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EU Commissioner, Karmenu Vella. (Photo: #medfish4ever)

WWF advocates for new Mediterranean fisheries management approach

Click on the flag for more information about Malta MALTA
Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 00:30 (GMT + 9)

A Ministerial Conference is being organised by the European Commission (EC) on Mediterranean fisheries in Malta, which is deemed as a significant political push to address the alarming state of stocks and its impact on the industry and coastal communities.

Thanks to the preparatory work of European Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella, the EC has secured high level representation from 22 of the 23 countries that share a Mediterranean shoreline. With the political voices from the northern and southern coast present, there is a real window of opportunity.

The Conference will take place from March 29 to 30 and culminate with the signature of the Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration; a political declaration to be signed by all Mediterranean Ministers, thus providing political approval for this unprecedented and important process.

WWF strongly supports the initiative to establish new and effective governance for Mediterranean fisheries, and is fully engaged in the work of MEDAC and of GFCM to contribute to this process.

The NGO is convinced that the interministerial declaration to be signed this week is the last call to save the Mediterranean fish stocks and guarantee long-term livelihoods for future generations and welcomes the Malta Declaration and is eager to contribute to the swift implementation of the actions agreed under it.

WWF experts, who will be present at the conference, have issued a report on the effects of industrialization on fish populations in the Mediterranean, with a consequent impact on the consumption of fish and on fishing livelihoods and on the marine ecosystem as a whole.

The document also states that despite efforts undertaken at all levels, Mediterranean fish stocks remain in crisis: 93 per cent of stocks assessed by the STECF (the scientific committee of the European Commission) are overfished.

Therefore, WWF claims that the transformation of fisheries governance, with significant reduction of fishing capacity and consequently effort, is urgently required and insists that developing a culture of responsibility, accountability and compliance within the fishing sector is essential as well as the improvement in the collection of data on fishing effort and scientific assessments of the status of fisheries and fish stocks.

The environmental organisation states that a group of 13 main species accounts for some 65 per cent of landings, with anchovy (393,500 tonnes) and sardine (186,100 tonnes) being by far the most dominant species in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

Clams (56,000 tonnes), mussels (21,000 tonnes) and the species group of squid, cuttlefish and octopus (58,000 tonnes) also account for substantial landings.

WWF stresses that about 85 per cent of Mediterranean and Black Sea stocks assessed are fished at biologically unsustainable levels. Demersal stocks experience higher fishing mortality rates, while small pelagic stocks show average fishing mortality rates close to the target. Hake stocks in the Mediterranean Sea show the highest fishing pressure, with a fishing mortality rate that is an average of 5 times higher than the target, and for some specific stocks, up to 12 times higher than the target.

The fishing sector in the Mediterranean today has a total landing value of USD 3 billion and a trade value of USD 27 billion. It employs over 250,000 people (of which 55 per cent are artisanal fishers) without considering the employment provided by fish markets, production, distribution and sales.

But overfishing does not only affect the conservation of fish stocks, it has a direct impact on the economy of the region, the wellbeing of coastal communities and employment.

WWF’s analysis presents sustainability as the only way to ensure that the Mediterranean Sea will continue to support national economies and create jobs. This means that industries, governments, civil society and all stakeholders must contribute to building a plan that aims at both economic growth and flourishing marine ecological assets.

The NGO explains there is a clear need to shift the way fisheries are governed to a more open and participatory approach, aligning the management frameworks of both EU and non-EU countries, according to an Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) approach, which can provide productive ecosystems ensuring food security and thriving coastal livelihoods for the region.

WWF believes that to overcome the declining status of the Mediterranean and ensure the future of its fisheries, a number of governance and conservation priorities need to be urgently addressed.

Related article:

Ministers and international bodies to tackle fishing crisis in Mediterranean

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