Borg: Med stocks under more and more pressure –

Borg: Med stocks under more and more pressure Published:  06 February, 2008

Joe Borg

THERE is mounting pressure on Mediterranean fish stocks and adequate control on fishing effort is becoming more difficult, EU Fisheries Commissioner Dr Joe Borg has warned.

Speaking on manaagement and conservation of fisheries resources in the Mediterranean Sea at the CIHEAM Conference at Zaragoza, Dr Borg said

he was confident that nobody doubts the fact that there is a clear need to reinforce and promote co-ordination in order to reach the end goal of achieving sustainable fisheries in the Mediterranean.

“We are all too aware of the fact that our fish resources face increasing pressure, both from fisheries and from external factors such as pollution and climate change.

“These are challenges that we must face together – all coastal States bordering the Mediterranean – be they part of the European Union or otherwise. There is also a role to be played by specialised multilateral organisations such as GFCM and ICCAT who seek to manage Mediterranean fisheries sustainably.”

He said that while it is clear that they are all working towards the same goal, this task is often complicated by the fact that the region is typified by a number of rather unique characteristics.

” There is vast diversity in the species caught, the fishing gears and practices used are also numerous and large parts of the Med’s fishing industry is based on small, often family-run, businesses which differ significantly from the businesses in operation elsewhere.

“Alongside this, there is mounting pressure on Mediterranean fish stocks. Mediterranean fishermen are increasingly making use of more efficient fishing gear and larger vessels able to operate over a much wider area than was previously possible. Adequately controlling this heightened activity is becoming more and more difficult.”

The objectives of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy apply to the Mediterranean as much as they apply to other fishing areas.

” In essence, it is our aim, and indeed, I believe, our responsibility, to ensure that fishery resources are exploited under sustainable environmental, economic and social conditions. The responsibility I am talking about is however not restricted to one particular group of countries without being applicable to others. It is a collective responsibility – one that all of us involved in the management of the Mediterranean must embrace.”

But how can they achieve this over-arching goal of sustainable fisheries?

He sought to answer this by looking at the three levels of governance existing in the Mediterranean – each of which is of critical importance, which are:

* One, the multilateral framework in the form of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM),

* Two, the broad implementation of EU fisheries legislation, and

* Three, the regulatory framework of each individual Mediterranean state.

“First of all, I am convinced that multilateral co-operation in the Med can best be served by re-vitalising the GFCM as soon as possible. The GFCM must become an effective regional fisheries organisation in the truest sense of the word.

“It must be able to provide the scientific basis for adopting common fisheries management measures. It must aim at achieving the best levels of exploitation of marine resources. And it must simultaneously ensure a harmonisation of fisheries rules.

“In addition to the improved selectivity of fishing gears, it is essential to use rules with respect to fishing effort as a management tool – particularly, in a multi-species and multi-gear fisheries. GFCM has started moving in that direction – a fact which I warmly welcome. The GFCM Recommendations and Resolutions on the development of a management programme for fishing effort, and on the compilation of data adopted in 2006 and 2007, are useful first steps towards the comprehensive and adequate effort control system we so urgently need.

“Secondly, insofar as the European Union is concerned: we have created a new legal framework for fisheries management in the Mediterranean which entered into force a little more than a year ago. This new legal instrument – the Mediterranean Regulation – provides the EU and its Member States with a basic set of tools to enable them to enhance the sustainability of their fisheries activities.

“It allows for a more strategic approach to fisheries management by providing the basis for long-term planning and a host of other things. For example, it allows for better selectivity by trawl nets both by improving the rigging of the trawler and by changing the shape and dimension of mesh size. It controls fishing effort by limiting the maximum dimension of fishing gears and it embeds environmental concerns into the CFP by ensuring the protection of coastal areas through limited access for active gears. Moreover, it protects sensitive habitats from mobile fishing gears and sets a basis for establishing marine protected areas.

“However none of these measures will really bear fruit unless we tackle the key challenge faced by the Mediterranean, as it is in many other seas, which is the existing excess in fishing capacity. We simply have too many vessels chasing too few fish.

“Mediterranean countries – and not just those forming part of the EU – need to make considerable efforts to reduce their fishing capacity if their fishing effort is to match those of the resources present. They also need to complement such a drive with the measures included in the Mediterranean Regulation. It is my firm belief that it is only in this way that a viable future for Mediterranean fisheries – and in turn the livelihood that fishermen derive from them – will be achieved.

“I am glad to be able to acknowledge that we have achieved some progress in this area, albeit only a small part of what is needed. Yet it is my fervent hope that this progress will be extended further embracing, along its way, other coastal States.”

Under the European Neighbourhood Policy, for example, there is scope for new impetus to be brought to bilateral co-operation. As this has by and large centred on trade issues, it is important for joint efforts to be broadened and to include, amongst other things, improved conservation.” We have a long way to go in reducing our fishing capacity to levels that can be sustained by the resources in the seas. I am, however, not deterred. This is a process that most certainly is possible and one that I am confident we can achieve if we work together.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.