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:
In a nutshell, the Mediterranean Regulation contains two sets of rules:
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.
a) Fishing limits: Mediterranean fisheries in EU waters are managed through:
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:
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:
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.
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The EU organised and hosted a three-day meeting for scientists from the 10 signatories to the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The meeting took place from 11 to 13 February 2020 at the EU Joint Research Centre in Ispra (Italy). The agreement will ban unregulated fisheries in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean for 16 years. During this period, a scientific research and monitoring programme will be put in place. At the meeting, scientists discussed concrete ways to implement this programme.
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has developed a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) used in maritime surveillance operations.
The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has published three compliance evaluation reports on the implementation of the landing obligation. These reports confirm that non-compliance with the landing obligation has been widespread in the North Sea and North Western Waters for specific fisheries during the evaluation period (2015 to 2017). The failure to enforce the landing obligation is a matter of serious concern to the European Commission and jeopardises the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which includes ensuring the long-term environmental sustainability of fishing activities and the gradual elimination of discards.