State representatives gather for the first time in 14 years just days after scientific study reveals Mediterranean has lost one-third of its fish due to overfishing. Oceana calls for catch limits, tougher controls and protection of areas where fish breed and grow.
Valletta, Malta – Ministers from Mediterranean countries and representatives from the European Union and international organizations are due to meet in Malta on Thursday to address the Mediterranean fisheries crisis. After a new scientific study found 90% of fish stocks are overfished in the region, Oceana is calling for a series of urgent measures to be adopted at the ministerial conference, such as introducing catch limits, ensuring better enforcement on fishing activities and protecting areas where fish breed and grow.
The Mediterranean has suffered declining fish populations for decades. A lack of political commitment to tackle the issue, as well as zero limits on catches, rampant illegal fishing and weak enforcement have led to the alarming state of affairs in Mediterranean fisheries.
Fish catches have, in fact, been almost triple the limits recommended by scientists. Widespread overfishing has resulted in a 41% drop in top predators, such as sharks, tunas and swordfish, a 34% fall in commercial and non-commercial fish, and a dramatic upsurge in catches of baby or juvenile fish. As a consequence, fisheries experts favour a quota-style system (or TAC) for the Mediterranean; a measure Oceana has long supported, and which is in place in other seas.
Despite the current situation of the region, a study commissioned by Oceana has revealed the potential gains for Mediterranean fisheries, if managed sustainably.
“According to the most comprehensive scientific study of European fisheries ever made, Mediterranean catches could increase by 200% in some areas if its fisheries were managed effectively. We strongly encourage ministers to see and act on the opportunity and think about the potential for more food, more jobs and economic growth. It could be the last chance to save Mediterranean fisheries but if we take the medicine now, the future for the Mediterranean is bright,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe.
Oceana, who has been campaigning for better fisheries management in the Mediterranean for more than a decade, recommends the following measures to ensure the sustainable recovery of the fisheries:
The Ministerial Conference on Mediterranean Fisheries is the first since 2003. At the end of the conference, Mediterranean fisheries ministers are expected to sign the ‘Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration’, a political blueprint and 10-year roadmap for better ocean governance and sustainable management of fisheries in the Mediterranean. The European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella, representatives from the European Council Presidency, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, GFCM, ICCAT, as well as several NGOs and various MEPs will be attending the two-day conference.