María José Cornax, fisheries campaign manager at Oceana in Europe, stated: "This is a critical time for the GFCM as its funding text is undergoing a process of review. It is clear that a strong political commitment to restore fish stocks is a requirement for success, yet the first message sent by these countries has been a complete disregard of the repeated warnings from scientists. This begs to question whether we can hope for a future of Mediterranean fisheries at all."
The strong opposition to the EU proposal to adopt, for the first time, precautionary measures, including a reduction in fishing effort for demersal stocks of at least 10 per cent, in line with scientific advice, led the session to gradually reduce any hint of ambition and finally adopt vague guidelines without any binding effect.
On a positive note, the meeting concluded with the adoption of terms of reference for the reform of the Agreement, as well as a decision on the management of marine protected areas, which is a first step towards the protection and conservation of marine habitats in the region.
“The decision on marine habitats opens the door, for the first time, to a new line of work that will contribute to habitat conservation,” added Pilar Marín, marine habitats scientist at Oceana in Europe.
“However, this step is only the beginning of the hard work that will have to be undertaken by the GFCM in designating new marine protected areas over the coming years.”