Fish stocks in the Mediterranean are deteriorating at an alarming rate, with 93 percent of assessed stocks at an over-exploited level, according to studies compiled by the European Commission’s Scientific Technical Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC).
In addition, the analyses find that the Mediterranean Sea has lost 41 percent of its marine mammals and 34 percent of its total fish population over the past 50 years. The largest reductions were found in the Western Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea (down 50 percent), while the reduction was much less in the Ionian Sea (down 8 percent).
The Commission said better data collection was one of the key preconditions to save these stocks, as acknowledged by the Malta Medfish4Ever political declaration that was signed by Mediterranean basin ministers on 30 March.
To support work towards this objective, JRC has developed an online public database aimed at helping monitor the status of stocks, containing almost 10 years' worth of fish stock assessments in the Mediterranean.
Tibor Navracsics, EU commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, responsible for the JRC, said the collection of fisheries data was “indispensable” for the long-term sustainability of the sector and that the online database was a step in the right direction.
“This data and the scientific advice accompanying it will enable a more accurate analysis of existing fish stocks and thus contribute to the overall fisheries management in the Mediterranean, for the benefit of the environment and citizens," he said.
Karmenu Vella, EU commissioner for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, added that the JRC database was yet more evidence of the need for urgent action.
Following months of negotiations, the newly signed 10-year Malta Medfish4Ever declaration includes the following commitments:
• By 2020, ensure that all key Mediterranean stocks are subject to adequate data collection and scientifically assessed on a regular basis. In particular small-scale fishermen are to acquire an increased role in collecting the necessary data to reinforce scientific knowledge
• Establish multi-annual management plans for all key fisheries
• Eliminate illegal fishing by 2020 by ensuring that all states have the legal framework and the necessary human and technical capabilities to meet their control and inspection responsibilities. The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) will lead the development of national control and sanctioning systems
• Support sustainable small-scale fisheries and aquaculture by streamlining funding schemes for local projects such as fleet upgrades with low-impact techniques and fishing gear, social inclusion and the contribution of fishermen to environmental protection