Last March, I spoke at the ministerial conference on the sustainability of Mediterranean fisheries in Malta, organised by European environment, maritime affairs and fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella. I made a clear call for a stronger involvement of the fishing sector in the decision making process, in order to have successful implementation measures.
Mediterranean fisheries ministers participated in the conference, which concluded with the adoption of the MedFish4Ever declaration, an important commitment that stresses the attention European Union, member states and third countries are focusing on the Mediterranean issue.
Small-scale fisheries constitute over 80 per cent of the Mediterranean fleet. It is therefore important to involve fishermen as early as possible in the decision making procedure on measures affecting their activity.
A coordinated action with the fishing sector is crucial to solve the fish stocks crisis affecting the Mediterranean sea, where 85 per cent of stocks are still threatened and the economic livelihood of fishermen and 300,000 related jobs are at stake.
Fishermen's close involvement from the early stages of the decision making process is crucial for the successful implementation of all measures taken to ensure sustainable fisheries.
We must act now. We cannot wait and watch the situation regarding fish stocks become irreversible. The financial viability of fishermen in the Mediterranean has to be safeguarded. Early involvement of all actors is key to the success of legislation.
Small-scale artisanal fisheries are part of the Mediterranean cultural heritage and we must ensure their future. The sector has the potential to deliver sustainable jobs and to contribute to the conservation of the ecosystems in which they operate.
Consumers enjoy eating fish: by choosing local, not overexploited species they could also contribute to sustainable fishing. We need to promote targeted information campaigns that could guide them in their choices.
Ministers and stakeholders participating in the Malta conference focused on existing best-practices and future perspectives for small-scale fisheries. They debated ways for local fishing communities to be actively involved through specific co-management projects.
In their MedFish4Ever declaration, member states committed to improve data collection and scientific evaluation of stocks, establish an ecosystem-based fisheries management framework and support sustainable small-scale fisheries in order to protect the livelihood of coastal communities.
Ending overfishing in the Mediterranean sea is a major priority issue for the EU. This is possible when good science is available, when catches are monitored and when fishermen share the efforts to protect the stocks.
Overfishing is one among several causes of the current situation of the Mediterranean, whose rich biodiversity is also threatened by pollution, climate change, coastal erosion and uncontrolled urbanisation.
All Mediterranean countries need to act urgently to avoid the collapse of fish stocks and marine ecosystems.
The European Union and its member states should continue to cooperate with all the countries bordering the Mediterranean sea to achieve the sustainability of the fishery sector. Coordination and cooperation significantly increase the effectiveness of the measures adopted.