European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella. (Photo: EC)
EU launches Mediterranean stock recovery strategy
Thursday, April 28, 2016, 00:50 (GMT + 9)
European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella launched a new Mediterranean strategy at the Seafood Expo Global and a call for action at international level through a dialogue with Ministers from EU and non-EU countries.
To reverse the dramatic decline of Mediterranean fisheries, Commissioner Vella commits to improve the state of the stocks and thus the economic prospects of the industry.
In stark contrast to the North-East Atlantic, where more and more stocks are being fished sustainably, the Mediterranean Sea still laments declining fisheries despite the conservation efforts of both regulators and fishermen. The European Commission, committed to its agenda on jobs and growth, is concerned with what this could mean for the thousands of fishermen active in the Mediterranean.
"The facts are undisputed – Vella said at a recent conference -: fish stocks in the Mediterranean are shrinking. Some are on the verge of depletion. All in all, 93 per cent of the fish stocks assessed are over-exploited. This is an environmental but also a social issue, as it represents a clear threat to the way of life of fishing communities around the Mediterranean".
There are several reasons for this bad state, including pollution and climate change. But there can be no doubt that extensive overfishing is one of the key causes. It is equally true that how all stocks are faring is unknwon because for many there are very partial data. But even the gaps in knowledge cannot be used as an excuse to delay action.
"If we don’t take action now – warns the Commissioner –there is a serious risk that stocks will decline beyond the point of no return and fishermen will have nothing left to fish. Reversing the trend and keeping the livelihood of many coastal communities will require an exceptional effort – but it is possible."
The EU is willing to take the lead in seeking out solutions for this state of affairs, taking on board the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean neighbours.
Commissioner Vella has already been in contact with some of the EU’s key partners, including Algeria, Turkey and Tunisia, and there is a shared sense that action is needed across all stocks. Only a comprehensive approach and a sense of engagement from all actors and countries around the basin can produce concrete results.
At a special Ministerial conference the Commissioner intends to start working on a new Declaration on sustainable fisheries in the Mediterranean that would be a follow-up to the 2003 Venice Declaration and that, this time next year, should give new vision and impetus to conservation and sustainability in the Mediterranean.
In line with this new thrust, this year's EU presence at the seafood exhibition will focus strongly on the Mediterranean. The Commission will showcase some of the most iconic Mediterranean species, and, as usual, Commission experts will be available at the stand for bilateral meetings and information queries.