Press Release 97/25

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Press Release 97/25


ROME, June 17 -- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stressed today the need for a common effort by all countries to protect the resources, restore the stocks and control the fishing capacity by adopting new strategies that will avoid excessive fishing pressures on stocks in the Mediterranean basin.

Strategies for better management and control of the Mediterranean fisheries ranked as top priority on the agenda of the Committee on Fisheries Management of the General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean meeting at its 10th session in FAO June 17 through June 20. The Committee is to examine the state of fisheries in the basin and study how to correct fishing pressure on stocks.

“Though recent experiences demonstrate that with temporary reduction of the fishing effort stocks could recover, the Mediterranean requires a common approach to achieve sustainable fisheries,” FAO said.

While better stock assessment and reliable statistics are essential to progress, information available confirms that demersal resources are fully fished or overfished, while some small pelagic resources show some potential for increased fishing in a number of areas. Excluding anchovy, the problem with small pelagic fisheries is not overfishing, but rather achieving better use and marketing of this resource, according to FAO.

The Organization also stressed the need for better information as to fleet capacity in accordance with the Compliance Agreement. Coordination of fisheries management is essential and trends in mobility and recapitalization of fishing fleets are a precondition.

Recent fragmentary statistics show that the size of the fishing fleet keeps growing despite measures introduced to limit the licenses of fishing vessels by some countries. Over the last two decades, the fleet has shown an overall increase at a rate of 5 to 7 percent annually in most areas.

GFCM says there is evidence that vessels from outside are fishing large pelagic species in Mediterranean waters, particularly in the western Mediterranean.

Concerning small-scale fisheries, in the western Mediterranean, small boats with progressively modern gear and increased fishing power fish in lagoons and coastal areas and beyond national waters, to supply close to 30% of the total fish catch (by weight), especially high value demersal fish and shellfish for fresh fish markets. In the eastern Mediterranean, there are many mechanized and non-mechanized small vessels operating, and a variety of gear and a small fleet of large trawlers that fish more distant from port. In the Levant region, except for Egypt and Turkey, fleets are mostly small-scale. The largest national fleets are those from Egypt and Turkey, which also operate in the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea for Turkey and off Alexandria and along the Sinai coast for Egypt.

On the environmental side, the semi-closed Mediterranean Sea is facing a number of problems. One is the high level of nutrients from river But in the case of the Black Sea this has led to collapse of bottom fish stocks due to anoxic conditions. The introduction of noxious species, of both plants and animals discharged from ship ballast waters, have also contributed to dramatic ecological changes. Valuable sponges stocks in the southern and eastern Mediterranean were decimated by disease in the 1980s, and red coral and lobsters have been heavily overfished.

FAO said many of the problems of Mediterranean Fisheries could be addressed through the implementation of guidelines of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, but here one of the major challenges is the need to reconcile traditional rights of local fisherman associations with responsible fishing practices applied to larger industrial vessels.

A step forward in setting up a compatible control system acceptable to all would be the acceptance, or de facto adherance by all GFCM member States to the Compliance Agreement, a mechanism that would allow the monitoring of fishing activities in international waters in the Mediterranean, according to FAO.

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