2017 begins under a busy schedule for the newly appointed Maltese presidency of the Council of the European Union. For the next six months, the smallest member of the European Union, in the heart of the Mediterranean, is undertaking an ambitious leadership for the first time.
Maritime affairs, with its potential for growth, competitiveness and job opportunities, will occupy an important part of Malta’s agenda with a special attention to the improvement of the state of the Mediterranean Sea. As stated in its presidential priorities, Malta will be looking towards a political endorsement for the improvement of the international ocean governance and the sustainability of European waters as well as the improvement in sustainability of maritime governance. As the host for this year’s global conference “Our Oceans”, Malta has the chance to lead European efforts in rebuilding the state of our oceans in 2017.
Oceana in Europe welcomes the proposed objectives set by the Maltese presidency and looks forward to the leadership of Malta, particularly in the highly threatened Mediterranean Sea region, where over 90% of fish stocks are currently overfished. The alarming state of Mediterranean fish stocks is the result of decades of mismanagement, misreporting, and illegal fishing. Decision makers have repeatedly ignored scientific advice and failed to set adequate control measures and proper long‐term planning.
Now, more than ever, is time for a turning point for the Mediterranean Sea.
Last year, the European Commission launched #MedFish4Ever, a campaign with the aim of bringing Mediterranean fish stocks back to sustainable levels. 2016 witnessed a renewed momentum towards the recovery of Mediterranean fisheries with the adoption of a multi-annual management plan for hake and deep-water rose shrimp in the Strait of Sicily. It also marked the adoption of a long-awaited recovery plan for the severely depleted Mediterranean swordfish, which has been overfished for over 30 years.
The progress made in 2016 brings hope for the future of the Mediterranean Sea, but it can only deliver concrete results if supported by further concrete actions and proper implementation. We need to build on these advances.
In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, Oceana has devised a Mediterranean list of priorities for the EU Presidency of Malta in 2017:
- Adopt a comprehensive political roadmap to stop overfishing and rebuild Mediterranean fish stocks by 2020 in line with EU obligations, protecting essential and vulnerable fish habitats, especially in nursery and spawning areas to safeguard juveniles.
- Install tougher controls to eliminate Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
- Secure the protection of at least 10% of coastal and marine areas in the Mediterranean before 2020
Ending overfishing, achieving good environmental status of the EU’s marine waters and protecting at least 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020 are legally binding commitments of the EU.
Oceana has been leading conservation work in the Mediterranean Sea for over a decade, bringing significant contributions to the recovery of the region through our advocacy work backed up by multiple at-sea expeditions. In fact, Malta has been our most visited expedition site over the last two years aiming to establish a coherent network of marine protected areas. Check out more under the link: http://lifebahar.org.mt/.
Overall, 2017 is shaping up to be a hugely significant year for the future of European seas and we’re very much looking to the great results of Malta’s presidency over the months to come.