General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Right data in the right hands at the right time = better decisions to preserve and manage the resources of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea


Q&A with Federico De Rossi, GFCM data compliance officer and head of the data team 

At the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), we believe that when the right data and information are in the right hands at the right time, decisions can be better informed, more equitable and more likely to preserve and manage the resources of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea as well as the livelihoods of the countless people who depend on them. 

Data and information are at the core of GFCM’s work. They inform authoritative reports and publications on all areas related to fishery and aquaculture in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and allow GFCM countries and partners to design and adopt the best solutions to preserve the region’s vital fish stocks and marine ecosystems as well as develop sustainable aquaculture. 

Federico De Rossi ©GFCM/Intissare Aamri 

Today, we speak with Federico De Rossi, GFCM data compliance officer and head of the data team, about data and information at the GFCM. 

What sort of data is your team collecting? 

The GFCM is the leading source of data and information on fishery and aquaculture in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region. It collects data and information from over 20 countries, covering a broad range of topics. For example, data and information on fish stocks; aquaculture trade, market and production trends; authorized fishing vessels in the Mediterranean and Black Sea; or discards and bycatch incidents – to name a few.

A lot of these data and information are then made available through the biennial report on The State of Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries. The next edition is to be published at the end of 2022.

How does data collection work?  

The GFCM Secretariat launches around 80 calls for data every year to request national data and information from Mediterranean and Black Sea countries, in line with the decisions adopted by the GFCM. Both fisheries and aquaculture data are collected through dedicated online platforms, and then make their way to GFCM databases. The data are used by various GFCM working groups and experts and shape GFCM's work. Some data are also publicly available, through the GFCM website.   

Screenshot of GFCM webpage

One can imagine data collection is not as straightforward as it may seem. What are the challenges you are facing?  

The data team always strives for excellence. Data are at the very core of decision-making and need to be comprehensive, reliable, representative and timely. So we are not just collecting any data, or at a specific time of the year. They should be collected all year round in a standardized manner. To make this happen and ensure a smooth process, the team is constantly in touch with the countries in the region, providing whatever support they might need – responding to questions, solving any arising issues, and making sure the data are collected, delivered, stored and shared properly. 

You’ve been at the helm of GFCM’s data team since 2011. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen over the years when it comes to data?  

There has been a considerable increase in the number of GFCM recommendations adopted in recent years. This means an increase in the data that are being required. To make this data collection possible, we have to constantly deploy and maintain modern online platforms as well as develop advanced databases to store and then manage the data and information we receive. We are pleased to see that at the country level, there is more awareness about the need for data to be fed into regional or subregional decisions and plans. We also see more commitment to the provision of high-quality data. Also, when it comes to the sharing of data, our channels are becoming more and more sophisticated. 

©GFCM/Claudia Amico

Tell us a little bit about the team and who is behind the GFCM data. 

We are a team of six. Apart from me, we have: Roberto Emma (data analyst and monitoring, control and surveillance assistant), who takes care of all data-related technological issues and supports the GFCM Compliance Committee on monitoring, control and surveillance;

Robert Emma presenting at GFCM's 2022 Scientific Advisory Committee on Aquaculture ©GFCM/Linda Fourdain 

Elisa Moreno de la Cruz (data compliance specialist), who monitors compliance with data reporting obligations; Laurent Dubroca (fisheries data quality specialist), who ensures fisheries data are in line with standard quality requirements; and Selvaggia Cognetti de Martiis and Thibault Cariou (fisheries data quality specialists) who have recently joined the team and support data management and the consolidation of relevant databases. 

Elisa Moreno de la Cruz ©GFCM/Intissare Aamri 

What do you find the most rewarding in your work? 

That's an easy question. It's the gratitude expressed by national experts and authorities for the work carried out by the data team. We are proud of the work we do to ensure vital data and information reach the GFCM.  

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