General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

BlackSea4Fish Rationale

The Black Sea is landlocked. Since this enclosed sea is located on a deep depression and 90% of its volume is anoxic, fish and fisheries have concentrated on the narrow continental shelf. Its hydrography is characterized by a basin scale cyclonic boundary current encircling the entire Black Sea. Despite its size, the Black Sea displays significant regional differences with regards to climatic features. The North is extremely productive, however, the surface temperature in winter may get colder than its major fish species can tolerate. At the same period, the South offers warm shelter. The majority of the fishes are therefore forced to undergo long range, transboundary feeding, spawning and overwintering migrations.

Where natural resources are confined to geographically discrete regions but spread across different political territories, integrated and internationally coordinated resources management strategies become crucial. There have been various efforts in the past to ensure cooperative and concerted management of the Black Sea marine living resources. These initiatives have played important roles in enhancing cooperation in the area, but the regional management of Black Sea fisheries remained weak until the GFCM Working Group on the Black Sea (WGBS) was established and met for the first time in Constanta, Romania, on 16-18 January 2012.

Since then, the number of stocks for which a scientific advice is provided has significantly increased and the level of cooperation towards the sustainable exploitation of the common marine living resources has boosted, especially after Georgia and Ukraine obtained the status of cooperating non contracting parties in 2015 and the Russian Federation became more actively involved in the scientific work of the GFCM.

The adoption of the Bucharest Declaration in October 2016 on occasion of the High-level meeting towards enhanced cooperation on Black Sea fisheries and aquaculture has been an important milestone towards regional cooperation. Among others, this declaration recognized the existence of an incipient regional project manned by the GFCM, namely the BlackSea4Fish project, and called upon all riparian countries to cooperate in its implementation.

Right after the adoption of the Bucharest declaration, a brainstorming meeting was held to discuss the challenges that this project needed to address. Under the aegis of the GFCM, initial challenges identified included the need to provide timely data and information, to encourage the active participation of scientists in technical work, to improve the evaluation and management of fishery resources, to protect marine biodiversity and marine ecosystems from harmful bycatch and discarding practices and to reduce the incidence of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Most importantly, there was agreement that the project had to support the work of the WGBS – which in the meantime had proven to be a very active setting to foster cooperation, seeing the tasks assigned to its work plan progressively increase each year. The need for more solid support to its work was evident in light of the alarming state of Black Sea fisheries and ecosystems and the need for strong scientific advice in support of management decisions.

The BlackSea4Fish project therefore came about as the tool which would contribute :

  • to further bridging gaps at the regional level, helping the riparian countries, where needed
  • to overcome regional priorities and infrastructure needs and endowing the WGBS with the necessary resources to ensure that its work plan is efficiently implemented.​