The 33rd Session of the GFCM (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean) was held in Tunis from March 23 to 27, 2009.
Attendance from Member states and observer was very high. There were a number of important points in the agenda. Moreover, a lot of discussion took place leading to some conclusions based on consensus and good will since many divergent views were expressed. As often in the Mediterranean the differences at the political, socio-economical and cultural levels are so significant that no recommendations are accepted easily.
For aquaculture, it was the first time since the establishment of the Committee on Aquaculture (CAQ) that they came to the Conference with some clear recommendations. Only one of them, about data collection, was discussed and adopted. The other one on the importance of monitoring and Environmental Impact Assessments has even not been discussed. It is not rejected and stays as a CAQ recommendation to member states. It shows that there is still a lack of interest in aquaculture from the member states even though the statistics show that the aquaculture production is growing quickly.
On the fisheries issues, there were many more debates, and several points were discussed in depth. The GFCM adopted several recommendations on IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fisheries, on VMS (Vessel Monitoring Systems), on fishing boats registers and on the reduction of the fisheries efforts by 10%. On most points however the lack of means, capacities and funds in most countries, postponed the full implementation of these recommendations. Other points were adopted including: the 40 mm mesh size, the Fisheries Restriction Area in the Golf of Lion canyons (high sea area off south of France), and a major proposal from the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). For the later, the recommendation includes not increasing the current fishing efforts on this area (42°40’N, 4°20’E; 42°40’E, 5°00’E; 43°00’N, 4°20’E; 43°00N, 5°00’E); on this subject a resolution to the SAC has also been adopted for preparing a report on the protection of the whole Gulf of Lion canyons area. IUCN, as well as WWF, will be part of these further works.
Altogether, GFCM gave the observers a feeling of the difficulties in the decision making process. The member states are still very prudent in their decisions although clear and important challenges are presented by the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Committee on Aquaculture (CAQ). The lack of capacities and funds is often the reason for not fully accepting the scientific recommendations. As with other RFMOs (Regional Fisheries Management Organizations), the GFCM also shows the trend of not following the recommendations of its own Scientific Advisory Committee, although very robust scientific information is presented. This is a clear governance issue that is unfortunately common amongst RFMOs.