Landmark Decision: Mediterranean Nations Enforce Sweeping Measures for Sustainable Fishing

Cabliers Bank Protected, Bottom Trawling Banned, and GFCM Empowered in Historic Accord for Mediterranean Marine Conservation

Small scale fisheries in Italy: fishing industry Mediterranean sea

In a significant breakthrough for the maritime conservation efforts in the Mediterranean Sea, the forty-sixth session of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) witnessed the collective commitment of over 20 nations and the European Union towards the implementation of 34 measures aimed at fostering the sustainable use and conservation of marine living resources in both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. This momentous event, held in Split, Croatia, under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), concluded last Friday, marking a pivotal moment for the future of the region’s marine ecosystems.

Among the noteworthy decisions emanating from the session is the prohibition of all forms of bottom fishing, including the ecologically damaging bottom trawling, within a 400-square-kilometer expanse surrounding the deep-sea coral of Cabliers Bank. This crucial measure is slated to be enforced commencing 2024 and is strategically designed to avert any potential degradation of the biodiversity hotspot located in the Alboran Sea, strategically positioned between Spain and Morocco.

Cabliers Bank, situated at the westernmost edge of the Mediterranean Sea, serves as a confluence point for the Mediterranean and Atlantic, rendering it a veritable crucible of marine biodiversity. Moreover, it acts as a crucial thoroughfare for global maritime traffic, accommodating a staggering 25 percent of the annual transit through the Alboran Sea.

For more than a decade, researchers studying Cabliers Bank have advocated for its designation as a Fisheries Restricted Area (FRA). The rationale behind safeguarding this deep-sea coral reef is multifaceted, encompassing its potential role as a sanctuary for juvenile fish and its unique status as the sole cold-water reef in the Mediterranean Sea that continues to grow, as indicated by research findings from Oceana and the Marine Science Institute-Spanish National Research Council (ICM-CSIC). Consequently, the decision to restrict fishing activities around Cabliers Bank has been heralded by proponents as a timely and commendable step towards marine conservation.

Vera Coelho, Deputy Vice-President at Oceana Europe, lauded the decision, stating, “The decision to protect the Cabliers reef from bottom trawling is a great win for marine ecosystems and is an example to be followed by Mediterranean countries to deliver their conservation targets and rebuild fish stocks. We particularly commend the leadership of the European Commission, Morocco, and Algeria in this decision.”

Furthermore, the nations surrounding the Mediterranean reached a consensus to implement a system that will empower the GFCM, enabling it to take punitive action against members consistently flouting gear restrictions or allowing trawlers to engage in illegal fishing within designated no-trawl zones.

The Mediterranean Sea, particularly its western sector, stands as one of the most overfished regions globally, with over 90 percent of stocks surpassing sustainable levels, making the recent collaborative efforts a crucial stride toward ensuring the longevity of the region’s marine resources.

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