The cod population in the Eastern Baltic Sea has reached such a low level that it can no longer reproduce sufficiently to maintain a healthy stock, according to a report by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

Concerns over dwindling stocks have been building for years, but reached a crisis point in January when data gleaned from the Baltic international trawl surveys showed a record number of boats came back empty.  A coalition of green NGOs - The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Oceana, Coalition Clean Baltic, and others - called upon fisheries ministers in the Baltic states to immediately close fisheries of the species.

"What we now are seeing is new, the scientific data and also catches suggest that the stock has now tipped over from bad/weak to collapse and is basically not there anymore," said Nils Hoglund from the Clean Baltic Coalition.  

"For years it's been bringing large profits to fishing and processing industries and it's hard to imagine summer vacations by the Baltic Sea without fried cod," said Andrzej Bialas, policy advisor at Oceana.

The groups expect the European Union will understand the need for a cod fishing moratorium in the eastern Baltic Sea, but are concerned about timing.  Cod begin to spawn next month, and they really need to be left alone this time around.

"If we wait for the usual political process to run its course, it will mean goodbye to Eastern Baltic cod," said the NGOs.