Oceana urges Mediterranean countries to make fisheries more transparent and sustainable

Press Release Date: October 28, 2021



Irene Campmany | email: icampmany@oceana.org | tel.: +34 682 622 245

The organisation calls on Mediterranean countries to make information on authorised fishing vessels public, to help identify those that fish illegally  

Oceana proposes new 800km² fishery closure to protect exceptional deep-sea corals between Spain and Morocco 

Oceana is urging the member countries of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) to improve fisheries management and ensure effective enforcement by modernising its Authorised Vessel List. This would mean publicly listing information about fishing licenses, detailing which vessels can legally operate where, when, how and under which conditions, especially for vessels allowed to fish in and near protected areas. Oceana is also calling for the GFCM to adopt fisheries closures to protect sensitive habitats and juvenile fish and help recover fish populations. The GFCM annual meeting, where these decisions will take place, will start on 2nd November. 

We need to know who can fish what species, where, when and how much, and to be able to cross-check fishing information among GFCM parties and beyond, like researchers or NGOs. This is the virtuous path to follow to identify illegal activities at sea, strengthen accountability and allow fishers who comply with the rules to benefit”, says Helena Álvarez, Marine Scientist at Oceana in Europe. 

Oceana is furthermore asking the GFCM to add new vessels whose engagement in illegal fishing is proven, such as those fishing in areas where it is forbidden, to the illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) vessel list. The GFCM should impose deterrent sanctions accordingly, including to countries that fail to report information on their authorised vessel list. These measures are crucial to ensure that GFCM recommendations are effective in achieving their objectives in terms of biodiversity recovery and preventing IUU fishing. 

According to an Oceana analysis, there are indications of irregular fishing practices in protected areas in the Mediterranean, that prosper due to the secrecy that surrounds the sector. The study indicates that, since 2018, there have been repeated cases of potentially illegal bottom trawling around the Strait of Sicily where this type of fishing is forbidden. 

In addition, the organisation urges more ambition to protect sensitive habitats and Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME) from the impact of fisheries. These areas are crucial shelters for juvenile fish thus helping to recover overexploited fish populations. Oceana is calling on the GFCM to adopt proposals for Fisheries Restricted Areas in the Bari Canyon and Otranto Strait and to commit to protect in 2022 the Cabliers bank, a semi-pristine deep-sea cold-water coral reef in the Alboran Sea. 

The GFCM gathers 22 Mediterranean and Black Sea countries and the European Union. Oceana’s demands would help deliver commitments from the 2017 MedFish4Ever Declaration many of which have not been implemented, such as adopting a roadmap to create a network of fisheries closures to protect these sensitive habitats and fragile ecosystems from the impacts of destructive fishing, like bottom trawling. These demands are now part of the new GFCM 2030 Strategy, agreed earlier this year by Mediterranean fisheries ministers and which will be formally adopted at the meeting. The Mediterranean remains the most overfished sea in the world. 

# # #

This press release is also available in French.

Learn more:

Factsheet “Protecting Cabliers: Exceptional Mediterranean coral reefs” 

Video: Protecting the coral reef at Cabliers Bank 

Factsheet “Amend the Public GFCM Authorised Vessel List to Strengthen Compliance and Transparency” 

Report “Transparency and compliance weaknesses in GFCM Fisheries Restricted Areas”