FAO Liaison Office in Brussels

Interview with Miguel Bernal, FAO Senior Fisheries Officer at the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean


What is the role of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and what does it do exactly? 
The GFCM is the tool that FAO puts at the disposal of Mediterranean and Black Sea countries to come together and to discuss and agree on common regulations towards sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in the region.  

It is a powerful tool because the decisions made within the GFCM are compulsory for anybody who wants to carry out fishing or aquaculture activities in the region. However, its power relies on the commitment of the countries to adopt the regulations needed and then effectively implement them. 

I am pleased to say that there has been a stronger commitment over the past decade also thanks to an increase in voluntary funds. This is reflected in the increasing number of decisions adopted by our Commission on many aspects. These include for example the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, two regional plans of action for small-scale fisheries and 10 management plans for specific fisheries, established in the last five years.  

Last year came with a culminating achievement, as the GFCM members adopted a robust new strategy, the GFCM 2030, to secure a sustainable future for fisheries and aquaculture in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. 

You came to Brussels to meet with the European Commission. Would you like to share with us more information about your discussions? And how is the GFCM working with the European Union? 
We held a technical preparatory meeting in order to discuss the contributions of European countries and the European Union to our new capacity development project MedSea4Fish. The MedSea4Fish intends to ensure a level playing field in addressing fisheries management priorities across all Mediterranean countries. We are meeting with all our countries to discuss a biannual national plan of activities contributing to the objectives of our GFCM 2030 Strategy. In this context, the contributions of EU countries to regional monitoring programmes, for example through scientific surveys-at-sea or bycatch monitoring programmes, is crucial. The European Union is also one of the main donors supporting our activities, including MedSea4Fish, and at this meeting, we launched a technical discussion on their contributions for the next two years.  

Overall, the GFCM works very closely with all its members – which include Mediterranean and Black Sea EU countries and the European Union itself – in implementing and following up on activities agreed upon in our workplan. In addition, we regularly meet with donors, and the contribution of the European Union is crucial to the significant advances we have made in recent years in terms of upgrading and modernizing the management of fisheries and aquaculture in the region.   

What are the upcoming important events and activities of the GFCM? 
We will hold the statutory annual session of the GFCM in November. This will be the occasion for our members to review the outcomes of last year’s work and make practical decisions for the management of fisheries and aquaculture and the conservation of biodiversity. The meeting will be attended by decision-makers and observers mainly and its outcomes will be broadly disseminated.  

This is an important event for us for a number of reasons. Firstly, this year we will also celebrate our 70th anniversary. Along with that, we are preparing a lot of new material, such as a new visual identity and a brochure with the achievements of previous strategic actions, gearing up for the new ambitious targets set by our members.  

Secondly, in December, we will launch the third edition of our flagship publication on the State of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries. This report provides a comprehensive overview of the status of fisheries stocks and vulnerable species in the region in order to better inform their management and examine current and future challenges. It also includes information on the socioeconomic characteristics of the fisheries sector, as well as a summary of the GFCM’s latest decisions in support of efficient fisheries management, the sustainable development of aquaculture and the conservation of marine biodiversity.  

Learn more about FAO’s work on Fisheries & Aquaculture here

More information about the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean is available here