“Today we are making history. In signing the Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration, we are affirming our political will to deliver tangible action: on fisheries and other activities that have an impact on fisheries resources, on the blue economy, on social inclusion, and on solidarity between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean,” said Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs.
The European Commission has put forward the MedFish4Ever Declaration – a 10-year pledge to secure the fish stocks of the Mediterranean. On the 30th of March, the ministers, heads of national delegations and the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, met in Malta “to attain the environmental, economic and social sustainability of Mediterranean fisheries.”
The Malta Declaration is an important step forward by the European Commission, giving much-needed attention to the alarming situation in the Mediterranean. Through this pledge, the coastline countries have finally reached a consensus on what needs to be done. Since not all the countries on the Mediterranean coastline belong to the EU, a proper management of the region’s resources has not yet been established, leading to a rapid decline of fish stocks. In 2016, over 90% of the fish stocks assessed were considered over-exploited.
The Declaration lists tangible actions that involve all actors in decision making and data collection processes to improve on existing scientific knowledge. The Commission aims to have adequate and scientific data collected by 2020, giving particular attention to small-scale fishermen in the data-collection process. The pledge also includes the complete elimination of illegal fishing activities and a multi-year plan that involves the participation of all key fisheries.
According to Marta Cavallé from Low Impact Fishers of Europe, the 2020 goal is optimistic: “All of those involved have to recognize just how ambitious the 2020 deadline is, to reach many of the key objectives such as managing 100% of the key fisheries by means of multi-annual management plans. Providing a system to generate adequate data collection systems will be equally challenging, taking into account the impact and needs of the recreational fishing sector while being aware of the present and worsening pollution threat.”
The poor state of the Mediterranean can be traced to a long term lack of recognition of its importance and its ecological, social and economic relevance. Concerns revolve around how far the Mediterranean situation has deteriorated and therefore just how much hard work, resources and commitment are going to be necessary to turn things around.
Cavallé strongly stressed that co-management with fishers has to be the way forward, as that will ensure coherence, compliance, quality data, adaptive management, and many other benefits. Although the Malta Declaration is an important step forward, the real challenge starts now with turning the declarations into affirmative actions.