Strides forward for responsible fishing in the Mediterranean
The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), which met in Tunis last week for its annual session, adopted a number of recommendations towards sustainable fisheries management.
Among other things, agreement was reached on the setting up of a GFCM fishing fleet register and on the use of at least 40 mm square mesh in trawl fisheries –to avoid small fish and other marine organisms from being accidentally caught in the nets. Moreover, the newly introduced obligation to equip all vessels measuring more than 15m overall length with a satellite-based monitoring system is an important step making it possible, on the one hand, to follow fleet developments and monitor fishing activity, and on the other to provide reliable data for scientific evaluation. Eventually, a compromise solution was also found to improve protection in an area of the Gulf of Lions, where according to the GFCM Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) special attention is needed to protect adult specimen of hake in the spawning phase. The fishing effort of all demersal fishing activity in this area has been frozen pending the preparation of further scientific advice. For another highly problematic issue, the sardines of the Adriatic Sea, SAC was given a mandate to improve the scientific basis so as to better understand the state of small pelagic stocks and fisheries in this sea. All GFCM members are now required to submit catch statistics as well as biological and economic data on their fisheries and aquaculture activities; this will improve future scientific analysis and create a level-playing field in the provision of scientific advice. An overall reduction by at least 10% of the fishing effort all over the Mediterranean was agreed as well. With respect to the effective functioning of the organisation, a performance review system was introduced, as is customary in other regional fisheries management organisations, and a Finance and Administration Committee was created to secure the smooth functioning and optimal use of funds. The European Commission was the leading force behind most of the tabled proposals.