July 17th, 2021 – The EU Multi-annual management plan (MAP) for demersal stocks in the Western Mediterranean Sea (West Med MAP) adopted in 2019, is the first multi-annual management plan implemented in the Mediterranean to deliver the Common Fisheries Policies objectives.
The goal of West Med MAP is to achieve the sustainable exploitation of key demersal stocks – notably hake, red mullet, nephrops and shrimps – through the reduction of 40% of fishing effort of the bottom-trawling fleet by 2025, combined with the creation of closed areas to protect juvenile fish and spawners by July 17th, 2021. Furthermore the MAP is set to implement the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management, in order to ensure that the negative impact of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem is minimised.
The latest report from the European Commission shows that in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the fishing mortality indicator ratio is still around 2.1, more than twice above sustainable levels, and that despite some slight recent improvements the overfishing situation continues to be worrying.
In 2020, a 10% effort reduction (= number of fishing days) was agreed under the MAP. However, when the European Commission proposed a 15% reduction in fishing effort for 2021, France, Italy and Spain rejected it. This led to a compromise solution where Italy agreed to a 10% effort reduction, while a 7.5% effort reduction was agreed for Spain and France, integrated with complementary measures in the form of spatial measures (additional closures to trawling), and selectivity measures in Spain.
According to the above decision, taken at the EU AgriFish Council in December 2020, Spain should have tested and proposed additional selectivity measures for the entire trawl fleet in the West Med MAP. Plus, France, Italy and Spain should have identified new closures to protect nursery areas and spawning grounds for the most over-exploited species, in particular hake.
It is now time – the 17th of July – for France, Italy and Spain to fully implement their obligation by protecting nurseries and spawning areas of overexploited fish stocks. It is now time for stakeholders to be informed about what new closures will be established, and about what selectivity measures were tested and will be adopted. MedReAct and WWF urge France, Italy and Spain to comply with this key deadline and share the results of the selectivity tests, given the urgency to implement actions needed for a fast recovery of overexploited stocks in the Western Mediterranean.