Many Mediterranean fish stocks are in a worrying state, with alarming consequences for income and jobs in the Mediterranean fishing sector. To highlight the need for action, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella, launched the campaign #MedFish4Ever. More than 80 representatives from EU institutions, European regions, business, and NGOs gathered at the European Commission stand at the Seafood Global Expo in Brussels for the launch event.
"For millennia, Mediterranean fishermen have used the bountiful resources of the sea to forge their livelihoods. Now this vital resource is in serious danger, putting thousands of jobs at risk as a core part of our industry is eroded away. We need to face up to our responsibilities: as policy makers, fishermen, scientists and civil society, including consumers. Experience shows that we can be successful – when we tackle challenges collectively. So today I am here to launch action. I am here to launch our campaign to raise awareness of this problem – a campaign to ensure MEDFISH4EVER," Commissioner Vella said.
He was joined in his call for action by Zakia Driouich, Secretary General at the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries; Javier Garat, President of European fisheries association Europêche; and Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
All speakers underlined the importance of working together to return fish stocks to good health and ensure a future for Mediterranean fishermen. This includes cooperation between EU and non-EU countries on the one hand, and on the other between government, civil society and, crucially, fishermen themselves.
Speakers also agreed on the importance of taking policy decisions based on science, and on the resulting need to invest in gathering more and better data.
"Following a fishing crisis in 2003, Morocco has put in place a fisheries strategy focusing on two key elements: sustainability and conservation measures. Our aim is to have 95% of fisheries under a management plan by 2020 – currently we are at 91%. But the Mediterranean is a shared area and the health of the Mediterranean is therefore a shared concern. We need a shared vision, and I therefore thank Commissioner Vella for this initiative," said Ms Driouich.
"The fishing sector has to take the lead on the recovery of the Mediterranean together with the scientific community, governments and NGOs. Fishermen must be given a real say in forging fisheries policy because only through a real bottom-up approach will there be a better understanding of the rules, which will lead to a culture of compliance," said Mr Garat.
“The Mediterranean Sea has reached crisis point, with 93 per cent of assessed fish stocks over-exploited and trends still declining, so this EU initiative comes at a critical time. Only if all stakeholders act together can we build a new future for fish stocks, transform Mediterranean fisheries, help fishermen craft their future, and achieve improved and sustainable seafood markets,” said Mr Lambertini.