FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Fisheries experts join forces as Fish Forum 2024 scales up science and innovation

©FAO/Seyit Konyali

01/03/2024, Antalya

More than 400 participants gathered last week in Antalya, Türkiye with the common goal to scale up science for effective fisheries management at the second edition of the Forum on Fisheries Science in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (Fish Forum 2024).

The event, organized by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is the most important scientific gathering dedicated to fisheries and related issues in the region. This year’s edition was hosted by Türkiye’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and funded by the European Union. Across five days of lectures, panels, workshops and exhibitions, the conference provided a unique space for experts from 47 countries to discuss the latest developments in fisheries science, along with state-of-the-art environmental, oceanographic and socioeconomic research, and how best to apply this growing body of knowledge and tools to the real-world challenges facing the sector.

“GFCM decisions are strongly rooted in science and stakeholder consultation,” commented Miguel Bernal, GFCM Executive Secretary. “This year’s event circled around the scientific needs for the management plans of the future, with scientists discussing latest methods and results and high-level representatives discussing key issues such as how to strengthen the science–policy interface, address new international agreements, and enhance cooperation and coordination among research institutes.”

Given that the combination of seafood demand, human pressures and ecosystem fragility in the region requires particularly strong and integrated science to inform environmentally, socially and economically effective and sustainable management measures, much of what was discussed will be relevant and replicable in fisheries around the world. Indeed, the United Nations has recognized Fish Forum’s contribution to its Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030).

©GFCM/Claudia Amico

Convening expert networks
Three central themes ran through the event: better science for better advice, healthy seas and sustainable fisheries, and economic and technical innovation. Along with these, a central topic was climate change – a hugely important issue in fisheries everywhere, and notably so in a region that’s warming 20 percent faster than the global average. Several speakers addressed key aspects of the subject, including how to increase knowledge of the effects of a warming ocean on regional fisheries and the potential adaptation strategies available. Crucially, an agreement was reached to form a network of climate experts dedicated to fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. 

Participants also agreed to set up a cooperative regional network of fisheries research institutes and discussed how best to approach its operationalization. Increased collaboration will boost capacity and improve outcomes as fisheries experts adapt scientific approaches in response to new policy requirements over the coming years, working together to implement international agreements and drive innovation in the region and beyond.

Building an inclusive future
Looking to the future, the organizers ensured that young scientists and researchers played a full part in proceedings. Their work was recognized at a Fish Forum awards ceremony on Friday, with Jade Millot, a PhD student from France working on vulnerable marine ecosystem conservation and spatial management, winning for best presentation in the “Early career scientist”’ category.

“This award means a lot to me as a young PhD student, as starting out in research is both exciting and full of doubts,” she said. “This was a challenge for me, and I’m proud that my work can now be used by decision-makers and contribute to our common effort to manage Mediterranean fisheries sustainably.”

Four other awards were also presented at the ceremony. Marta Ballesteros (Spain), Bechir Saidi (Tunisia) and Alberto Ceccacci (Italy) were recognized for their presentations on the three themes of Fish Forum 2024, and Ömerhan Dürrani (Türkiye) won the award for the best poster. 

This inclusive approach was apparent in other respects, too. Two organizations working to promote the inclusivity of persons with disabilities in activities linked to the fisheries value chain were present at the Forum to discuss their initiatives with participants and increase knowledge around the importance of inclusion in the sector. Similarly, this is a goal for United Nations bodies and the GFCM is committed to address this important topic in the fisheries and aquaculture sector across the region.

Official partners this year included nearly a dozen international organizations, whose support will guarantee the lasting impacts of Fish Forum 2024. The events of the week will directly benefit the implementation of the GFCM 2030 Strategy for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, but will also support the FAO Blue Transformation vision, which aims to secure and maximize the contribution of aquatic food systems to food security, nutrition and affordable healthy diets. More broadly still, they will feed into regional efforts towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Biodiversity Framework. 

“Sustainable fisheries are not just an economic, but a social and environmental responsibility. We must leave a healthy and rich marine heritage to future generations,” said Ebubekir Gizligider, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Türkiye. “In this forum, we have come together to further strengthen sustainable fisheries by inspiring each other, sharing knowledge and exploring opportunities for cooperation.” 


Best presentation for Theme 1 – Marta Ballesteros, Researcher, Marine Technology Centre, Spain: Ready and steady before going: lessons on advancing towards marine strategy evaluation in Spanish fisheries

Best presentation for Theme 2 – Bechir Saidi, Teacher Researcher, Faculty of Science and Technology of Sidi Bouzid, and National Institute of Marine Sciences and Technology, Tunisia: Evaluation of bycatch mitigation strategy

Best presentation for Theme 3 – Alberto Ceccacci, PhD Student, University of Bologna, Italy: Balancing environmental concerns and efficiency: an economic approach for enhanced resilience in overexploited fisheries

Best poster award – Ömerhan Dürrani, Assistant Professor, Karadeniz Technical University, Türkiye: Do morphological markers offer a reliable method for distinguishing between Mediterranean horse mackerel (Trachurus mediterraneus) stocks in the Marmara and Black Seas?

Best presentation from an early career scientist – Jade Millot, PhD Student, Joint Research Unit for Marine Biodiversity, Exploitation and Conservation and French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, France: Vulnerable marine ecosystems conservation and spatial planning in the Mediterranean