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