General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Spatio-temporal measures

At the interface between fisheries management and marine biodiversity conservation, among different types of tools, spatial-based measures – namely zoning and area-time-gear type closures – are among the oldest forms of fisheries management. With the move of fishery management towards the ecosystem approach to fisheries – that is, a broader conception of ecosystem well-being – the use of spatial management tools is becoming more prevalent.

Through its ecosystem approach to fisheries, the GFCM has adopted Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRAs) in order to protect sensitive deep-sea habitats, such as vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and essential fish habitats (EFHs). According to this definition, an FRA can potentially be established to protect any kind of marine resource and habitat (e.g. aggregations of vulnerable sponges, seamount areas, coralligenous formations, seagrass meadows, spawning grounds and reproduction sites for fish resources, etc.) from fishing activities.

The GFCM also adopts temporal and spatial measures, including to reduce fishing pressure during particular periods (e.g. at spawning time or for juvenile fish) or to increase protection of particular seasons (e.g. during migrations of vulnerable species). These measures are sometimes incorporated in GFCM multiannual management plans or taken into account in FRAs, and in a few cases are used on a stand-alone basis.


  • Establishment of spatio-temporal measures, including Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRAs), to improve the status of key species and/or the protection of vulnerable ecosystems.
  • Monitoring of the established FRAs.
  • Mapping of FRAs established by GFCM countries within their national waters (nFRAs).
  • Identification of VME indicators and EFHs, compiled in a regional database on Sensitive Benthic Species and Habitats to support scientific advice.
  • Collection of information on VME indicator features, habitats and taxa through direct observations and the application of encounter and exploratory deep-sea bottom fishing reporting protocols.
  • Mapping of fishing footprints through the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), Automatic Identification System (AIS)local ecological knowledge and other tools.