NGOs today commended the decision by Mediterranean states to create a sanction system that will empower the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) to take action against countries which continue overfishing or illegal fishing, calling it “a crucial step towards building a culture of compliance, which is essential to start rebuilding Mediterranean fish populations,” the Med Sea Alliance reports.
The binding recommendation adopted by the GFCM during this week’s meeting in Croatia (GFCM 46) will finally allow the organisation to act against member states who fail to adhere to its conservation measures, using a system that will go into force in 2025.
Together, the 22 GFCM member states (plus the EU) can now take action if a member fails to stop its trawl fleet from fishing in no-trawl areas, or if a member does not respect GFCM rules on fishing gear or catch restrictions.
“After decades of inaction against illegal fishing and Mediterranean countries not complying with the rules, times are changing”, said Helena Álvarez, Senior Marine Scientist at Oceana in Europe.
“Starting in 2025, the GFCM will finally have the power to make its members act against those who fail to adhere to catch or landing requirements or those who do not stop trawlers from fishing in areas where it’s forbidden”.
Measures that can be taken by GFCM will include, for example, a restriction of fishing authorisations or a reduction of the allowed fishing days at sea.
However, the NGOs say that it is crucial that the system is completed with further available sanctions, in order to also tackle a failure to provide the required data or to conduct port controls.
“The measures taken by the GFCM will ensure better compliance with all the conservation and management measures adopted within the framework of this organisation,” said Nils Courcy, Senior Jurist, Marine & Mediterranean, at ClientEarth.
“Compliance with the rules adopted by the GFCM members is an essential step towards improving the status of fish stocks and marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean. This new recommendation and the clear intentions announced by the GFCM to extend it to the monitoring, control and reporting obligations by ‘2026 at the latest’ are much needed improvements to secure a healthy marine environment in the Mediterranean”.
“We have a breakthrough in the protection of Mediterranean fish populations and marine ecosystems”, said Steve Trent, CEO and Founder of the Environmental Justice Foundation.
“The GFCM will now be able to sanction breaches of conservation rules, which is a vital step on the road to recovery. The success of conservation efforts in the Mediterranean basin will depend in large part on how effectively this tool is implemented and enforced and I urge GFCM members to apply it fully when the rules are broken.”
Ahead of the meeting, NGOs urged the adoption of a system of sanctions that would allow the GFCM to tackle illegal fishing and cases of non-compliance within its region – a call backed by a legal analysis published this week that shows that GFCM has the competency to impose such measures.
Main image: By No machine-readable author provided. Clipper assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=454976
The Med Sea Alliance is a campaign movement created in 2020 to bring together non-government organisations and other civil society groups working to improve the health and productivity of the Mediterranean Sea.
On the afternoon of October 3rd, during an official MedFish4Ever side event, several Med Sea Alliance members presented the findings of the Med Sea Alliance Atlas, an investigation into illegal trawling, and the call to action.
Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) presented its position on ensuring strong fisheries control and support for local communities. Alexandra Cousteau, explorer and ocean activist, made a short speech.