The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean has called a high-level conference to renew commitments made under the MedFish4Ever declaration: important progress has been made so far, but there is still much to be done to secure long-term sustainability for Mediterranean fisheries.
The MedFish4Ever declaration was signed in 2017 by 16 Mediterranean coastal nations – Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey – and the European Commission to counter the threats facing fish stocks across the Mediterranean.
The high-level conference, which takes place Marrakech, brings together the MedFish4Ever signatories to review progress and drive dialogue on how to go further towards securing long-term sustainability for Mediterranean fisheries.
‘As described in our SoMFi report released last December, which shows a decrease in the number of overfished stocks for the first time in decades, we have reasons to start being optimistic – but in a very cautious way. The effort we’ve put into working through strong collaborations and better data collection is paying off, but there’s still a long way to go before we reach all the objectives we gave ourselves with the MedFish4Ever declaration,’ said Abdellah Srour, Executive Secretary of the GFCM.
Fishing is at the heart of the Mediterranean identity. For generations it has played a central role in society, providing food and jobs across the region and strengthening the social fabric of countless communities. Today, some 250 000 people are directly employed on fishing boats, along with many hundreds of thousands who work in the industry and its supply chains on shore.
Each year the Mediterranean fleet catches nearly 1 million tonnes fish, but this figure has been decreasing to 850,000 tonnes in the last decade. Like many fisheries worldwide, the future of this activity in the Mediterranean region has been seriously threatened in the last decades by overfishing, increased pollution and other anthropogenic factors. In this highly populated region, the loss of reliable fisheries that support people’s livelihoods would also have impacts on the geopolitical balance of the region.
The conference has a particular focus on improving working conditions in the industry, and on fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. MedFish4Ever recognises that coastal communities need to be protected against the risks and uncertainties that come from being reliant on fishing, and the conference will seek to identify ways of combating poverty, reducing marginalisation and promoting resilient livelihoods. The role of women in the industry is currently under particular scrutiny. They need recognition and support.
IUU fishing is causing serious problems across the Mediterranean, because it undermines the opportunity to guarantee a sound implementation of management plans which are needed for stock recovery.
‘IUU fishing does not only impact the fish stocks, but also have important social and economic impacts. It reduces incomes and increases risks both for the people working at sea but also for the sustainability of fishing activities. Legitimate fishers know that IUU fishing poses a threat to their future, and they’re keen to collaborate with other stakeholders to protect their livelihoods,’ said Miguel Bernal, Fisheries Officer at the GFCM.
The GFCM is helping MedFish4Ever signatories to work together and implement a shared regional plan of action to combat IUU fishing.
‘We’re at year two of a 10-year commitment – and we’ve got to keep going for the sake of our fish and our fishers. The Mediterranean’s a relatively small sea. Its fish stocks recognise no borders, and its fisheries are a shared resource. It’s in the interests of every Mediterranean country to come together and fight to preserve them,’ concludes Abdellah Srour.
‘That’s what this conference is all about.’