Barcelona, 4th of July 2018
Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean: good news overshadowed by a dark cloud.
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.
LIFE attends the GFCM regional conference on “Building a future for sustainable small-scale fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea”.
Brussels, 14 march 2016
LIFE attends the GFCM regional conference on
“Building a future for sustainable small-scale fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea”.
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.