Jijel, Algeria, February 2018: around 15 small scale fishers from 8 Mediterranean countries have joined Marine Protected Area (MPA) managers to discuss how to better manage the marine space together. Organised on the initiative of the MedPAN network, this meeting was supported by the Algerian Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, the Directorate General of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Taza National Park, the LIFE Platform (The Low Impact Fishers of Europe), the Maghreb Platform for Sustainable Artisanal Fisheries, the Algerian Network of Artisanal Fisheries Associations, WWF, with financial support from the MAVA Foundation, WWF and UNEP / MAP through the “MedMPA network” project financed by the European Union.
During these 3 meeting days, fishers and MPA managers exchanged on topics and concerns of mutual interest, and discussed the implementation of solutions.
Small-scale fishing is one of the foundations of the Mediterranean identity and whole communities depend on this activity. Today it represents 83% of fishing boats in the Mediterranean and Black Sea and 57% of employment in the fishing sector (150 000 fishermen significant related economic activity) but only generates 14% of the catches for 20% of their value.
Small-scale fishers are directly dependent on the health of marine ecosystems and the abundance of the species they target. Their fishing strategies, coastal and on a limited radius from the home harbors for the most part, aim to alternate zones and selective fishing gear in order to target various species according to the seasons. So when practiced with adaptability in terms of gears and species targeted, with reason (before stocks show signs of exhaustion) as well as with respect for the rules established, small-scale fishing can be much less impacting on the resource than other types of fishing. But today maintaining this activity is hindered by the collapse of the resource that is noted on all levels.
MPAs are increasingly used as one of the tools for small-scale fisheries management. Indeed, their main objective is the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, and their effects on the regeneration of the resource can directly benefit fishermen. Because of its scale and its practices, small-scale fishing can be compatible with the sustainable use of coastal resources and thus fishermen and MPA managers have come closer together.
A number of meetings and projects focusing on small-scale fisheries have taken place in recent years. Many recommendations resulted from these, including the possible compatibility of small-scale fisheries with marine conservation objectives and how to achieve a better management of the marine environment and the regeneration of the resource.
During the three days of exchange in Algeria, group workshops by sub-region and plenary discussions allowed fishermen and MPA managers to share their own constraints, their common concerns and jointly identified recommendations on solutions to be put in place. The need to react to the declining resources, the competition from the illegal resale of recreational fishing catches or the illegal trawling in coastal waters, the low political weight of small scale fishers limiting their rights (social security coverage, quota allocations …), MPA management are all topics that sparked the debate. The importance of an adapted regulation and a real control in MPAs – such as increasing implemented no-take areas – effective MPA management measures which allow the regeneration of the resource with tangible results for the fishers, the implication of the fishers in MPA management, a better valorisation of the products of fishing (labels, organisation of the market, etc.) or the reinforcement of fishing actors’ capacities are the main orientations of the recommendations that will be published in the coming weeks.
These recommendations, which provide a good representation of the concerns common to small-scale fishermen and MPA managers, are intended to be brought to key institutional players in order to help achieve the ambitions on the ground. They will be brought forward, via the various partners of the event, to the FAO – General Fisheries Commission in the Mediterranean (GFCM) to contribute to the preparation of the Regional Small-Scale Fisheries Action Plan. This plan will be presented for adoption in September 2018 at the interministerial meeting on small-scale fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea of Malta, an event seeking to generate political will and concrete actions to support small-scale fisheries in the region.
The exchanges (between fishers, between MPA managers and fishers and between Mediterranean subregions) that took place in Jijel, are likely to be held regularly in the coming years. More broadly for the MedPAN network, 2018 will be a year focused on fisheries management in MPAs, in particular within the framework of a large project funded by the MAVA foundation and the Interreg MED FishMPABlue2 project, in association with the partners and pilot sites of these projects. Are planned : another exchange visit between fishers and managers in June at the Torre Guaceto MPA in Italy, a training workshop in October at the Natural Park Telašćica in Croatia and an end-of-year Mediterranean experience exchange workshop on the subject.
 Source : CGPM