These decisions derive directly from the political initiative launched by the EU earlier this year in Catania (February 2016) and in Brussels (April 2016) to improve the state of the Mediterranean fish stocks and the economic prospects of the fishing industry. The strategy itself had been adopted by the GFCM during its 40th annual session last June, and consists of a multiannual project (2017-2020) to reverse the downward trend of fish stocks, improve scientific advice, support both coastal communities and small-scale fishing, ensure a level playing field, curb illegal fishing, improve the health of marine ecosystems and improve fisheries management through international cooperation and development aid.
The EU reiterated its support to the strategy, which marks a step forward towards sustainable fisheries in the Mediterranean and is in line with the Common Fisheries Policy and its pursuit of stronger management of key stocks, stronger scientific and socio-economic analysis, stronger control and enforcement as well as support to the small-scale industry. Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, commented: "The work of GFCM is absolutely crucial for the Mediterranean. We need to help fish stocks recover and the fishing communities thrive, and this 4-year strategy is definitely a step to the right direction. But saving the Med also requires a holistic approach, so what we need now is the political will from all sides of the basin. The Ministerial conference that we are organizing for next year will offer a perfect opportunity, because it will allow us to adopt a new ministerial declaration on sustainable fisheries in the Mediterranean and obtain all-round political engagement".
The ministerial declaration is to be adopted by all Mediterranean countries in March 2017 in Malta and is expected to renew and stimulate international efforts to restore the health of the basin and obtain sustainable fisheries and a productive fishing sector. In parallel to the political campaign and the multilateral work within GFCM, the European Commission engages with stakeholders (industry and fisherman associations, NGOs, other multilateral Institutions, etc.) and has also launched a dedicated public awareness campaign. The campaign has started mapping national, international and NGO-driven actions taken all around the Mediterranean to restore the health of the marine ecosystem and improve the economic prospects of the basin's communities.