The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the FAO, in collaboration with the Lakes and Fish Resources Protection and Development Agency of Egypt and with the financial support of the MAVA Foundation, organised the final event of the Towards a region-wide legal framework for the management and conservation of Mediterranean living marine resources and ecosystems project in Luxor, during which finalisation of the flagship initiative of this project – GFCM-Lex – took centre stage.
This workshop marking the final event under the umbrella of the current GFCM-Lex project, which is due to end on 31st October 2022, focused on the work undertaken in close co-operation with the project’s beneficiary countries – Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Türkiye – to retrieve, analyse and store national legislations on fisheries and aquaculture stemming from recommendations adopted by the GFCM.
‘Throughout the Mediterranean region, people have generally experienced a lack of access to information they need relating to fishing activities,’ said GFCM compliance officer Nicola Ferri.
‘With this project, the MAVA Foundation aimed to provide a transparent and user-friendly way of getting information and to build relationships with international and regional instruments, starting from the GFCM recommendations.’
‘The project intends to enable fishers, practitioners, administrators, scientists, researchers, lawyers and any other user with an interest in the sector to access, use and contribute to GFCM-Lex,’ commented Toni Ettel, programme operations officer at FAO Egypt, at the opening of the workshop.
‘The GFCM will ensure that these stakeholders are aware of applicable legislation around the Mediterranean and are able to share relevant information for the constant updating of the repository.’
National legislations available in multiple languages
In the Mediterranean region, access to national legislations on the management and conservation of marine living resources and ecosystems is limited and information can be hard to find, particularly for users without a legal background. There is a general lack of knowledge of existing national legislation, with little awareness of the laws and decrees that have been adopted over the years to transpose GFCM recommendations.
An increasing need to exchange best practices is constrained by national legislation usually being available only in their respective national languages and rarely in other languages. GFCM-Lex responds to the need for a transparent and user-friendly, multilingual online repository built on the Wiki engine. The platform is available in English, in addition to the national languages of the countries covered. National profiles are presented in a standardised template structured around multiple key areas of fisheries and aquaculture: types of fisheries, access regimes to fisheries resources, conservation and management, monitoring, control and surveillance, aquaculture – fisheries interactions, and social protection for the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
GFCM-Lex first tested the methodology at the subregional level in three countries: Albania, Tunisia and Türkiye. The geographical scope was then expanded to four additional countries with the financial assistance of the MAVA Foundation: Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco. In turn, all countries in the GFCM area of application are being progressively included in the platform, benefitting from the experience gained through the pilot stage.
Among the many achievements of the project, a social protection component was included in the national profiles thanks to the cooperation of the FAO Fisheries Division and will be extended to the other countries in the region in the near future. GFCM-Lex was also developed to function as an information hub, bringing together international organisations, academia and non-governmental organisations to collect technical contents in order to enhance the platform.
‘In Egypt, the legislation in the field dates back more than forty years, but our country is now amending its legal framework, and the GFCM-Lex project has been a driving force in initiating this project,’ said Doaa Hammam, GFCM focal point for the Lakes and Fish Resources Protection and Development Agency of Egypt.
The achievements of the project and related success stories were shared in the final workshop in Luxor with national representatives, GFCM partners and project steering committee members. Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Türkiye participated in the workshop conducted by the GFCM together with support from the FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa and the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Division (NFI).
Although the project is coming to an end, the GFCM-Lex platform continues to grow, with a view to reaching the objective of sharing experiences and harmonising legal frameworks in the region for the sustainable management and conservation of living marine resources. A harmonised framework will also be essential to help the region face current other challenges, such as pollution and climate change.
Finally, exploring ways to replicate the experience within the region and beyond is expected, as well as finding links with other national, regional and regional databases and platforms in order to enhance the cooperative network already established.