General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

GFCM Online Forum: Building fisheries and aquaculture resilience post COVID-19

25 Jun (Thu), 2020 - 22 Jul (Wed), 2020

In an effort to assist countries in identifying best practices to address and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, more than 800 experts from 67 countries joined 32 panellists to discuss how best to improve the resilience and sustainability of the fishing and aquaculture sectors in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

The GFCM’s series of three webinars gathered representatives from governmental, intergovernmental, non-governmental and civil society organizations to reflect on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on their work and to share strategies for the development of their sectors to better withstand future crises. From discussions of necessary organizational restructuring to recommendations for improved value chains, the webinars allowed stakeholders to update each other on the changes this unprecedented period has brought, as well as answer questions from active and engaged participants from around the region and beyond.

The experience of international organizations in response to the COVID-19 crisis

The first webinar took place on 25 June and focused on the experience of international organizations. In his opening presentation, GFCM Executive Secretary Abdellah Srour shared information collected by the GFCM over the past few months. Mr Srour detailed an initial decrease in operating vessels of up to 80 percent in certain locations, an initial decrease in production of over 75 percent in most countries, as well as price declines for products of 20 to 70 percent at the start of the pandemic (updated analysis available online). During presentations on the theme of organizational adaptation, panellists reported that remote technology has enabled them to continue with proceedings, albeit in a constrained fashion. They recommended streamlining organizational functions while updating information technologies to improve organizations’ flexibility in dealing with unanticipated work conditions. Find out more on this webinar.

The experience of the aquaculture sector through best practices and mitigation measures facing the COVID-19 crisis

Aquaculture took centre stage during the July 1 webinar, which was hosted in collaboration with the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI). RECOFI Secretary Ahmed Al Mazroui emphasized the importance of unity during this period of communal hardship: “The COVID-19 crisis is showing us day after day that the solution can only be collective and that cooperation and the exchange of good practices is the fastest way to overcome it.” The pandemic has revealed weak links in the current aquaculture model that must be addressed in the near future to relieve pressure in the event of a similar emergency. Directing production toward local distribution instead of export markets, for example, will keep the industry up and running even if restrictions on transnational shipments are put in place, like those imposed in response to COVID-19. In his concluding remarks, guest moderator Philippos Papageorgiou emphasized that companies investing in good working conditions for their employees, in reducing potential health hazards and in keeping high hygiene and safety standards for personnel at their work-stations and their accommodation units will have an advantage over others for the duration of this pandemic. Panellists also pointed to measures such as soft loans, tax payment deferrals and government loan guarantees as potentially useful tools to help out companies with good track records in these areas. These measures need to be designed pro-actively, however, so as to avoid bureaucratic obstacles that may arise when immediate implementation is necessary. Find out more on this webinar.

The experience of small-scale fisheries in promoting resilience and economic innovation in the face of the COVID-19 crisis

The series’ third and final webinar on 22 July was arranged in partnership with the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative and addressed the experience of small-scale fisheries in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. "Every crisis opens eyes on unsolved problems” said Marco Costantini from the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative. “Fishers, scientists, administrators, NGOs are called to take all possible action to rebuild fish stocks, implement the RPOA-SSF (Regional Plan of Action for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea) and make small-scale fisheries and our seas more resilient”. As with aquaculture, the need to strengthen value chains and innovate to meet the demands of both local and export markets was emphasized as a key to future resilience of the sector. Several speakers underlined the essential role of social safety nets during the crisis, applauding in particular the role fishers’ cooperatives have played in providing informal social protection to sustain local fishing communities. In some places, these cooperatives have been able to continue offering compensation to fishers for their work, despite low demand and low prices brought on by the economic stresses of the pandemic. Find out more on this webinar.

The conclusions of the GFCM Online Forum will support dialogue among GFCM members on common priorities and ultimately shape the post-2020 strategic vision for sustainable fisheries in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region.