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Key Opportunities Missed for Mediterranean Fisheries Management

23 May 2012

EU - The FAO General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) closed its annual meeting, without having taken any decision to address the steepest ever decline in Mediterranean fish stocks, reports Oceana.

Although 96 per cent of Mediterranean demersal (bottom-dwelling) fish stocks are overfished, and GFCM scientists have recommended significant reductions of fishing pressure, Oceana was alarmed that Mediterranean states turned a deaf ear to the recommendations and instead opted to maintain status quo.

María José Cornax, fisheries campaign manager for Oceana Europe, and observer at the meeting, expressed the organisation’s strong disappointment over the outcome: “Mediterranean countries’ chronic ‘fish-and-run’ approach is pushing the region’s fisheries to their very limits.”

Oceana emphasises that the underlying problems are not limited to GFCM. Resistance to carrying out actual management came directly from European Union internal negotiations, where countries such as France, Italy, and Spain blocked any attempt to manage Mediterranean fisheries.

Ms Cornax adds: “We believe that they have finally revealed their dangerous stance, which concerns not only Mediterranean fisheries, but also the ongoing negotiations on the EU Common Fisheries Policy Reform. Despite these countries’ publically declared positions, the uncomfortable truth is that they do not have the political will to manage fisheries, much less to manage them sustainably.”

Despite the negative outcome, Oceana acknowledges one significant achievement of the meeting. For the first time, GFCM adopted measures for the management and conservation of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean, the region of highest risk in the world for these fishes. Twenty-three Mediterranean countries endorsed a proposal from the EU that bans the unsustainable practice of shark finning, prohibits trawling in some sensitive near-shore habitats, and requires countries to collect and report data on catches of some threatened species.

Dr Allison Perry, marine wildlife scientist for Oceana Europe, welcomed this decision: “After years of inaction, GFCM has finally begun to assume its responsibility for managing fisheries impacts on sharks and rays – the primary threat to these vulnerable fish in the Mediterranean. Although the new measures are far from comprehensive, we are hopeful that they will serve as a foundation for more responsible management in the future, and will help Mediterranean countries to fulfill their conservation obligations under other international agreements.”

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