Today the European Commission has proposed a multi-annual plan for fish stocks in the western Mediterranean Sea. The proposal covers demersal fish stocks, i.e. fish that live and feed at the bottom of the seabed, and bring a significant income to the fisheries sector in the region. According to the latest data, it is estimated that in 2015, French, Italian and Spanish vessels landed around 100 000 tonnes of demersal fish, valued at €675 million. Catches for these stocks have significantly decreased by around 23 % since the early 2000s. At this rate more than 90 % of the stocks assessed would be overfished by 2025. Without the collective pooling of effort foreseen by this plan, around 1 500 vessels would be at financial risk by 2025. Today's proposal aims to restore these stocks to levels that can ensure social and economic viability for the fishermen and the more than 16000 jobs that depend on it.
Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella 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. 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".
Main elements of the proposal include:
- Setting fishing targets for the most commercially important demersal stocks: hake, red mullet, deep-water rose shrimp, Norway lobster, blue and red shrimp and giant red shrimp.
- Simplifying fisheries management under one main regulatory framework. The plan will be coordinated at EU level and apply for all trawlers operating in the region. Each year, on the basis of scientific advice, the Council would decide the maximum number of fishing days, also referred to as allowable fishing effort, for each fleet category by Member State.
- Reducing fishing activities in the first year of the plan in line with the scientific advice, given the worrying situation of most demersal stocks.
- Restricting trawlers from operating in sea beds up to 100m deep, from 1 May to 31 July each year, to reserve the coastal zone for more selective gears. This will protect nursery areas and sensitive habitats, and enhance the social sustainability of small-scale fisheries.
- Establishing regional cooperation among France, Italy and Spain. Provisions for the landing obligation and technical conservation measures could be put forward by the Member States concerned, in close collaboration with the fishing sector.
Today's proposal, with its long-term approach, creates more stability and more transparency as the three Member States concerned would jointly adapt current fishing targets to sustainable levels through the Council. It also ensures a consistent approach with other EU multi-annual plans, especially with regard to the recent agreement reached by the European Parliament and Council on the North Sea plan.
The Commission's proposal is now submitted for discussion to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.
Today's multi-annual plan is the fourth proposal adopted in line with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), after the Baltic Sea, North Sea and Adriatic Sea. It covers the western Mediterranean Sea waters, which extend along the Northern Alboran Sea, the Gulf of Lion and the Tyrrhenian Sea, covering the Balearic archipelago and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia and concerns mainly France, Italy and Spain. In 2015, the fleet covered by this multiannual plan includes almost 10 900 vessels, where 50% are Italian, 39% Spanish and 11% French (Annual Economic Report, 2017).
Under the CFP, multi-annual plans should contribute to achieving fishing at sustainable levels. They should also contain measures to implement the landing obligation, technical measures, as well as safeguards for remedial action where needed.
The proposal has been subject to a thorough impact assessment and is based on the best available scientific advice from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STEFC). The Mediterranean Sea Advisory Council was extensively consulted and released its opinion in November 2017. In addition, a 4-month public consultation was carried out in 2016.
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