Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: "I am happy that an agreement was reached on our proposal for the Western Mediterranean Sea region presenting a momentous leap forward in delivering concrete EU commitment to restore vital fish stocks and prevent a loss of jobs in sectors that depend on fisheries. The Mediterranean Sea is highly overfished, as we know, and this first multi-annual plan gives the reassurances needed to change the situation for the better – a win-win situation for our fishermen and oceans alike setting the bar for further progress in the Mediterranean."
Around 16,000 jobs depend on the robust stock preservation measures detailed in the plan. The proposal covers demersal fish stocks, i.e. fish that live and feed at the bottom of the seabed. Catches for these stocks have significantly decreased by around 23 % since the early 2000s. At this rate, more than 90 % of the stocks assessed would be overfished by 2025. The agreement reached last night aims to tackle this critical and urgent issue, and bring back demersal fish stocks to sustainable levels, while ensuring long-term profitability for our fishers.
Given the worrying situation of the stocks and the date of entering into force of the plan, a five-year transitional period was included in order to progressively decrease fishing mortality towards the target MSY. The main measures of the plan include an EU fishing effort regime for all trawl vessels operating in the western Mediterranean and a 3-month closure area for the protection of juveniles. Recreational fisheries will also play a greater role, with the possibility of setting non-discriminatory limits in the Council and technical measures through Regionalisation. Finally, control measures will fully apply in order to monitor the fishing effort regime. Once formally adopted, this will be the first multi-annual plan at EU level in the Mediterranean Sea. This reflects Commission’s important work and ambition for Mediterranean fisheries.
This multi-annual plan is the fourth proposal adopted in line with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), on which the co-legislators reached an agreement, after the Baltic Sea, North Sea and Western Waters. It covers the western Mediterranean Sea, which extends along the Northern Alboran Sea, the Gulf of Lion and the Tyrrhenian Sea, covering the Balearic archipelago and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia and concerns mainly France, Italy and Spain. In 2015, the fleet covered by this multiannual plan includes almost 10 900 vessels, where 50% are Italian, 39% Spanish and 11% French (Annual Economic Report, 2017).
Under the CFP, multi-annual plans contribute to achieving fishing at sustainable levels. They also contain measures to implement the landing obligation, technical measures, as well as safeguards for remedial action where needed.
The proposal has been subject to a thorough impact assessment and is based on the best available scientific advice from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STEFC). The Mediterranean Sea Advisory Council was extensively consulted and released its opinion in November 2017. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) also provided its opinion in July 2018. In addition, a 4-month public consultation was carried out in 2016.
This multi-annual plan delivers on the political commitment taken in the MedFish4Ever Declaration to save the Mediterranean fish stocks.