Recovering fish stocks
More than 90% of these species in the Mediterranean Sea are in grave danger
Maria Koleva, Strasbourg
17 June, 2017
Against the backdrop of the worrying fact that Mediterranean fish stocks have shrunk dangerously as big portion of them is overexploited, even some near collapse, the European Parliament adopted a report that aims to reverse these tendencies. The own-initiative report of Italian Green MEP Marco Affronte which is dedicated to the status of fish stocks and the socio-economic situation of the fishing sector in the Mediterranean was backed by the full chamber on 13 June with 558 votes in favor, 43 against and 35 abstentions. In the Mediterranean waters there are more than 17,000 marine species and its coast is shared by 23 countries.
As the rapporteur said, the regular Commission’s annual report on fisheries shows that there are some stocks in recovery in some parts of Europe and others that are achieving sustainable yield, but for the Mediterranean, he noted that about 90% of fish stocks are overexploited and are well above the limit for sustainable recovery. He also underlined that the cooperation with non-European third countries will play crucial role for shifting to more sustainable fisheries. According to Affronte, it may be necessary to introduce quotas on some overexploited fishes, propped up by appropriate scientific data. All this could not be done without greater control over illegal fishing, accompanied by special measures for those who break the rules and do not have the license, he urged. The rapporteur also accented on the need for better control over the supply chain to the fish market with more comprehensive consumer information and active involvement of regional fisheries organisations in the decision-making process.
It is not just overfishing that threatens the Mediterranean Sea, but excessively high nutrient and fertiliser levels, pollution, and changes to the coast and the habitat all pose serious threats, while maritime traffic and drilling for oil and gas are further risk factors. MEPs also accented that the Mediterranean Sea is very sensitive to climate change.
A document by the Commission shows that for far too many stocks it has not been possible until now to attain sufficient data as 50% of catches are still not legally recorded and 80% of landings are from data-deficient stocks. This has resulted in a constant trickle of lost jobs and income coupled with an intense environmental impact. The cost of poor management is particularly high for artisanal boats, which represent 83% of the Mediterranean fleet.
According to the statistics, more than 300,000 persons are directly employed on fishing vessels in the Mediterranean and many more additional indirect jobs depend on the sector. Veronica Lope Fontagne, Spain MEP from EPP Group, mentioned in her statement that the situation with the Mediterranean Sea “forces us to take action”, but she underscored that such actions have to be backed by reliable scientific data, something that does not exist at the moment. On socio-economic aspects, including those related to recreational fishing, she pointed out that small-scale fisheries account for 80% of the fishing fleet and 60% of jobs and their opinion should be taken into account while proposing new measures.
During her intervention, Italian S&D MEP Renata Briano, stated that to achieve maximum sustainable yield by 2020, it is necessary to work on several fronts, from safeguarding marine ecosystems to strengthening cooperation with third countries, including efforts to combat illegal fishing, greater involvement of fishermen in decision-making processes.
The Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration signed in the end of March is a very important step in the efforts to further mitigate the risks concerning the situation in this rich in biodiversity sea, is the opinion of the Parliament. It was sealed at the Malta Ministerial Conference on Mediterranean fisheries, organised by the Commission with representatives from 22 of the 23 countries that share a Mediterranean shoreline. That time Karmenu Vella, EU commissioner for environment, fisheries and maritime affairs exclaimed: “Today we are making history!” The ministers committed to eliminate illegal fishing by 2020 by ensuring that all states keep their control and inspection responsibilities and to support sustainable small-scale fisheries and aquaculture by streamlining funding schemes for local projects.