Malta, October 2 rd - Ministers from Mediterranean States will convene in Malta on October 4 th to review the progress made in achieving the goals set forth in the MedFish4Ever Declaration adopted in 2017. The meeting comes as the Mediterranean region approaches the five-year mark since the declaration's adoption.
In 2017, in response to the alarming decline of fish stocks and marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and the European Union (EU) united fisheries decision-makers from the region in Malta. The objective was to define a comprehensive set of objectives and specific actions aimed at enhancing the management and governance of Mediterranean fisheries. The ultimate goal was to ensure the long-term environmental, economic, and social sustainability of Mediterranean fisheries. This initiative resulted in the signing of the MedFish4Ever Declaration, which outlined five key objectives.
While progress has been achieved in several areas, such as fisheries data collection,
combating illegal fishing, and implementing management plans for various species, there
remains a significant gap in expanding the network of Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRAs).
Only one FRA proposal has been implemented in the Adriatic Sea since 2018, despite several submissions and examinations by the GFCM. With the exception of the deep-water trawl ban, currently FRAs protect less than 1% of the Mediterranean Sea, falling significantly short of the 20% protection target set by the Malta Declaration.
A recent study conducted by the Spanish Institute of Marine Science and Ecopath International on prioritizing FRAs in the Western Mediterranean underscores the importance of strengthening these areas to enhance biodiversity, resilience, and climate change adaptation.
The study identifies eight priority areas, including the Gulf of Lion and the Ebro Delta, where proposals for FRA establishment and strengthening have been under discussion since 2019. Implementation of these proposals, along with extending the deep-waters trawl ban to 800 or 600 meters depth, could protect approximately 10% of priority areas.
Despite efforts, the Mediterranean remains one of the most overfished seas globally, with ecosystems facing severe threats. The GFCM MedFish4Ever High-level Conference provides a vital opportunity to translate commitments into tangible actions, with a focus on expanding the FRA network at the upcoming GFCM annual session in November in Split.
“Preserving the richness of the Mediterranean requires more than words, it demands concrete actions. As we gather at MedFish4Ever let’s turn ambition into achievement, expanding the network of Restricted Fishing Areas. Together, we can ensure a future for both our ocean and the communities that depend on it” stated Domitilla Senni, from MedReAct.