Concerned with the steep decline of fish stocks in the Mediterranean, on 27 April Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella hosted a high level Ministerial meeting with fisheries ministers from countries bordering the Mediterranean. Nineteen out of twenty-two riparian countries were represented, as well as GFCM (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean), FAO and MEDAC (Mediterranean Advisory Council).
All delegations praised the importance of this event, which allowed all interested countries across the Mediterranean to exchange views on the future of fisheries. The critical status of fish stocks is a shared concern, as is the ambition to restore Mediterranean fisheries - and with them the fishing sector - to good health.
Discussions led to identify strong converging views in several key-areas: the need to focus efforts on the stocks that are important for the sector's viability and to apply targeted and proportionate measures; the need to improve scientific cooperation, support small-scale fisheries and fight together against illegal fishing; and the need for solidarity between countries when it comes to shouldering the additional burden of modernisation and control.
The socio-economic importance of the fisheries sector and the need to involve fishermen in a bottom-up approach were recalled by many speakers. Participants also underlined that GFCM and ICCAT should continue to play a fundamental role in regional fisheries management.
Commissioner Vella invited participants to meet again in 2017 to endorse a ministerial declaration on the sustainability of fisheries in the Mediterranean. This would come 14 years after the 2003 Venice ministerial declaration to give new vision and impetus to sustainability and conservation in the Mediterranean Sea. However that should not prevent us, he stressed, from implementing any urgent measures that are needed to avoid the collapse of stocks in the meantime. We must continue working for the future of fishermen and their families.
Commissioner Vella said he is confident that the basin's countries will be able to build the comprehensive response that is needed to restore Mediterranean fish stocks and improve the livelihood of fishermen. Reversing the trend is still possible, and the recovery of blue-fin tuna is there to remind us of what we can achieve if we take our responsibilities and join forces.
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