To improve the cod stocks in the Baltic Sea, a number of regulations have recently been established by the International Baltic Sea Fisheries Commission (IBSFC) and the European Commission. According to these, fishermen are obliged to use nets with escape windows (BACOMA nets) with a mesh size of the escape window of 120 mm until end of September 2003. These nets however, retain only fish much larger than the legal minimum landing size would al-low. Due to the present stock structure only few of such large fish are however existent. As a consequence fishermen use a legal alternative net. This is a conventional trawl with a cod-end of 130 mm diamond-shaped meshes (IBSFC-rules of 1st April 2002), to be increased to 140 mm on 1st September 2003, according to the mentioned IBSFC-rule. Due legal alterations of the net by the fishermen (e.g. use of extra stiff net material) these nets have acquired extremely low selective properties, i. e. they catch very small fish and produce great amounts of discards. Due to the increase of the minimum landing size from 35 to 38 cm for cod in the Baltic, the amount of discards has even increased since the beginning of 2003. Experiments have now been carried out with the BACOMAnet on German and Swedish commercial and research vessels since arguments were brought forward that the BACOMA net was not yet sufficiently tested on commercial vessels. The results of all experiments conducted so far, are compiled and evaluated here. As a result of the Swedish, Danish and German initiative and research the European Commission reacted upon this in June 2003 and rejected the increase of the diamond-meshed non-BACOMA net from 130 mm to 140mm in September 2003.
To protect the cod stocks in the Baltic Sea more effectively the use of traditional diamond meshed cod-ends with-out escape window are prohibited in community waters without derogation, becoming effective 1st of September 2003. To enable more effective and simplified control of the bottom trawl fishery in the Baltic Sea the principle of a ”One-Net-Rule“ is enforced. This is going to be the BACOMA net, with the meshes of the escape window being 110 mm for the time being. The description of the BACOMA net as given in the IBSFC-rules no.10 (revision of the 28th session, Berlin 2002) concentrates on the cod-end and the escape window but only to a less extent on the design and mesh-composition of the remaining parts of the net, such as belly and funnel and many details. Thus, the present description is not complete and leaves, according to fishermen, ample opportunity for manipulation. An initiative has been started in Germany with joint effort from scientists and the fishery to better describe the entire net and to produce a proposal for a more comprehensive description, leaving less space for manipulation. A proposal in this direction is given here and shall be seen as a starting point for a discussion and development towards an internationally uniform net, which is agreed amongst the fishery, scientists and politicians. The Baltic Sea fishery is invited to comment on this proposal, and recommendations for further improvement and specifications are welcomed. Once the design is agreed by the Baltic Fishermen Association, it shall be proposed to the IBSFC and European Commission via the Baltic Fishermen Association.