Raised hopes for Med and Black Sea fishing

The main commercial fish species in the Mediterranean and Black Sea are still over-fished but pressure has reduced over past years Photo: FAO The main commercial fish species in the Mediterranean and Black Sea are still over-fished but pressure has reduced over past years Photo: FAO

Overfishing in the Mediterranean and Black Sea has decreased by 10 per cent raising hopes of a recovery in fish stocks, according to a new report.

The State of the Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries 2016 report, produced jointly by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, found that whilst main commercial species in the region are still overfished, the proportion of overexploited stocks decreased from 88 per cent in 2014 to 78 per cent in 2016.

More effort is needed warns the report with extra support required for the small-scale fishing sector which employs most fishers and causes the least environmental damage. Focus is also needed to reduce bycatch and discards together with measures such as reducing fishing or establishing restricted areas with greater regulation.

“Sustainability may be expensive in the short term,” said Miguel Bernal, FAO fishery officer and one of the report’s coordinators, “but there is nothing more expensive than running out of fish.”

Threats

As well as overfishing, the region is under threat from the effects of increased pollution from human activities, climate-change, habitat degradation and non-indigenous species. At six times beyond its sustainable level, European hake remains the most overfished species in the Mediterranean, followed by turbot in the Black Sea.

Sustainable stocks mostly include small pelagic species such as sardine and anchovy and some stocks of red mullet and deep-water rose shrimp.

Discards need to reduce

The region, one of the most carefully monitored in the world, produces an estimated annual revenue of €2.44bn and directly employs just under 250,000 people. Catch levels remain stable at around 1.2 million tonnes but discards and incidental catches of vulnerable species are still of concern with around 275,000 tonnes discarded each year.

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