Mediterranean fishing communities and fisheries will net more secure livelihoods from Project Medfish, a new joint project launched today by WWF and the Marine Stewardship Council.
The project’s first initiative is to map 100 of the fisheries critical to small scale fishers in France and Spain, addressing critical gaps in the data available to assess their sustainability.
The Mediterranean, well known as an iconic European holiday destination, is also a hotspot for biodiversity and home to between 4 and 18 per cent of all known marine species*. It supports a thriving fishing community made up of many small scale, fragmented fisheries targeting multiple species. Among the 2,760 Spanish and 1,400 French fishing boats, 70% of Spanish fleet and about 90% of French fleet are considered to be small-scale.
The livelihoods of 8,300 fishermen in Spain and 2,300 in France depend on fishing in the Mediterranean. However, a limited access to resources and data often prevents these fisheries from improving their sustainability. According to the little data available on the state of fish stocks, 88% of the Mediterranean fisheries assessed are overfished**.
One sea, two partners, two countries
WWF and the MSC work in partnership on marine resource conservation projects all over the world. Now the French and Spanish offices of these two not for profit organizations will employ third party assessors to carry out a rigorous and comprehensive analysis of French and Spanish Mediterranean fisheries. The assessment will use the MSC Fisheries Standard as a benchmark for sustainability.
Whilst Project Medfish has an initial focus on France and Spain it’s hoped that other countries of the region will become part of the project in the near future.
Project Medfish will run for two years and will map 100 fisheries in both countries. Fourteen fisheries will then be pre-assessed against the MSC criteria for sustainable fishing and action plans developed to address weaknesses and guide fisheries towards improvements. The project also aims to work with supply chain organizations to increase demand for sustainable seafood and develop a more sustainable Mediterranean seafood market.
For some of the fisheries, this project may offer the opportunity to enter full assessment for MSC certification. For others they will have a clear plan to enable them to work towards future sustainability.
Camiel Derichs, Director for the MSC in Europe, said: “Seafood and fishing are synonymous with the Mediterranean lifestyle, yet there are serious concerns about the long term sustainability of many fisheries in the Mediterranean. In order to secure seafood supplies for the future, fishing needs to be sustainable: maintaining fish stocks and limiting impacts on the environment. Sustainable fisheries assure long term socio-economic benefits for the communities which rely on them. Pre-Assessment to the MSC Standard is a first step towards helping fisheries understand what is required to safeguard Mediterranean seafood supplies for future generations.”
Alfred Schumm, leader of WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative said: “WWF believes that small-scale fisheries have a key role to play in ending overfishing which currently threatens the balance of life in the Mediterranean and severely affects coastal communities, whose livelihoods depend on fishing. We support the critical steps to implement sustainable fishing methods, preserve fish stocks, and secure and improve coastal communities’ livelihoods. Only through joint efforts to make fisheries, and the whole global seafood industry, fully transparent and sustainable, can we stop the over-exploitation of the seas.”
Invitation to participate
For the project to be successful, it is crucial that fisheries, NGOs, scientific bodies, public administrations and commercial companies and distributors work together. Therefore, we invite anyone with an interest in fisheries management in the Mediterranean to get involved.
* Source: Coll, M. et al. The biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea: Estimates, patterns, and threats. PLoS ONE 2010, 5, e11842