The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) is a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) of the Food and Agriculture Organization. It was founded under Article XIV of the Regulations of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). OceanCare has been a partner organisation of GFCM since 2016 and collaborates in the areas of underwater noise, bycatch, plastic pollution as well as illegal fishing activities.
The GFCM currently consists of 23 members (22 states and the EU, as of 2022) as well as six collaborating non-contracting parties (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Jordan and Saudi-Arabia). Its goal is to use and conserve the sea sustainably from a biological, social, economic and ecological perspective and to ensure the sustainable development of aquaculture in its area of application.
The Commission can adopt binding recommendations for the protection and management of fish stocks and thus plays a crucial role in the region´s fisheries policy. In cooperation with other Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, (RFMOs) and in line with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, GFCM also plays a key role in coordinating regional government actions for effective fisheries management. It also works closely with other international organisations and benefits from support for collaborative projects at the regional level to promote scientific cooperation and the building and sharing of expertise among its member states.
OceanCare has been a partner organisation of GFCM since 2016, and focuses on environmental threats such as underwater noise and plastic pollution, bycatch and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Improving fisheries governance and reducing the negative impact of climate change are other priorities. The work programme also includes measures in the area of environmental education, the training of experts and a regular exchange of information. OceanCare thus supports the Fisheries Commission in the conservation of endangered species and healthy fish stocks as well as combating overfishing and the destruction of marine habitats. In 2021, GFCM renewed its partnership with OceanCare.
A meta-analysis commissioned by OceanCare and conducted by Dr. Lindy Weilgart, based on 115 scientific studies on the consequences of noise on 61 fish and 26 invertebrate species, has led to underwater noise being included in the agenda of the GFCM and the Scientific Advisory Committee, as well as to the development of recommendations for noise reduction and a concept for a socio-economic study within the framework of a workshop. In 2021, the case study on noise impact on fish stocks in the central Adriatic fisheries exclusion zone Jabuka/Pomo Pit was realised.
In addition to underwater noise pollution, we also addressed plastic pollution and presented, for example, the alarming results of a study carried out on the coast of Italy in 2018, which showed that 57% of fish samples bought at markets contained microplastics. We also raised the issue of the increase in abandoned fishing nets and other fishing gear drifting in the Western Mediterranean, in which many endangered marine species get entangled.
Through the GFCM Fish Forum, the Agreement brings together regional scientists and experts in fisheries and marine conservation, particularly for the Mediterranean and Black Sea, to develop a medium-term strategy for sustainable fishing in the Mediterranean. Ocean Care contributed to the GFCM Fish Forum 2018 with a workshop, together with UNEP/MAP on the prevention and reduction of marine litter from fisheries and aquaculture and related impacts on marine ecosystems, as well as with a side event on underwater noise.
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