General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Faster and bolder action is urgently needed for Mediterranean fisheries


Rome.The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean has called a high-level conference to renew commitments made under the MedFish4Ever declaration: important progress has been made so far, but there is still a lot of work needed to secure long-term sustainability for Mediterranean fisheries. 

The MedFish4Ever declaration(1) was signed in 2017 by 16 Mediterranean riparian countries – Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey – and the European Commission to counter the threats facing fish stocks across the Mediterranean.

The high-level conference, organized in Marrakech on 11-12 June, brings together the MedFish4Ever signatories to review progress and drive dialogue on how to go further towards securing long-term sustainability for Mediterranean fisheries.

“As described in our SoMFi report released last December(2), which shows a decrease in the number of overfished stocks for the first time in decades, we have reasons to start being optimistic – but in a very cautious way. The effort we’ve put into working through strong collaborations and better data collection is paying off, but there’s still a long way to go before we reach all the objectives we gave ourselves with the MedFish4Ever declaration,” says Abdellah Srour, Executive Secretary of the GFCM.

Fishing is at the heart of the Mediterranean identity. For generations it has played a central role in society, providing food and jobs across the region and strengthening the social fabric of countless communities. Today, some 250 000 people are directly employed on fishing boats, along with many hundreds of thousands who work in the industry and its supply chains on shore. 

Each year the Mediterranean fleet catches nearly 1 million tonnes fish, but this figure has been decreasing to 850 000 tonnes in the last decade. Like many fisheries worldwide, the future of this activity in the Mediterranean region has been seriously threatened in the last decades by overfishing, increased pollution and other anthropogenic factors. In this highly populated region, the loss of reliable fisheries that support people’s livelihoods would also have impacts on the geopolitical balance of the region.

The conference will have a particular focus on improving working conditions in the industry, and on fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. MedFish4Ever recognizes that coastal communities need to be protected against the risks and uncertainties that come from being reliant on fishing, and the conference will seek to identify ways of combating poverty, reducing marginalization and promoting resilient livelihoods. The role of women in the industry is currently under particular scrutiny. They need recognition and support.

IUU fishing is causing serious problems across the Mediterranean, because it undermines the opportunity to guarantee a sound implementation of management plans which are needed for stock recovery.

“IUU fishing does not only impact the fish stocks, but it also has important social and economic impacts. It reduces incomes and increases risks both for the people working at sea and for the sustainability of fishing activities. Legitimate fishers know that IUU fishing poses a threat to their future, and they’re keen to collaborate with other stakeholders to protect their livelihoods,” says Miguel Bernal, Fisheries Officer at the GFCM. 

The GFCM is helping MedFish4Ever signatories to work together and implement a shared regional plan of action to combat IUU fishing.

“We’re at year two of a 10-year commitment – and we’ve got to keep going for the sake of our fish and our fishers. The Mediterranean’s a relatively small sea. Its fish stocks recognize no borders, and its fisheries are a shared resource. It’s in the interests of every Mediterranean country to come together and fight to preserve them,” concludes Abdellah Srour. “That’s what this conference is all about.” 

Notes to editors

(1) What is the MedFish4Ever declaration?

MedFish4Ever aims to secure the long-term environmental, economic and social sustainability of Mediterranean fisheries. Signed in March 2017, it’s a joint commitment by nations in the region to take decisive steps over the next decade to improve the management and governance of their fisheries. You can find the full MedFish4Ever declaration here.

(2) SoMFi 2018 (The State of Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries 2018) report

SoMFi 2018 brings together the most exhaustive, up-to-date and reliable data and indicators, providing a comprehensive overview of regional and subregional trends in Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries, to help fisheries managers and other decision-makers as well as inform the wider public.
You can find the full SoMFi report here.