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The rules in force

The rules in force

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The rules in force

Fishing boat, Croatia ©iStockphoto.com/Tashka

Mediterranean fisheries are governed using an ecosystem approach to fisheries management that fully integrates the environmental dimension. Council Regulation (EC) No 1967/2006, also known as the ‘Mediterranean Regulation’, has been in force since January 2007 (or since June 2010 for some provisions that enjoyed a grace period). The Regulation aims at:

  • protecting juvenile fish, which are mostly concentrated in coastal zones
  • improving species and size selectivity, in particular for trawlers
  • establishing maximum dimensions for certain fishing gears, to curb the fishing effort
  • preventing conflicts between fishermen, with special attention given to small-scale coastal fishermen. This is to be achieved by banning more active gears, such as trawlers and purse seines, from coastal areas
  • establishing a minimum landing size for several important species
  • enlarging the network of marine protected areas
  • having decentralised management of multiannual management plans that are established first at national level through the adoption of compulsory national management plans.

In a nutshell, the Mediterranean Regulation contains two sets of rules:

  1. management measures and obligations intended to protect sensitive habitats from the impact of fishing activities, to enlarge the network of marine protected areas and to prohibit destructive fishing practices;
  2. technical measures on the dimension, number and selectivity of the fishing gears allowed in the various fisheries, such as minimum mesh size, twine thickness and other technical requirements (read more #4)

Under the Regulation, EU countries must develop more detailed rules through long-term management plans for fisheries in their territorial waters. If the need arises for international rules or if an EU country fails to amend a national plan considered inadequate, the Commission can propose long-term EU management plans.

To adapt to the local specificities of certain fisheries, it is possible to obtain local derogations to certain rules, as long as they do not jeopardise environmental compatibility and sustainable exploitation. The adoption of a long-term management plan is one of the basic preconditions for granting possible derogations and is an obligation in itself. EU countries are also required to map sensitive fish habitats and designate an improved network of protected areas.

A formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the Mediterranean Regulation and its alignment to the new Common Fisheries Policy is currently under way.

The main fisheries management instruments currently used in the Mediterranean Sea

a) Fishing limits: Mediterranean fisheries in EU waters are managed through:

  • Input measures (i.e. effort management). This is the traditional way of managing fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • In a few cases, output measures (i.e. TAC for bluefin tuna and swordfish, and recently catch limits for the small pelagic fisheries in the Adriatic Sea).
  • minimum conservation reference sizes
  • closed areas (to protect sensitive habitats)
  • closed seasons (to protect juveniles or spawning stocks)
  • restrictions on gear construction (mesh size, gear dimensions etc.).

b) International rules: Mediterranean fisheries are also regulated by the GFCM and by ICCAT for highly migratory species. At the 40th annual session of the GFCM in Malta from 30 May to 3 June 2016, a set of recommendations were adopted for fisheries conservation and management. The recommendations covered the following issues:

  • a mid-term strategy (2017-2020) toward the sustainability of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries;
  • a regional scheme on port State measures to combat IUU fishing activities;
  • the Data Collection Reference Framework;
  • on red coral;
  • a minimum conservation reference size for hake in the Mediterranean Sea;
  • a multiannual plan for hake and deep-water rose shrimp in the Strait of Sicily; including setting up a working group to develop an inspection scheme in this area;
  • on scientific monitoring, management and control of turbot fisheries in the Black Sea;
  • further emergency measures for small pelagics stocks (anchovy and sardines) in the Adriatic Sea;
  • on sustainable small-scale fisheries.

Coastal fisheries are mainly regulated by each EU country through its own national legislation and national management plans.

c) National rules: So far EU countries have adopted 35 national management plans (under Article 19 of the Mediterranean Regulation ) for fisheries conducted within their territorial waters. Five more are in preparation.

d) EU rules: Article 18 of the Mediterranean Regulation provides for the adoption of EU management plans (in co-decision) for specific fisheries, in areas totally or partially beyond the territorial waters of EU countries. There are currently no EU plans in force in the Mediterranean, but two are in preparation:

  • one on small pelagic species in the Adriatic Sea;
  • one on demersal species in the western Mediterranean.

e) Landing obligation: a landing obligation for small pelagic stocks in the Mediterranean has been in force since 1 January 2015. Its implementation is currently regulated by a temporary three-year discard plan. Discard plans for turbot fisheries in the Black Sea, for certain demersal fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea and for clams in Italian waters entered into force on 1 January 2017.