The European Commission has proposed a sweeping multi-annual plan for managing fish stocks in the western Mediterranean Sea.
According to a recent economic report, catches in the western Mediterranean have decreased by almost one quarter since the early 2000s, at which rate more than 90% of stocks assessed in the latest available data would be overfished by 2025. A multi-annual plan for managing fish stocks in the region will attempt to restore these stocks to levels which will ensure economic viability for the 1,500 ships that rely on them.
It is estimated that in 2015, European fishing vessels landed around 100,000 tonnes of demersal fish, which are fish that live and feed at the bottom of the seabed. They are also extremely valuable, and the 2015 haul has been estimated to be worth some €675 million.
What does the proposal involve?
The proposals will set fishing targets for a number of the most popular and commercially important species of demersal fish, including:
- Red mullet;
- Blue and red shrimp;
- Norway lobster; and
- Giant red shrimp.
It will also include the establishment of a main regulatory framework for fisheries management, to be co-ordinated at EU level and to apply to all trawlers operating in the region.
Through this framework, the EU will impose periods of restricted fishing in the region, to allow fish stocks to replenish, and an overall limit on fishing in the region for the first year that the plan is in operation.
The proposal will now be subject to approval by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The commission has argued that a multi-annual plan for managing fish stocks is the only acceptable long-term approach to avoid significant economic consequences.
What has the commission said?
The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, welcomed that the proposal builds upon previous efforts to fish more sustainably in the western Mediterranean, and is in line with the EU’s common fisheries policy.
He said: “Today’s proposal for a multi-annual plan is a direct follow-up to the MedFish4Ever Declaration from 2017. It aims to reach a healthy level of fish stocks needed to prevent a loss of jobs and to sustain important economic sectors that depend on fisheries. It brings us one step closer to making Mediterranean fisheries more sustainable.”
Vella concluded: “We need to act, and we need to act with urgency. Only then can we secure our common objective to allow fisheries to sustain fishermen and the economy for years to come.”