Romania: Science-based measures to support those affected by climate change

by Thomas Jensen
EM6 20 RO

Sustainable fishing and innovation can improve impacts

This article was featured in EUROFISH Magazine 6 / 2020.

The National Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture, ANPA, is the body responsible for the management of fisheries and aquaculture in Romania. It develops a national strategy for the sector and the regulations to implement it. The Agency is also responsible for defining and implementing a policy on the conservation of living aquatic resources and for the organisation of the market for wild-caught and farmed products. Mr Marian Lixandru, President of ANPA, discusses here Romania’s plans for the sector regarding climate change, the pandemic, and marine aquaculture.

What changes have been observed in the Romanian fishing fleet over the last years both in the offshore and the coastal segments? What are the objectives of the fisheries strategy in relation to the size of the fleet? Have they been successfully achieved?

In recent years, there has been a process of transferring fishing effort from small (coastal) vessels to vessels over 12 m that use towed gear. One of Romania’s objectives in the last years is to balance the commercial fishing fleet with the level of quotas allocated to contribute to sustainable fishing. Rebalancing the level of fleets operating in the Black Sea (Romania has a small fleet in terms of GT and kW compared to other riparian states) is one of the objectives for the following years. The impact of the Romanian fishing fleet on the resource is minimal as Romania has less than 10% of the total annual catch of countries fishing in the Black Sea.

What impact do you expect the revised control regulation will have on the Romanian fishing fleet? Do you foresee greater use of closed-circuit TV and electronic monitoring and logging of catches? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?

In the Romanian fishing fleet, there are only 4 vessels over 24 m, so the impact of these changes will be insignificant. However, we support the position of the other Member States to reduce bureaucracy and administrative burdens for fishermen, at least for the segment under 12 m length which is specific to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea fishing activities.

The new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is currently being negotiated between the European Commission, Parliament, and Member States. What are your expectations of the new EMFF? Are there particular areas, for which you would like to see funding continued?

Priority areas for Romania regarding marine fishing are:

  • Development of port infrastructure, including for the collection of general, biological, plastic waste data, fishing gear recovered from the sea, cold spaces, spaces to be used as offices for inspectors at landing points;
  • Financing the recovery of lost / abandoned gear from the sea and financing their storage / destruction, the fulfilment of the landing obligation and solutions for the exploitation of catches that are not intended for human consumption;
  • Further strengthening the control and inspection capacity—acquisition of inspection vessels boats, transport vehicles destined for control activities, protection equipment for inspectors, other technical and financial measures.

According to the FAO, the Black Sea (and Mediterranean) had the highest percentage (62.5%) of stocks fished at unsustainable levels of any of the major fishing regions. What do you attribute this to and how can Romania contribute to reducing this proportion?

It is important for all riparian countries to comply with GFCM recommendations and EU regulations on surveillance, inspection and control. Close collaboration with other control institutions in Romania as well as outside (IARA Bulgaria, EFCA, FRONTEX, etc) and the transmission of biological data, data from surveys at sea for demersal and pelagic species, and technical, socio-economic, and economic data from within the national data collection plans, to the European Commission, GFCM, Eurostat, and FAO. Active participation in GFCM WGBS (Working Group Black Sea) sessions, and the integration into national legislation of EU regulations and GFCM recommendations improve monitoring, control, and inspection actions to prevent and combat IUU fishing.

How has covid-19 affected the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Romania? What measures are being taken to support the sector and what has been the response? Has the response been in line with the agency’s official expectations?

In the context of the world pandemic, marine fishing has been particularly affected by the drastic reduction in demand for fresh fish and other aquatic resources (especially the fall in demand for rapa whelk on Asian markets) as well as the months-long closure of restaurants. In addition, there is the uncertainty of how things will develop in the following months. The damage caused by these restrictions on the sector cannot yet be assessed as the data is still incomplete. Measures that can be taken in the short and medium term are being assessed in line with developments at European and national level.

Government measures have been taken regarding the pandemic, such as the issuing of an emergency ordinance to establish measures for social protection. The act regulates, among others, the conditions for entering into technical unemployment, the continuation of the payment of some social benefits, the automatic extension of the validity of certain documents, as well as the possibility to apply online for different administrative situations.

Another emergency ordinance issued was to help Romanian companies during the crisis by amending the SME support program. Changes to the EMFF enabled the relaxation of criteria under which support could be given to aquaculture producers affected by the pandemic.

The effects of climate change in the form of fluctuating and extreme weather events (excess rain, drought, etc.) are increasingly apparent. What has been the impact on the fish farming industry and how can it be made more resilient to these developments?

Climate change is already a reality and countries around the world are facing the challenge of adapting to its consequences. Concrete measures have to be taken in the coming decades and the results analysed to judge their effectiveness. Although adaptation measures complement mitigation measures, the effects on commercial fishing in the Black Sea basin will only be visible in a few decades. All that can be achieved at this time is prevention, sustainable fishing, innovation, harmonisation of common policies of riparian states and scientific studies based on clear data. Without concrete action, once certain temperature thresholds are exceeded, the consequences of climate change will become irreversible. In recent years, there has been an improvement in the levels of specific indicators for assessing the marine ecosystem in the coastal area of ​​Romania, which we believe will continue. In fact, the measures taken at national level show, at least in the Romanian EEZ, a positive trend in the biomass of commercially exploited species.

Inland waters and their ecosystems are very vulnerable to climate change. Lakes can change shape or even dry out completely due to increases in temperature, lack of rainfall and the acceleration of evaporation. Cl
imate change simulation studies have concluded that cold-water fish will be most affected by changing conditions in their natural habitat. This could lead to a reduction in natural trout growing areas and a decrease in the production of indigenous trout in favour of the cultivation of imported rainbow trout (e.g. genetically modified to withstand higher temperatures). Although a warming of the water can cause higher growth rates, the increased occurrence of extreme weather events can stress aquatic organisms. In addition, it can depreciate the infrastructure of the fish farm. Prolonged high temperatures and drought cause severe evaporation in lakes and ponds. Modified rainfall patterns may also aggravate conflicts between farmers and other users of the water.

Aquaculture has the potential to adapt to the effects of climate change and to compensate for the variability and decline of fish resources. Developing innovative aquaculture systems will help this sector to adapt to the effects of climate change, as well as to increase its competitiveness. It is also necessary to increase the capacity of fishermen and farmers to respond to the negative effects of climate change. The areas where aquaculture and fishing are the most productive and contribute the most to poverty reduction and food security are also the most vulnerable to natural disasters caused by extreme weather events and rising water levels. Institutions need to develop measures that enable the most vulnerable to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Romanian production from freshwater aquaculture has been gradually increasing since 2010. However, there has been little progress in the development of marine cultivation. What are the factors hampering the development of marine culture and how are they being addressed?

The development of marine aquaculture will ensue when legislation on waters is harmonised with legislation related to the fishing sector. At the same time, it is necessary to evaluate areas suitable for marine aquaculture in the Black Sea in the coastal area of Romania. The Demonstration Centre for Aquaculture in Constanta, within the FAO BlackSea4fish project, seeks to identify techniques needed to make marine aquaculture farms for mussels profitable, and is also conducting pilot studies for the culture of sea trout and other species of fish suitable for the conditions of the Black Sea.

Despite its healthfulness fish consumption in Romania is well below the EU average. Are fish promotion campaigns considered a way to help improve this? If so, what have been the results? What other methods being deployed boost per capita fish consumption in the country?

Although in recent years there have been promotion events organized by the main players in the sector the level of consumption has still not increased significantly due to lack of visibility of such campaigns and events. The new operational program provides the means and leverage for awareness and marketing campaigns to boost fish consumption, including promotion through events, programmes, and other specific actions.

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