General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

A wide consensus on GFCM decisions drives future management of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries

After a week of intense discussions and fruitful consultations, the GFCM has reached historic agreement on all new proposals tabled by its members, taking binding decisions that will set the path towards concrete action supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.


Rome, Italy - On the occasion of its forty-second session, held at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, on 22-26 October 2018, the GFCM has shown its ability to translate its technical work into concrete decisions and demonstrated that there is a general awareness among its members on the urgency to address the critical situation of stocks in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. After a year of continuous efforts, all countries involved have reached, for the first time, a consensus on all new proposals presented. A total of 11 recommendations on important fishery-related aspects were adopted. These binding decisions relate in particular to multiannual management plans for trawl fisheries in the Levant, the Ionian Sea and the Strait of Sicily, conservation measures for sharks and rays, a multiannual management plan for European eel in the Mediterranean and further emergency measures for small pelagic stocks in the Adriatic Sea. Moreover, important decisions towards improving monitoring control and surveillance have been adopted, such as international joint inspection and surveillance schemes outside the waters under national jurisdiction in the Strait of Sicily and the Adriatic Sea, the marking of fishing gear, and access to information and data related to monitoring, control and surveillance. In light of the growing focus on non-indigenous species, that are transforming Mediterranean and Black Sea ecosystems, the Commission also agreed on the creation of a monitoring network for these species, a first for the region, as well as on regional research programmes for blue crab in the Mediterranean and for rapa whelk in the Black Sea.

This wide consensus illustrates a clear political commitment towards sustainability and is the fruit of intense technical and multilateral consultations held throughout the intersession. It is also based on recent important achievements such as the adoption of two ministerial declarations (the Sofia Declaration on Black Sea fisheries and aquaculture and the Ministerial Declaration on a regional plan of action for small-scale fisheries).

The forty-second session was also a milestone for subregional cooperation. After the inauguration of a first subregional unit for the Black Sea in Bulgaria, additional steps were made to enshrine the presence of the GFCM in other subregions, also thanks to the generous offers of relevant countries. As subregional technical units in Spain and Croatia are being established, the decision was taken to open additional units in Tunisia and Lebanon. This represents a significant step towards enhanced capacity-building and will help support technical assistance initiatives foreseen in different countries in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basin.

As recently underlined by the 2018 FAO report on the State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture, a high share of stocks is unsustainably exploited in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Against this backdrop, there is a need not only to take concrete action but also to ensure that adopted decisions are efficiently implemented, keeping pace with the increased quality and spread of scientific advice.

Faced with these challenges, and with the objective of learning from lessons and advances in the recent past, the Commission decided to launch a second performance review, ten years from the first one.

On the other hand, the expertise of the GFCM has been attracting an increasing number of states in the area. This year, as Jordan had expressed its willingness to collaborate on aquaculture issues, the Commission granted the status of cooperating non-contracting party to this country.

“The GFCM is leading the way in implementing international initiatives at a regional level and great strides are being made with the support of scientific evidence” said Abdellah Srour, GFCM Executive Secretary. “In this respect, we look forward to the organization of the Fish Forum, in December 2018, that will offer a privileged space to connect science, seas and people”.