Saving the Mediterranean: the new priority of the Common Fisheries Policy

Thursday 25 May 2017

Since 2016, a set of EU regulatory, political and diplomatic initiatives have been aiming at one single objective: saving the Mediterranean Sea fish stocks.

93% of the fish stocks scientifically assessed in the Mediterranean are overexploited and many others have never been evaluated. The Mediterranean Sea has lost 41% of its marine mammals and 34% of its total fish populations in the past 50 years. Pollution, climate change and overfishing are the main threats faced by species in this sea[1]. In light of these findings, the Maltese European Commissioner for Fisheries Karmenu Vella decided to take action.

The Mediterranean Sea has always enjoyed a special status in the Common Fisheries Policy, with its own technical measures and management resources (escaping in particular the quotas imposed in the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea - except in the case of bluefin tuna). The Mediterranean, the southern frontier of the European Union is bounded by 25 countries, counts a wide diversity of species making selective fishing virtually impossible and has long been regarded as an unmanageable fishing zone.

The first step in this mobilisation was taken in Catania (Italy) in February 2016, when the basis for a future strategy for the management of Mediterranean fisheries was discussed within the Mediterranean Fisheries Advisory Council (MEDAC), in the presence of many representatives of EU Member States and third countries.

On the 27th April 2016, Commissioner Vella presented the "MEDFISH4EVER" strategy to "ensure the sustainability of fisheries in the Mediterranean"[2] at the International SeaFood Fair in Brussels and launched a dialogue between all EU countries plus Algeria, Turkey and Tunisia on this issue. The Commission has followed up on these efforts during the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), which on the 23rd September 2016 concluded its meeting by agreeing on actions, funding and quantifiable targets in the framework of the Fisheries Sustainability Strategy in the Mediterranean.

At the beginning of 2017, when the Commission published the Adriatic Sea multi-annual plan, the first proposal for a multiannual management plan for the Mediterranean, a Ministerial Conference bringing together many stakeholders launched the "MedFish4Ever" declaration[3]. The signatory countries from both sides of the Mediterranean committed to:

- Scientifically evaluate all important fish stocks by 2020;

- Establish Multi-annual Fisheries Management Plans for the main species;

- Through the GFCM, put in place legal, human and technical means to eliminate illegal fishing by 2020;

- Support the sustainability efforts of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture through the financing of local projects.

The political will to change the situation finally seems to be present. The European Commission is now devoting its efforts to the organisation of the international conference "Our Ocean" on 5-6 October, to be held in Malta[4]. This event will highlight the scope of the work that remains to be done, as evidenced by its working themes: marine protected areas, climate change, sustainable fisheries and marine pollution.



[1] Saving our heritage, our future: The worrying state of Mediterranean fish stocks https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/saving-our-heritage-worrying-state-mediterranean-fish-stocks

[2] “"Ensuring the sustainability of Mediterranean Fisheries" Seafood Expo Global.” https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2014-2019/vella/announcements/ensuring-sustainability-mediterranean-fisheries-seafood-expo-global_en

[3] La Commission européenne obtient un engagement pour les dix prochaines années visant à sauver des ressources halieutiques en Méditerranée/ European Commission secures 10-year pledge to save Mediterranean fish stocks http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-770_en.htm

[4] https://ourocean2017.org/

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