Fisheries

What is the EU doing?

What is the EU doing?

What is the EU doing?

Scallops at Seafood Market, Venice, Italy©iStockphoto.com/lillisphotography

Early 2016 the European Commission launched a process to build political consensus among all Mediterranean stakeholders and, crucially, obtain a commitment from all EU and non-EU countries to take concrete actions. The primary objective is to have a new common declaration on the sustainable management of fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea that should pave the way for sustainable exploitation in this sea basin. Here are the main steps in the process so far:

February 2016— At a high-level seminar in Catania, Italy, scientists gave their diagnosis on the alarming status of the fish stocks. The need to strengthen the collective response to overfishing became incontrovertibly clear.

April 2016 — The Commission gathered ministers from all Mediterranean countries (both EU and non-EU countries) to discuss the way forward. All committed to intensifying cooperation in fisheries management and agreed on a number of guiding principles for action. The European Commission launched a call to action through a public awareness campaign called ‘MedFish4Ever’.

June 2016 — The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) adopted a set of measures to support the recovery of fish stocks and the protection of vulnerable habitats in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. The GFCM also set out the principles of a new strategy for 2017-2020 covering all areas of fisheries management (scientific advice, coastal communities, small-scale fishing, control, illegal fishing, international cooperation and development support).

September 2016 — Discussions continued at the GFCM on preparing the strategy. The GFCM agreed on the implementation of the medium-term strategy for the sustainability of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries, establishing the timeframe and prioritisation of actions, funding and quantifiable goals.

November 2016 — The Mediterranean countries decided at ICCAT's annual meeting to address the dire situation of Mediterranean swordfish. For the first time catches are subject to yearly limits and a number of technical and management measures are introduced to regulate minimum size, recording and reporting, recreational fisheries and international inspections.

Since last December 2016, the European Commission is working to finalise the drafting of a new declaration on the sustainable management of fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea, including a wide consultation among EU Member States, other Mediterranean riparian countries and stakeholders.

The guiding principles for action

  • Action must be collective. Acting in isolation will not work given that fish stocks are shared either with non-EU countries or between EU countries.
  • Action is urgent. To avoid the collapse of fish stocks, measures need to be implemented soon and with both a medium and a long-term perspective.
  • Management measures need to be strengthened at all levels: i.e. national, European and international.
  • On top of that, control, enforcement and stock assessment need improving.
  • Ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management must be integrated. Fish stocks are not only affected by fisheries but also by other factors such as food and nursery availability or water temperature.
  • The socioeconomic impact of the measures must be carefully evaluated, with particular attention to small-scale fisheries.
  • All parties concerned, including industry, must be involved in the process.
  • Countries should provide each other with technical assistance to modernise the fisheries sector and their monitoring capacity.

Next steps

Within the EU, the European Commission and the EU countries are working together to prepare:

  • two EU multiannual plans, one for small pelagic species in the Adriatic and one for demersal species in the western Mediterranean
  • a set of transitional management measures to be applied nationally by the end of 2017 that will contribute to reduce the degradation of stocks. For instance, measures agreed between France and Spain to protect hake juveniles in the Gulf of Lion.
  • new discard plans and the adaptation of national management plans to the Common Fisheries Policy.

Internationally, the Commission is preparing the next ministerial conference, to be held in Malta on 29-30 March 2017. At the next conference ministers are expected to adopt a new declaration on the sustainable management of fisheries in the Mediterranean that should give new impetus to conservation efforts. Its predecessor, the Venice Declaration of 2003, laid the foundations for improving scientific research, protecting vulnerable areas and limiting the fishing effort.