New measures to protect Mediterranean fish stocks
FAO General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean concludes annual meeting
16 January 2007, Rome - A large group of nations whose fishing fleets regularly ply the waters of the Mediterranean have agreed upon a series of new measures aimed at conserving the region's fish stocks, FAO said today.
The measures were adopted during the annual meeting of FAO's General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), held last week in Rome and attended by 19 countries plus the European Community.*
One of the meeting's main outcomes was an agreement on the use of new, more selective types of netting in bottom trawls. Changes to the shape of the mesh holes in the "cod end" section of the trawls will permit small juvenile fish that have not yet reproduced to escape capture and return to the wild to breed.
Among the species that will benefit are red mullet and hake, popular with consumers and of economic importance but categorized as either fully- or overexploited by FAO.
The commission also agreed on a common set of benchmarks for measuring the capacity of fishing fleets in the region and assessing their impacts on shared fish stocks, the first time such a unified system has existed in the Mediterranean.
"This is a milestone -- we will now have a tool for getting a complete picture of what kind of fishing is going on in the entire area, and to finally be able to address the management of multispecies fisheries" said GFCM Secretary Alain Bonzon. "What's more, these new definitions of fishing effort will enable us to study and make recommendations specific to sub-sectors of the various fishing fleets, which will improve management overall."
New rules for tuna
Additionally, GFCM members signed off on new rules for tuna fishing, recently adopted by the International Commission on Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) and forwarded to the GFCM since both commissions share responsibility for managing migratory bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean region.
This raises the number of countries who have directly agreed to abide by these ICATT rules from 42 to 56.
The adopted measures include a 15 year recovery plan for bluefin tuna starting in 2007 and running through 2022. The plan calls for 6-month off seasons for specific types of boats, bans the use of aircraft in spotting tuna, forbids the capture of tuna under 30 kg except in certain specific circumstances, and requires better reporting of tuna catches. It also allows tuna to only be offloaded at designated ports and obliges countries to place observers on fishing boats to monitor their adherence to regulations.
"These various measures should help substantially decrease illegal unreported and unregulated fishing," said Bonzon.
FAO classifies bluefin tuna stocks in the Mediterranean as "depleted," meaning that current catches fall far below historic levels.
Landings of the large, far-ranging fish in Mediterranean waters peaked at 39 000 tonnes in 1994, but by 2002 dropped by nearly half that amount, to 22 000 tonnes.
About the GFCM
The GFCM is an intergovernmental organization established by FAO which includes 24 Member countries* as well as the European Community. Its mission is to promote the development, rational management, responsible utilization and conservation of living marine resources in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Membership is open to both Mediterranean coastal states and regional economic organizations as well as to FAO member states whose vessels engage in fishing in Mediterranean waters.
Multilateral commissions can help fisheries management worldwide
Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) like the GFCM and other Regional Fishery Bodies (RFBs) allow governments to cooperate closely on management of fisheries at the regional level.
According to FAO, these organizations represent the best way to harmonize national fisheries regulations and improve management at the regional and global levels. They are also the only mechanism for managing fishing in high seas areas, which fall outside of national jurisdictions.
Worldwide, there are currently some 39 RFMOs and RFBs in operation. Eleven of them were established by FAO.
Yet despite efforts in recent years to improve their management capacity, some RFMOs have failed to achieve their fundamental goal of the sustainable management of fish stocks, FAO says.
In March 2007 the Organization will host the first-ever global meeting of RFMOs during the next meeting of its biennial Committee on Fisheries. There countries will discuss ways to improve RFMO performance.
* GFCM members are: Albania, Algeria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, EC, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. Membership is open to both Mediterranean coastal states as well as to countries which fish in Mediterranean waters.
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