Medfish Project sees 14 Mediterranean fisheries pre-assessed against the MSC Standard

As part of the Medfish project, teams of experts from SAI Global in France and Acoura Marine in Spain, have conducted pre-assessments of the sustainability of seven French and seven Spanish fisheries against the Marine Stewardship Council’s Fisheries Standard. The teams conducted their evaluations between May 2016 and February 2017 and identified the fisheries’ strengths and areas for improvement. The Medfish project will now collaborate with the fisheries to develop individual action plans for sustainable fishing.

The Medfish project was launched by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in September 2015 to analyse the sustainability of French and Spanish Mediterranean fisheries using the MSC Fisheries Standard as a benchmark.

To conduct the analysis, the teams used existing data collected by fishermen, scientists and administrative bodies in addition to further information from the fisheries on their history, practices, status of target fish stocks and unwanted by-catch, regulations, potential ecosystem impacts, the role management organisations, surveillance systems and fishery-specific management frameworks. Of the 14 fisheries analysed, only six have access to stock assessments or recent scientific studies: hake, sardine, red mullet, anchovies, red shrimp and goby. For the other eight fisheries in the project the auditors used a risk-assessment tool developed by the MSC.

Camiel Derichs, Regional Director Europe MSC said: ” The results of the Pre-Assessments show that while there are serious sustainability challenges to address, there is hope for Mediterranean fisheries. The next phase, under development now, brings together fishing communities, competent authorities in the regions, scientists, eNGOs, processors, selected retail partners, to build concrete action plans to address the gaps observed in the pre-assessments in specified time frames. Implementation of these action plans over the years ahead should then be delivering the environmental and socio economic recovery all stakeholders are aiming for. The Medfish project is obviously part of a broader sustainability drive for Mediterranean fisheries, and adds critical market incentives to the strong engagement from the European Commission and national authorities.”

Overall, the state of fish stocks was a cause for concern for all 14 fisheries and only one was in a condition that could ensure its long-term sustainability. For the remaining 13, issues such as a lack of knowledge on the state of fish stocks, poor data or stocks being overexploited prevented them from achieving a high enough score to be deemed sustainable. One of the key challenges for the next stage of the project will be creating an action plan to improve knowledge about stock levels.

In terms of management, several frameworks and objectives were already in place as a result of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy but the lack of specific rules relating to gear type and fishery-specific objectives were deemed to be an impediment to achieving sustainable levels of fishing. In addition, the enforcement of rules and the monitoring of catches, the observation of minimum fish sizes and the reporting systems were the other main areas in need of improvement that were highlighted by the auditors in each country.

The use of fishing gears that have an impact on the seabed is prohibited in vulnerable and benthic habitats such as Posidonia meadows and coralligenous habitats. There are also more than 600 marine protected areas in the Mediterranean where commercial fishery is regulated or prohibited and where research programmes contribute to improve the knowledge about the biology and ecology of numerous species. In the 14 fisheries analysed, ecosystem impacts were looked at for all gear types and, in most cases, fisheries were found to be selective and/or to have a low impact on marine ecosystems.

Planning action

The aim of the next stage of the Medfish project is to work together with the relevant stakeholders to formulate action plans to address the areas for improvement identified in these 14 analyses. This next stage will allow us to catalyse improvements in working groups and facilitate partnerships between stakeholders to implement the action plans in the field and work together towards a more sustainable development.

Isabelle Autissier, President of WWF France: “The Medfish project, especially the elaboration of action plans, is very important for the French and Spanish Mediterranean. It is a participatory process where we work alongside the Mediterranean fishermen and all of the stakeholders involved, to ensure the sustainability not only of fishing resources but also of the people and the jobs who depend on them. “

> Download the pre-assessment reports

> Go to the fisheries pages 

WWF  France – Martine Savary – +33 (0)6 64 25 66 59 –
MSC France – Stéphanie Poey – +33 (0)6 28 54 19 85 –