Time to put Mediterranean at heart of EU fisheries reform, says WWF
“If there’s to be any chance of breathing life back into Europe’s fisheries, a radically new fisheries management approach tailored to the Mediterranean must be central,” said Dr Sergi Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean. “For too long the EU has failed Mediterranean fishermen and Mediterranean fish alike. The time is now to rebalance the equation, before it’s too late.”
With its multi-species fisheries and diverse range of fishing gears, the Mediterranean accounts for nearly 50 per cent of fishing vessels and over 60 per cent of fishermen’s jobs in Europe. But this region has always been considered an outlier by EU policy-makers – given low priority and minimal profile in EU fisheries policy.
For almost two decades, the European Union’s so-called Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has failed to achieve sustainable fisheries management in Europe’s Mediterranean waters. Instead Mediterranean fisheries have been seen as too complicated and treated as a case apart, with separate regulations.
The result has been chronic mismanagement, lack of rule enforcement and years of destructive overfishing in the Mediterranean Sea that have left fish stocks and fishermen’s yields at an all-time low.
A 2010 assessment by the EU Commission’s own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries concluded that 32 out of 36 Mediterranean fish stocks analysed were overexploited – a result of inappropriate and unsuccessful fisheries management.
Welcoming EU Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Maria Damanaki to their Mediterranean headquarters in Rome today, WWF fish experts stressed that a new operational framework is needed for Mediterranean fisheries, focusing on effort management – to ensure that the size and activity of fishing fleets is commensurate with the recovery needs of Mediterranean fish populations.
“Avoiding double standards in accountability will make the difference: all EU fisheries must be subject to common standards and formal delivery processes – in both Mediterranean and Atlantic waters – while respecting regional differences,” said Tudela.
“A new ambitious Mediterranean management framework must deliver into the same conservation standards as the long-established operational scheme applied to Atlantic fisheries, and WWF trusts Commissioner Damanaki is leading towards that outcome.”
WWF says European fisheries in all European seas should be subject to Long-Term Management Plans (LTMPs) involving all concerned stakeholders, with the obligation to deliver on EU-wide common conservation standards by the same agreed deadlines.
Mediterranean fisheries management should also be adaptive, with regular reviews based on the routine provision of standardised scientific advice. Managing fishing areas based on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), for example, will avoid harm being caused to protected habitats and species, thereby conserving the wider marine ecosystem.
“Neither Mediterranean marine ecosystems and fish stocks nor fishermen and society at large can afford a new failure of the CFP to fully address Mediterranean fisheries this time. The degradation trend has reached a tipping point and this may be the last chance,” said Sergi Tudela of WWF.
For further information:
Gemma Parkes, WWF Mediterranean
Tel: +39 346 387 3237