EO 3 Harvest of commercially exploited fish and shellfish
Populations of selected commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within biologically safe limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock.
- The majority of Mediterranean stocks (~85%) are subject to overfishing. The maintenance of a steady production of fish from Mediterranean fisheries is a priority in the context of blue growth and food security for coastal communities. Mediterranean catches are stagnant, with current yields at around 800.000 tons, below the maximum yield of around 1 million tons, obtained in the mid-90’s.
- The advice on the status of Mediterranean commercially exploited stocks, as provided by the GFCM SAC have largely improved in recent years, as recognized by Mediterranean riparian states. However, the level of information differs between species and geographical areas, with information concentrating on a few stocks and lacking or being fragmented in other commercially exploited stocks.
- Data expressed through Spawning Stock Biomass indicates that up to 42% of the stocks assessed in the Mediterranean show a low biomass in comparison with the existing time series, and only for 22% of the stocks the biomass is considered to be relatively high in relation to the time series. However, the level of information differs between species and geographical areas, with information concentrating on a few stocks and lacking or being fragmented in other commercially exploited stocks.
- Riparian states have recently explicitly recognized low biomass of key stocks and overfishing in the Mediterranean as a key challenges in the context of blue growth and food security for coastal communities, and have included a specific target in the mid-term (2017-2020) strategy towards the sustainability of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries aimed at reversing the declining trend of fish stocks through strengthened scientific advice in support of management.
- The increase of biomass for key stocks and reduction of fishing mortality require the adoption of sub-regional management plans in the context of the GFCM, to complement those already in place for the Adriatic small pelagics and the Strait of Sicily demersal fisheries, as well as the adoption of measures that ensure the efficient management of fishing capacity. Although examples of recovery/increase of spawning stock biomass exist elsewhere in the world, it is also known that stock recovery/rebuilding may depend on factors other than fishing, and that in some cases stocks may require some time to rebuild after management measures are taken.
- Even if stock assessments and advice are now available for an increasing number of stocks, the number of stocks for which MSY-based SSB reference points (or its proxy) exist is still very limited. Thus, it is not possible to establish reproductive potential levels relative to MSY, and the indication on current biomass levels is often based (as in this assessment) on an empirical analysis of often short time series.
- The correct estimation of total landings requires a precise knowledge of the fishing activities carried out by the active fishing fleet operating in the Mediterranean. The specificities of the Mediterranean fleet, composed by a large majority of small scale polyvalent vessels, as well as the existing variety of landing sites, and the different capacity of Mediterranean riparian states to accurately monitor the landings in such sites, make difficult an accurate estimation of landings in the region. Furthermore, Illegal, Unregulated or Unreported (IUU) fishing activities in the area also affects the estimates. The GFCM has proposed a number of solutions to improve the quality of the estimation of total catch. On one hand, the GFCM DCRF is expected to provide the technical elements to improve and harmonize the collection of information on fisheries throughout the Mediterranean.
- The correct estimation of fishing mortality requires a precise understanding of riparian states’ fishing capacity. Due to the specificities of the Mediterranean fleet, composed of a large majority of small scale polyvalent vessels, information on fishing capacity is sometimes incomplete or inaccurate. Furthermore, the estimation of robust reference points for fishing mortality requires the use of long time series and the incorporation of environmental and ecosystem variables, as well as the design of robust methods that can integrate information from different sources.
- The update and adoption of new specific binding recommendations related to the mandatory requirements for data collection and submission, underpinned by the operationalization of the GFCM Data Collection Reference Framework (DCRF) is expected to improve the quality of the data in support of advice, in line with the need expressed by riparian states. The mid-term strategy (2017-2020) towards the sustainability of Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries is also expected to contribute in this endeavour through specific actions such as, for example, the execution of harmonized scientific surveys-at-sea.
Regular reporting for all Ecological Objectives should be established/strengthened.