Barcelona, 4th of July 2018
Barcelona, 4th of July 2018
Barcelona, 31st May 2016
DG Mare recently announced the opening of the blue fin tuna fishing season (http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/mare/itemdetail.cfm?type=880&typeName=Press%20Release&item_id=31694). But behind this good news story lies a dark tale of social injustice and of missed opportunity. Hundreds of polyvalent small-scale fishers in the Mediterranean who traditionally targeted Bluefin tuna during a two- to three-month season using handlines, and with each fisher catching a single fish on average, are effectively excluded from the fishery.
Case after case is coming to light of smaller scale fishers being discriminated against by unfair quota allocation systems across the EU that fly in the face of sustainability and social justice. Nowhere is this more so than in the case of Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.
Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy – CFP Reg. (EU) No 1380/2013 – requires that states use “transparent and objective criteria, including those of an environmental, social, and economic nature” when allocating fishing opportunities. However, of all the possible criteria listed in the article, Member States continue to use historic track records almost exclusively to allocate quotas. Historically, in most cases, small scale fishers have not been required to maintain catch records, and so are unfairly discriminated against by this system.
Article 17 also encourages Member States to provide incentives to “fishing vessels deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact, such as reduced energy consumption or habitat damage” within the fishing opportunities allocated to them. Such a provision could be used to reward small-scale, environmentally sound and socially important fishery activities, but it remains dormant.
Implementation of the potentially revolutionary provisions of Article 17 does, however, require the political will to change from a “business as usual” approach. Historically the CFP has been blind to small scale fisheries. This has meant that its focus has been on regulating larger scale mobile gear fisheries. So, time after time, smaller scale low impact fishery operations have been unfairly discriminated against, despite their inherent social, economic and environmental advantages.
Tuna: a shining example in a gloomy Mediterranean.
In the Mediterranean, the recovery of Bluefin tuna stocks shines out brightly against a gloomy background of overfishing that has got out of control. Generally, Mediterranean fish stocks are in a seriously depleted state, with 93% of those stocks assessed being overfished.
In 2006, Bluefin tuna were thought to be on the verge of extinction. Although it is too early to say that Atlantic Bluefin tuna stocks have now reached sustainable levels, signs of their recovery auger well for the dozens of commercial fish stocks in the Mediterranean that are in the doldrums.
Scientific advice indicates that Atlantic Bluefin tuna stocks are recovering, and this has encouraged the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) – the international body responsible for regulating the fishery for Atlantic (including in the Mediterranean) tuna to set a 60% increase in the overall TAC for bluefin tuna over the three-year period 2015 to 2017. Thanks to this, in 2016 the European TAC for bluefin tuna is 11,203 tonnes.
The ICCAT decision is also based on improvements made to controlling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing thanks to the use of new technologies and international cooperation, as well as to a range of management measures adopted since 2006 as part of a Bluefin tuna recovery plan for the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.
The dark side to this good news story is that those fishing operations that have had, and continue to have the biggest impact on the resource are being rewarded with additional quota – just the opposite of what Article 17 should be all about. Meanwhile, the smaller-scale low impact fishers of the Mediterranean, who have fished for tuna since ancestral times, with notable exceptions, are being left out of this big quota give-away. These smaller scale operations have a minimum impact on the resource, yet have potentially significant social and economic benefits for communities that depend on fishing.
Those reaping the benefits are essentially the larger scale purse seiners that catch tuna alive for fattening, a relatively recent commercial activity that relies on the use of small pelagic species for their feed. Many of these small pelagic species are being overfished, notably in the Mediterranean.
There is also a worrying sign that this gifting of quota to large scale fishing companies is transforming a public resource into a privately owned commodity through individual (or vessel) transferable quotas (ITQs). For example, Spanish laws now permit the temporary or permanent transfer of tuna quota between vessels with access to the tuna fishery, which could lead to the concentration of the quota allocated to large and medium sized vessels in the hands of a few companies, as well as leading to a speculative investment and trade in tuna quota.
LIFE rejects such a model for allocating fishing rights, whether in the Mediterranean or elsewhere. Fisheries are a global heritage, and it is national governments not private companies are responsible for governing who has access and use of these naturally renewable resources. Commodifying fish stocks through ITQs and similar market based fishery management tools is neither a fair nor sustainable.
LIFE calls on Member State Governments to apply Article 17 of the CFP, both in letter and in spirit of the law. This means applying Article 17 so as to encourage the promotion of responsible and socially beneficial fishing. Giving away fishing rights for free, to a small number of increasingly prosperous and powerful fishing companies has disenfranchised the majority of the fleet, and is turning a public resource into a privately owned commodity.
Brussels, 20 april 2016
By Brian O’Riordan, Deputy Director
Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE)
“Our patient is ill, but still breathing. The diagnosis is serious, but there is still hope.” From Commissioner Vella’s Opening Speech in Catania 9 February 2016, High level seminar on the Status of the Stocks in the Mediterranean and on the CFP Approach.
“Concerted effort needed to ensure that best practice become standard practices in small scale fisheries” – conclusion of GFCM Regional Conference on Small Scale Fisheries.
The Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) contend that if Mediterranean fisheries are to recover from their current crisis, small scale fisheries have to be included as a central part of the remedy.
Any solution to the crisis in the Mediterranean must be built around small scale fisheries, as this sector provides the social and economic backbone of fishing communities.
The oversight of the Spanish Government to include representatives from the small scale sector in their recent consultation with the fisheries sector, environmentalists, scientists and regional authorities must be remedied. Meeting in Madrid on April 7 to lay out details of its draft plan for the recovery of Mediterranean fisheries, the Fisheries Secretariat of the Ministry for Agriculture, Food and the Environment failed either to acknowledge the strategic importance of small scale fisheries to the success of such a plan, they also failed to invite representatives from the sector.
The Spanish plan is in preparation for a Ministerial conference in Brussels, hosted by DG Mare, on April 27, to coincide with the European Seafood Show (now called Seafood Expo Global). The meeting is spurred by the fishery crisis in the Mediterranean, and is the next step following the two day “high level seminar” on the state of stocks in the Mediterranean that took place in Catania, Sicily earlier this year. It will include Fisheries Ministers from all the countries bordering the Mediterranean, with the aim of agreeing on the actions necessary to address the crisis in the Mediterranean. Proposals from this conference will be taken to the 40th Session of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), the Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) for the Mediterranean and Black Sea, on 30 May.
The importance of small scale coastal fisheries (SSCF) in the Mediterranean is highlighted by the 2014 Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet by the Scientific and Technical Committee on Fisheries (STEFC). This finds that, according to the available data, for the Mediterranean & Black Sea fleet, the small scale fleet (SSF) possessed 69% of the fleet in number and accounted for 67% of the effort but provided jobs for only 51% of the total employed. In terms of production, the SSF landed only 13% in weight but 23% in value; overall generating 27% of the revenue.
Whilst emphasising the important social and economic weight of the sector, these figures also highlight the huge gap in the available data on landings. Any visitor to a Mediterranean fishing port will be impressed by the quantity of small boats, the quantities of fish they collectively land, and the availability of fresh locally caught fish in the nearby restaurants and retail outlets. Clearly their contribution to landings is higher than available data shows.
Mediterranean wide, according to the General Commission for Fisheries in the Mediterranean – the GFCM – SSCF “constitute over 80 percent of the fishing fleet, employ at least 60 percent of total on-vessel fishing labour and account for approximately 25 percent of the total landing value from capture fisheries in the region. At their best, small-scale fisheries exemplify sustainable resource use: exploiting living marine resources in a way that minimizes environmental degradation while maximizing economic and social benefits. Concerted effort is needed to ensure that best practices become standard practice.”
Small scale low impact activities using passive gears applied in a non-intensive and seasonally polyvalent manner also provide a ready-made solution to the problems of overfishing and environmental degradation caused by larger scale intensive, industrial fishery activities. Of course, considerable environmental impact is also being caused by the unrestricted use of small-meshed monofilament gillnets, and the associated effects of ghost fishing. Such irresponsible practices must be halted, in the same way that irresponsible industrial practices must be halted.
LIFE also contends that Article 17 of the CFP (“Basic Regulation” (EU) No 1380/2013) has an important role to play in favouring more sustainable ways of fishing, based on smaller scale, low impact fishing methods. Article 17, designed to promote responsible and socially beneficial fishing, obliges States to use transparent and objective criteria including those of an environmental, social and economic nature when allocating the fishing opportunities available to them. It also encourages States to provide incentives to fishing vessels deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact, such as reduced energy consumption or habitat damage.
At a meeting organized by LIFE in Athens on 28 November 2015, smaller scale fishers and their representative organisations from Greece, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, France and Spain demanded a greater voice in the development of fisheries policy at national and European levels. The meeting highlighted the need for the creation of long term plans as an integral element of the more dynamic and effective management of Mediterranean fisheries. Fishers also highlighted the need to reduce and then eventually eliminate pollution in the Mediterranean due to its a very significant adverse effect on coastal fisheries and the wider marine environment
However, although fishery activities undoubtedly have a significant impact on fish stocks and on the marine habitats essential for fishery production, it would be incorrect to lay the entire blame for the fishery crisis in the Mediterranean on fishing alone. The Mediterranean is a semi-enclosed sea, and highly vulnerable to the impacts of human activities. Including Gibraltar and Monaco there are 23 countries bordering the Mediterranean, and the impacts of industrial and domestic sources of pollution are considerable, as are the impacts of port, shipping, and offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction, and the actual and potential impacts of climate change (including acidification, increases in extreme weather, sea level rise, warming of the sea etc.).
The Mediterranean also has a notorious reputation for illegal (IUU) fishing. Sometimes this is carried out under the guise of “sports fishing”, the impact of which is considerable. In addition, due to the complex nature of national maritime boundaries and inadequate monitoring, control and enforcement, much illegal, unregulated and unreported fishery activity takes place beyond national boundaries. In many cases these extend out to only 12 miles. There is also a lack of harmonized policies between EU Member States and other Mediterranean countries, hence the need for action at the RFMO level, in the GFCM.
The question also arises as to what extent fishery specific measures can be used to restore fish stocks and the marine environment, and to what extent a raft of much wider measures is needed. For example, MSY is unlikely to be achieved solely by applying such fishery specific measures as closed seasons, fleet capacity reductions, technical measures to reduce the impact of fishing gears, etc. Unless environmental degradation caused by pollutants, marine debris (including plastics), by acidification from increasing CO2 levels etc. is addressed, fish stocks will not be able to rebuild themselves to pre-crisis levels.
Except for professional fisheries, all traditional sectors of Mediterranean maritime economy such as tourism, shipping, aquaculture and offshore oil and gas are expected to keep growing during the coming 15 years. Comparatively new or emerging sectors such as renewable energy, seabed mining and biotechnology are expected to grow even faster, although there is greater uncertainty concerning these developments and their expected impacts on marine ecosystem.
For sure, the road to recovery will be paved with a complex array of difficulties. However, unless policy makers include small scale fisheries and the stakeholders from the sector in their plans and consultations, it will be a rocky road to nowhere.
Brussels, 14 march 2016
The meeting of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, who took place from 7 to 9 March 2015, Algiers (Algeria), was attended by Brian O’Riordan, LIFE Deputy Director, and Marta Cavallé, LIFE Coordinator for the Mediterranean.
The purpose of LIFE’s participation in the meeting was to raise awareness about LIFE, its mission and objectives, to highlight the issues of importance for European small-scale low impact fishers, and to make contacts that will help LIFE and its work to become more widely recognized and supported.
Specifically, Brian O’Riordan represented LIFE in a round table discussion on the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Small Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines), where his input focussed on the opportunities and challenges for European small scale low impact fishers in the implementation of the reformed CFP.
The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) is a regional fisheries management organization (RFMO), and therefore plays an important role to play in fisheries governance in the region. Attending such a meeting is therefore very much in line with LIFE’s objective to “restore the health of our seas in Europe and the rest of the world”. It must be recalled that the Mediterranean faces a critical situation of overfished and depleted stocks, lack of effective management, IUU fishing, environmental degradation, and so on. DG Mare recently organized an emergency meeting on the state of stocks in the Mediterranean, and will host a ministerial fisheries meeting in Brussels of all Mediterranean states on April 27 2016.
Attending the meeting were delegations from North African countries, the European Commission (DG Mare) and the MedAC, some European delegations, North African fishers’ organizations, WWF, IUCN and various NGOs, and researchers.
One of the main themes of the meeting was supporting sustainable development of small scale fisheries through Blue Growth. “Blue Growth” aims to maximize economic returns to exploiting the seas and oceans in balance with environmental sustainability and social development. It is a new concept rooted in the Rio process on sustainable development, linked with the Green Economy. It is being widely promoted and could impact seriously on small scale fisheries. Blue Growth gives priority to those sectors with most potential for growth and economic benefits.
The consultant presenting the discussion noted that fisheries are not visible in a macro-economic view of Blue Growth. There is little scope for increasing production in fisheries. As far as he was concerned, there was a need for fisheries to demonstrate how they can maximize their contribution to the economy and to growth, and to “reposition” themselves accordingly. This would require he said a) applying a “use right” system to achieve economic efficiency, and b) generating an “investible surplus” that could be invested in growth.
The next two sessions were run by WWF related projects, the first on co-management and the second on Marine Protected Areas and how their performance could be improved by the participation of small scale fisheries in their management and use. The presentations also highlighted the need for “no take zones” in the MPAs to make them more productive.
WWF has considerable relevant experience in the Mediterranean with MPAs and engaging with small scale fisheries through the MedPan project. We took contact with MedPan/WWF representatives to explore how LIFE Members could benefit from training and other support to help them to be better understood by fisheries authorities in protected areas. It was suggested to us that LIFE arrange a delegation to attend the 2nd Forum of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean, to be held in Tangiers, Morocco from 29 November to 1 December 2016.
The fourth session discussed value chains in small scale fisheries and how to promote them in ways that enable fishers to benefit from value addition. One of the key issues facing small scale fishers is the high price their fish fetches on the market compared to the comparatively low price they receive. Various schemes were discussed, including cooperatives, training, ecolabels etc.
The final panel which Brian O’Riordan was on dealt with the FAO SSF Guidelines, and his presentation was on the Opportunities and Challenges for Small Scale Fisheries in the implementation of the CFP in Mediterranean, noting the challenges faced by Europe’s forgotten fleet, and the opportunities of Article 17, the Market regulation, EMFF and Advisory Councils.
The main conclusions from the conference are contained in a 7-page document, which proposes the establishment of a working group on small scale fisheries which LIFE could participate in. The GFCM were very positive about LIFE’s participation, and were very supportive of the idea of LIFE attending GFCM meetings.
LIFE staff had meetings with many different people and organizations including:
Abdella Srour, Executive Secretary, GFCM.
Stefano Cataudella, Chairperson, GFCM.
Valerie Laine, DG Mare, Head of Unit for Conservation and Control in the Mediterranean.
Rosa Caggiano, Executive Secretary, MedAC.
Dr Vassiliki Vassilopoulou, Research Director, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research
Matthieu Bernardon, Fisheries Consultant to FAO and others, with considerable experience of sscf in the Mediterranean.
Giuseppe Di Carlo, Head of MPA Unit, WWF Mediterranean Programme
Julien Sémelin, Programme Officer, Mediterranean Basin Programme, MAVA Foundation.
Fabrizio De pascale, National Secretary, Italian Wokers Trade Union, Fisheries and Aquaculture
Margaux Favret, Marine Stewardship Council, Medfish project.
Hacene Hamdani, and others from the Maghrebian Artisanal Fishers’ Platform (along with other fishers from the region).
Representatives from the Spanish authorities.