Jacques Cousteau used to say, as his son reports today, that the Mediterranean, as it is surrounded by developed and rapidly developing countries, is a full-scale experiment of what may happen to oceans globally.
And the state of the Mediterranean today is not encouraging: pollution, acidification, overfishing… . The Mediterranean entails 6% of the whole of marine species even if it represents only 1% of the global sea range. But more than 80% of its fish stocks are overfished!
We have to do more and better to protect the Mediterranean: first we have to ensure implementation and full compliance with the rules that have been devised for the management of its resources. The first results are already there and most of the EU countries in the area have adopted national management plans to regulate some fisheries; but a lot remains to be done and the Commission will continue to work closely with them to complete this work and –as we are doing with the Italian and Spanish authorities– making sure that an effective system is in place to monitor and control that rules are applied.
Second we have to work with local communities and regional authorities to develop a sense of ownership and encourage creative projects. We need a strategic approach to safeguard natural habitats, creating a network of areas where specific forms of protection are devised. They need to be accompanied by appropriate planning, management and control measures, with the active collaboration of fishermen and operators in the area: dialogue is essential when establishing fisheries and marine protected areas, in order to identify the scope of activities affected in the area and the ways to reorient and diversify economic activity, so that protected areas can drive economic growth. The EU Maritime and Fisheries Fund will continue to support the setting up of such projects and EU-funded research projects (such as PERSEUS , which assesses and predicts the combined effects of natural and man-made pressures on the sea, and COCONET , which focuses on marine environment protection) can contribute to identifying specific needs in different areas; moreover, our work on mapping the seabed can be functional to this goal, by for instance detecting the presence of posidonia.
Last but not least, we have to enhance cooperation at international level. This is important if we want to create a level-playing field in the Mediterranean and the role that the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean will be paramount, for instance in establishing long-term management plans for specific fisheries.