatoce Pomorskiej, Wolin i Uznam, Pommersche Bucht, Sydvästskånes utsjövatten) ,
  • The obligatory use of acoustic deterrent devices in two Natura 2000 sites of Poland and Sweden (in the West and East of the sandbank Ryf Mew, within and outside the Natura 2000 site Zatoka Pucka i Półwysep Helski; and in the Natura 2000 site Sydvästskånes utsjövatten).  

The measures are based on the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). They are the outcome of almost two years of joint efforts by the Commission and eight Baltic Sea Member States (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden), resulting in a binding EU Regulation.


Based on the advice by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Baltic Sea Member States (BALTFISH) submitted to the Commission two joint recommendations for reducing incidental catches of harbour porpoises in some areas of the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) concluded that, if effectively implemented, these measures will contribute to reducing unintended, incidental catches of the Baltic Proper harbour porpoise.

Baltic harbour porpoises are an intelligent species that lives in areas of the sea that are also subject to fishing and sometimes become entangled in fishing nets. This population of the species has been assessed as “critically endangered’’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) and is in “unfavourable status” under the EU Habitats Directive.

More information

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2022/303 of 15 December 2021 amending Regulation (EU) 2019/1241 as regards measures to reduce incidental catches of the resident population of the Baltic Proper harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the Baltic Sea


Publication date
25 February 2022
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries