Thursday, 07 October 2021 15:27

Romania: Awareness campaigns for fishers explain how they benefit from better control

EM5 21 RO State SecretaryUpdating electronic systems to combat IUU

This article was featured in Eurofish Magazine 5 2021.

Legislation related to fisheries and aquaculture in Romania is going through a significant change with the existing fisheries law being split into separate laws for fisheries and aquaculture. Farming of fish and seafood in the Black Sea is now receiving official attention and new regulations governing fishing are leading to initiatives that aim to better monitor fisheries. Steering all this and more is Gheorghe Stefan, State Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, whose years of experience in the fisheries administration as well as the private sector should stand him in good stead in his current role.

 

Only two of the Black Sea riparian countries are members of the EU and subject to CFP rules on fleets, monitoring, and control. How do countries with varying national legislation on fisheries issues adopt a common position on the management of joint resources in the Black Sea?
It is true that the international context of the Black Sea has its particularities, this bringing both challenges and opportunities in managing fish stocks that are jointly exploited. However, during the last years, with the assistance of the EU Commission and GFCM important progress has been done towards a cooperation on all levels, administrative, regional, and scientific. All the riparian countries have assumed in international events from 2016 to the present day that a common approach is essential for the sustainable management of the resources all the fishermen exploit.

Fish stocks in the Black Sea are highly threatened for a variety of reasons some natural, but several man-made. As an EU Member State Romania does not lack the legislation and regulations needed to improve their status. How can implementation of existing laws be improved to benefit fish stocks?
The environmental changes we all have observed in the last decade imposed a duty on actors, all over the world, to take action together, to include measures to mitigate climate change, and where the mitigations is not a solution, to find appropriate means of collaboration, of communication with the fisheries sector, to raise awareness on the effects of the exploitation of fisheries resources excessively. As the new EMFAF regulation states, all the projects funded will have a component on climate and environment preservation, supplementary measures to reduce the effects of ­fisheries, by bringing added value on environmental level. Romania is no exception, we will pay much more attention on this segment, and we will increase the awareness of the actors in the fisheries sector by arguing that a normal prevention attitude is the only thing that will prove its effects on the long run for this activity, a passive attitude is no longer an option.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive aims to achieve Good Environmental Status of EU marine waters by 2020. Has Romania achieved this goal, and if not, when is the expected target date and what measures are being implemented to achieve this?
The EU‘s framework for marine environmental protection is one of the most comprehensive and ambitious worldwide, but it needs to be beefed up to be able to tackle pressures such as overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices, plastic litter, excess nutrients, underwater noise and other types of pollution. The Black Sea is important for fisheries, but we must not forget that this basin has a vital importance for transport,
commerce, oil exploitation, food supply, and much more. Romania is involved in the application of this Directive through many institutions, and although the fisheries sector is not precisely targeted, the measures taken into consideration will contribute to achieving these goals, with the collaboration of the scientific sector.

The Sofia declaration of June 2018 emphasised the importance of several goals relating to data collection, ecosystem-based fisheries management, and the elimination of IUU fishing among others. Now, over three years later, what progress has been made towards achieving these goals in Romania?
Together with the EU Commission and GFCM Romania can say that it took the necessary measures to align to the declaration provisions assumed together with the riparian countries of the Black Sea in 2018. All the GFCM recommendations adopted since were in the spirit of achieving these goals. We have improved the quality of the data collected, we are in process of developing an electronic system for fisheries activities and reporting, we salute the new control regulation and we are preparing for its implementation through technological preparation, increase of administrative capacity of NAFA and other steps.

The size of the active fishing fleet has a bearing on the state of the resources being targeted. Are you satisfied that the size of the Romanian fleet is commensurate with the resource or does the fleet ideally need to be reduced? What are the best ways to achieve this and which fleet segment will be most affected?
From the beginning, I would like to state that I consider the Romanian fleet is the second smallest in the EU, and there is no space or possibility to reduce it. Moreover, we feel there is a high need to increase it, and I had a discussion in this respect with the DG of DG MARE, Ms Charlina Vitcheva in June this year. The National Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture (ANPA) sent a letter asking for support in this matter as well. In comparison with other Black Sea fleets, Romania has enough sustainable resources, but the fleet has not the capacity to absorb it. Talking about fair play, it would be a good idea to balance at least the two fleets of the member states, given that the resources shared are somewhat similar, and the rules are respected in the same way.

The revised fisheries control regulation calls for electronic tracking system for all fishing vessels, fully digitised reporting of catches with electronic logbooks and landing declarations for all vessels. What is the administration’s position on these requirements and how do you anticipate fishers will respond?
Romania has an obligation by 2022 to implement an action plan destined to remedy the deficiencies identified in the fisheries control system, which we are in the process of achieving. However, due to the Covid pandemic things are going slower than anticipated, but we are making progress and we remain confident that we will manage to meet the deadlines. Regarding the control regulation provisions, in order to mitigate the IUU issue and to better control the fisheries, at least in the Black Sea, we are preparing for an update of the electronic systems and we are planning awareness campaigns for the fishermen in order to educate them better on what control means, that there is not a burden, but a means of a good management and a preservation of the stocks for them to be able to exploit for as long as possible.

Legislation governing fishing in Romania is to be split up into two separate laws, one dealing with fishing and the other with aquaculture. Apart from potentially simplifying the administration of these two areas, do you foresee any advantages for fishermen and fish farmers from this change?
The idea of separating the two domains, even if the concept is the same more or less, was that the two segments, fisheries and aquaculture, have different technical and practical specificities, different means of control are deployed at different pace, the data is collected in separate purposes, and of course the management is done quite differently, respecting both the EU legislation but also national legislation as far as the inland fisheries are concerned and fresh water aquaculture. So, to establish proper and adapted sanctions, provisions, to harmonise with the other control institutions the general aspects, we considered this to be a solution. The actual advantages and maybe disadvantages will be defined after its approval and its actual application, maybe after a period of five years.

Farming of bivalves and of trout in the Black Sea is starting in Romania too. How does the administration support such initiatives? Can entrepreneurs expect a low level of bureaucracy and uncontested access to space in the allocated zones in the sea?
Romania has great potential. There is a new beginning in the marine aquaculture sector led by NIMRD‘s new Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) which was put into operation within the Marine Living Resources Department. The RAS will be the starting point for new aquaculture experiments at the Romanian coast, a project supported by the GFCM through the Aquaculture Demonstrative Centre (ADC). Also, the centre and its projects aim at raising awareness at the European level of the importance of marine aquaculture in the north-western Black Sea area. ADC has an important role in targeting commercial species in Romania. We are confident that with the support of all institutions involved the bureaucracy will be reduced and the actors interested will be able to start projects and investments which will definitely contribute to an increase in the sustainable production and marketing of Romanian fish and seafood in the EU and maybe, why not, worldwide.

Romania was one of the five founding members of Eurofish. As someone who knows the organisation well, which are the areas where you could envisage collaborating closer to bring about mutually desirable outcomes for the Romanian sector?
Over the years, I know Romania has sought the expertise of Eurofish every time a need was identified for the kind of service you are so good at providing. And here I am referring to international event organization, market studies, best practices exchanges, information brochures, etc. Given the new EMFAF Regulation and the strategy Romania is elaborating with the help of the World Bank, we will definitely find common ground and ways to benefit from your assistance in the following years.