RENEWED COMMITMENT TO SUPPORT SMALL-SCALE FISHERIES ACROSS THE MED
Renewed commitment to support small-scale fisheries across the Med. High-level representatives from Mediterranean and Black Sea countries, the European Commission, FAO, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), and WWF reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the RPOA-SSF and support small-scale fishers of the region.
The Regional Plan of Action for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, aka RPOA-SSF, is a political commitment setting forth an ambitious 10-year roadmap (2018-2028). It was adopted as a Ministerial Declaration at the High-level conference on Sustainable small-Scale Fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (Malta, September 2018). Signed by 18 Mediterranean countries, it is still open for signature by any interested countries.
“We can’t imagine the future of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region without small-scale fishers,” declared Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative.
The Mediterranean and Black Sea region have been a generous source of food, jobs and livelihoods since the early days of our civilisation.
“It’s our common duty to ensure that our children and grandchildren will benefit from that generosity. And here small-scale fisheries play a vital role,” acknowledged Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner of Environment, Oceans and Fisheries of the European Commission
How important is small-scale fisheries in the region:
- Small-scale fishers account for 4 out of 5 fishing vessels;
- As many as 1 in every 100 coastal residents in the region are fishers, with small- scale fisheries operating 71,400 vessels;
- The SSF sector generates a revenue of 1.04 billion USD.
Two and a half years after the signing of the RPOA-SSF, progress has been made but, setbacks have also been experienced, particularly in light of Covid-19 which has presented many new challenges for the small-scale fisheries sector, including radical changes to market demand, prices, and the impossibility for fishers to continue their activity.
Fishers from Croatia, Italy and Tunisia took the floor in turn to explain the challenges they face, that are common to all, from illegal fishing and unregulated recreational fishing, to pollution and the difficulty to access markets – especially in the time of Covid and in touristic areas.
“We are hoping this year we will see some changes for the better,” said Giovanni Colelli, small-scale fisher from Porto Cesareo (Italy). What they also shared was their compelling willingness to be part of the solution, and to co-build win-win management mechanisms and economic opportunities to achieve sustainability in the fishing sector as well as to balance the protection of the marine environment with resource extraction.
“We want more involvement, we want more cooperation! Particularly for young people so that we can have young people back into fishing because we are really losing the small coastal fishing communities,” he concluded.
“The RPOA-SSF is an incredible tool and represents a major opportunity. It is a clear roadmap for ecological sustainability with small-scale fishers at its very heart.” Marco Lambertini, WWF general director.
As the region begins to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, it is crucial to reaffirm the future role of small- scale fisheries and the RPOA-SSF as the means to accelerate the needed sustainability transition in coastal areas. “There is an increasing need to look at small-scale fisheries communities as positive forces of change, as drivers of a positive transformation in the sector,” declared Manuel Barange, Director of the FAO Fisheries Division.
With the recovery from the pandemic, comes a crucial political moment: economic recovery plans are being developed, and new investments, financing and subsidies are being discussed that will shape the economy of the future in the Mediterranean and Black Sea region.
The GFCM stands ready to support this recovery in the context of the new GFCM 2030 Strategy that will set the framework and the necessary tools to ensure a sustainable, just and inclusive future for small-scale fisheries and local communities while protecting the ecosystems.
“The new GFCM 2030 strategy doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to SSF. Rather, it recognizes that there is already an incredibly strong tool at the disposal of members – the RPOA-SSF – and calls for its full implementation,” declared Abdellah Sour, GFCM Executive Secretary.
Now it is time to continue working together towards this full implementation and to begin the implementation of the new GFCM 2030 Strategy. Last, but not least, the region can count on a new team member as Tunisia has announced its commitment to sign the RPOA-SSF during the high-level event to adopt the new GFCM Strategy on 9 July.
Conclusions of the event:
- The RPOA-SSF is the reference guide to shape COVID-19 recovery plans for stronger resilience of coastal livelihoods and long-term sustainable Blue Transformation;
- New financial strategic initiatives to address current and future challenges should be put into place to, promote the role of women and facilitate the access of young generations to the sector, capitalizing from new opportunities arising from the COVID-19 recovery ;
- Small-scale fishers must be considered in national dialogues in view of the development of economic recovery plans and investments by raising awareness on SSF concerns;
- Participatory mechanisms and co-management plans should be put in place at local level to support long-lasting sustainable solutions.