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3.1 Consideration of IUU fishing by GFCM

IUU fishing is not a new issue in the GFCM context.[57] It was, for example, addressed by the (former) Committee on Fisheries Management at its ninth session (Rome, October 1994) which emphasized the need to take measures to make available information on fishing boats operating in the Mediterranean under flags of states which are not members of the GFCM and are not contracting states of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT).

In Resolution No. 95/2 adopted at its twenty-first session, noted above in relation to the IPOA - Capacity, GFCM expressed concern that there is no provision for vessels of non-coastal states that operate in the Mediterranean to report on their activities to the GFCM. It further requested all states without distinction, whose fishing vessels operate in international waters in the Mediterranean, to provide information on these vessels, as set out in Article VI of the Compliance Agreement, to the Secretariat of the GFCM.

At the twenty-third session of GFCM in September 2000, it was further suggested, among priority actions for a medium and long term work programme, that a control scheme be developed concerning, in particular, the activities of vessels fishing under flags of convenience in the Mediterranean. Many member countries reported on activities in relation to IUU fishing, and ICCAT reported on a series of management measures aimed at curbing IUU fishing activities (these are elaborated at the end of this section).

GFCM has been developing a project to help countries to raise the required common minimum standard in fisheries statistics: MEDFISIS ("Mediterranean Fishery Statistics and Information System")[58]. This would be important for purposes of improving scientific information, and also has the potential of collecting and using information that may be used to assist in combating IUU fishing, especially in respect of shared fish stocks or highly migratory fish stocks. With a more critical tone, the report noted the Commission’s concern on the unbalanced participation, both in connection with scientific discipline and geographical distribution, in the work of SAC. It encouraged all Members to ensure the participation of national scientists in SAC activities and to provide the Committee with the data it needed to perform its mandate. The Commission also noted the need to clarify and implement properly the procedures governing the work of the Sub-Committees and Working Groups, in order to enhance participation and make data collection and analysis more effective. There was also a call for GFCM Members to supply data on Operational Units (OUs), with a view to further clarifying the relationship between the fleet segmentation, vessel capacity and resource stocks.

In summary, GFCM has considered the need for:

It was recognized at the June, 2003 EC Venice Interministerial Conference Preparatory Technical Meeting, which addressed inter alia the reinforcement of monitoring of fishing in the Mediterranean, that it would be appropriate to start a discussion on the definition of methodology enabling the GFCM to develop a control plan adapted to the specific characteristics of the Mediterranean. It was considered advisable to give a mandate to the GFCM to work out a control and inspection plan, that should emphasize flag State responsibility. To launch the discussions, the following principles are suggested:

These principles capture some of the elements that are contained in the international instruments and in effect in other RFMOs. A review encompassing the provisions in the instruments (described above), especially the Technical Guidelines for the IPOA - IUU, and experience in other RFMOs (described below) could further assist in elaborating a strategy for GFCM. For example, other areas that could be considered include the obligations of non-members, institutional strengthening, cooperation with other RFMOs, measures to ensure compliance by both contracting and non-contracting party vessels. Discussions may also focus on measures, as well as programmes and schemes.

A reference point could be consideration of the actions and measures taken by GFCM’s sister RFMO, ICCAT, which provides a model for GFCM action on IUU fishing. Collaboration between the two organizations - through such mechanisms as the Joint GFCM/ICCAT Working Group on Large Pelagic Fishes - provides a good foundation for further cooperation in combating IUU fishing. In addition, ICCAT’s leadership in taking effective measures against IUU fishing is well recognized internationally.

ICCAT reported a series of management measures aimed at curbing IUU activities at the twenty-fifth session of GFCM in 2000 as follows:

These measures were reported to have proved to be effective in reducing IUU activities (e.g. as evidenced by the reported reduction of IUU vessels in the Mediterranean). Governments of some flag States of alleged IUU vessels have started imposing stricter regulations on their fleets and have also started taking appropriate actions against these vessels.

The collaboration of GFCM with ICCAT to combat IUU fishing was considered essential, and ICCAT requested GFCM to give due consideration to the various ICCAT measures aimed at curbing IUU activities in the Mediterranean.

At the twenty-sixth session of GFCM in 2001, the Commission endorsed a recommendation by ICCAT relating to registration and exchange of information of fishing vessels fishing for tuna and tuna-like species in the Convention Area, which relates to both capacity and compliance.

At the twenty-seventh session of GFCM in 2002, the Commission endorsed ICCAT recommendations formulated at the ICCAT plenary in respect of bluefin tuna. These issues are focused on management rather than IUU fishing, but are further evidence of the important collaboration between the two RFMOs.

3.2 Adoption of National Plans of Action by GFCM Members

As noted above, much work needs to be done to put the IPOA - IUU into effect by 2004, including through adoption of NPOAs. The IPOA - IUU Technical Guidelines, in recommending a framework for NPOAs - IUU, provide that the NPOAs should include plans to implement the IPOA through RFMOs.

Spain is the only GFCM member country reported to have prepared an NPOA - IUU. It describes a programme of new measures in Spain, adopted in 2001-2002. They relate to rules to be implemented within the framework of an act conferring exclusive competency to the State in regulating marine fishing.

With respect to RFMOs, the Plan does not refer to GFCM in its list of RFMOs to which it or the EC is a Contracting or Cooperating Party, but the list does not appear to be exclusive and the NPOA would have implications for GFCM.

The Spanish NPOA - IUU refers to national regulations relating to flags of convenience and non-cooperating parties in RFMOs. In its proposed programme of new measures, the NPOA suggests it would be useful to draw up lists of both vessels and states involved in IUU fishing, complemented by an information system enabling the continuous updating of information. To this end, it proposes to encourage the establishment of registers at both regional and international levels. A proposed measure is:

to foster within the RFMOs the definition of criteria to draw up the lists of fisheries flags of convenience or non-cooperating states, with the aim of implementing measures for such countries in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner.

For other member countries of GFCM, the planned FAO Workshops on developing NPOAs - IUU could be of value in developing national measures to put the IPOA - IUU into effect, including through GFCM.

3.3 Adoption by EU Fisheries Council of conclusions and measures on IUU fishing

The EU Fisheries Council adopted a number of conclusions on IUU fishing on 11 June 2002, in which the European Commission is urged to actively exercise its powers among the member states and the international community, especially among the RFMOs,[59] in order to attain the following objectives: [60]

Although this is only directly applicable to the EU members of GFCM, the objectives could form a framework from which further strategies and actions may be elaborated to implement the IPOA - IUU. Of special importance in this context is the role these objectives attribute to RFMOs.

3.4 The 2002 EC Community Action Plan for conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources in the Mediterranean Sea under the Common Fisheries Policy

The 2002 EU Community Action Plan ("Community Action Plan") for conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources in the Mediterranean Sea under the Common Fisheries Policy,[61] approved by the Council of the European Communities, concludes that the number of shared fisheries identified already justifies common action to be taken for those fisheries both at Community and international levels.

The Community Action Plan, although it applies to EU member countries and not the entire GFCM membership, was presented to GFCM members at the twenty-seventh session in 2002. It profiles some features of the Mediterranean fisheries that are useful in considering implementation of the IPOA - IUU by GFCM Members. These are:

Underlying these concerns is the EU proposal for its member countries to make a concerted declaration of Fisheries Protection Zones (FPZs) of up to 200 miles from baselines. Currently, most GFCM Member States have a territorial sea of 12 miles, the exceptions being:


35 nautical miles (nm)


6 nm


6 nm, 12 nm in the Black Sea

United Kingdom

3 nm (in respect of Gibralter and the Cypriot bases of Akrotiri and Dhekelia).

The countries that have established extended fishing zones include:


32 nm from border with Morocco, 52 nm from border with Tunisia


20 nm or 200 m depth


25 nm


49 nm, or equidistant border

Agreement would need to be sought on the desirability of a common approach for FPZs among EU members, and whether establishment of FPZs should include limitation of access for third parties or have as its main purpose the adequate control of fishing activities.

Because about 95 percent of Community catches are taken within 50 miles of the coast in the Mediterranean, the Community Action Plan suggests that FPZs could lead to improved control and management. This could affect approaches to implement the IPOA - IUU in many ways. Successful implementation would depend inter alia on the effectiveness of national management systems and institutions, clear agreement on boundaries and strong regional collaboration and cooperation in management and enforcement. The above noted features of Mediterranean fisheries, however, indicate that such effectiveness does not appear to have materialized to date in respect of smaller areas. A worst case scenario could result in fragmentation of management in the region at a time when integrated, holistic management appears to be most needed.

Whether or not FPZs are adopted in the Mediterranean, an essential pillar of sustainable fisheries management, in the face of issues relating to shared and highly migratory fish stocks, capacity and IUU fishing, is the urgent improvement of regional cooperation and collaboration.

[57] See background document prepared for the twenty-fifth session of GFCM, "Selected Global Issues in Fisheries of Relevance to GFCM" (GFCM/XXV/2000/3).
[58] The report of the fourth session of the SAC in 2001, addressing statistics, reports on the formulation of a draft proposal for a regional project on statistics, MEDFISIS, the concept of which stemmed from a preliminary meeting of experts held in FAO in 2001. It entails the integration of the efforts being made by CopeMed, AdriaMed and MedsudMed in support of their respective member countries as well as funding matters. Three phases are anticipated: development of the system and consolidation at country level, and integration at regional level.
[59] The document refers to "Regional Fishery Organizations", which would include RFMOs.
[60] This forms part of the Preamble of Spain’s NPOA - IUU, November 2002.
[61] Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament laying down a Community Action Plan for the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources in the Mediterranean Sea under the Common Fisheries Policy, Brussels, 09.10.2002, COM (2002) 535 Final.
[62] This is discussed in the context of the eastern bluefin tuna stock, assessed in the past by ICCAT, and the swordfish. The document also refers to the level of bluefin tuna being caught outside a framework of regulated and reported catches, and put in cages for rearing.

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