Reducing the overstrain of the trawler fleet and limiting its activity to areas which do not put sensitive ecosystems in danger is essential for the future of fishing in the archipelago.
The fishing management should reach the Maximum Sustainable Yield to obtain a responsible fishing activity.
Today Oceana has requested the Regional Advisory Council of the Mediterranean (RAC-MED) that Common Fisheries Policy gives priority to the fulfillment of the agreement reached during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development [i] so that in 2015 all fish populations around the world are found to be at appropriate levels to be able to produce their Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). This would make it possible to reverse cases such as trawler fishing in the Balearic Sea, where all the objective species analyzed by scientists are found to be overexploited.
“A fishing management based on Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) entails an optimum fishing activity which would allow the extraction of fishing resources year after year, without putting in danger its capacity for regeneration in the future”, explains Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. Oceana is part of the Regional Advisory Council of the Mediterranean (RAC-MED), which is made up of members of the fishing sector and other organizations related to fishing and he is having meetings in Malta to discuss different aspects of the reform of the Common Fishing Policy.
According to the Scientific, Technological and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STEFC), almost all the objective stocks of trawler fishing analyzed in the Mediterranean are found to be in a state of overexploitation: 100% of the 18 stocks of analyzed fish and 78% of the 9 stocks of analyzed crustaceans [ii]. Specifically, in the Balearic Sea (or GSA 05 sub-region), despite having better conserved fishing resources than the ones in the Mediterranean seashore of the peninsula, all the analyzed objective species of trawling are found to be overexploited: hake (Merlucccius merluccius), striped red mullet (Mullus surmuletus), goatfish (Mullus barbatus), Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), red shrimp (Aristeus antennatus) and the deep- water rose shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris).
Oceana points out that to reverse this worrying situation it is necessary to follow scientific recommendations. Specifically, the Scientific, Technological and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STEFC) recommends for a management plan to be established prioritising a reduction in mortality produced by fishing through a reduction in fishing effort until reaching mortality levels which do not exceed the regeneration capacity of the resources. In this way loss of productivity of the stocks is avoided and, thus, of the landings.
“Currently, the Balearic trawler fleet is over-dimensioned with regard to the resources available” points out Pastor. “It is common for trawler vessels to exceed the maximum power established by the regulations in force, fixed at 500 CV, reaching in many occasions 1,000 CV. This provides them with an alarming extractive capacity”.
The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) plays a crucial role to guarantee the sustainability of the marine environment and the continuity of the fishing activity. It is necessary to establish long-term management plans for the main fisheries in the Mediterranean based on the principle of precaution and conservation of the marine resources to achieve a sustainable exploitation and minimize the impact of fishing on the ecosystems, following the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56/UE) and the Green Book on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Trawler fishing constitutes the main threat on fishing resources in the Balearic Islands. It consists of dragging nets equipped with heavy structures which destroy the seabed and catch everything in their path, may it be of commercial interest or not. Therefore, a big percentage of catches are discarded and thrown back into the sea, dead or dying. “Trawler fishing in the continental platform area, comes to discard approximately 70% of the catches”, explains Pastor. “It is inconceivable that such a waste of marine resources be permitted”.
On this line, Oceana supports that the new reform to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) grant preferential access to fisheries to those fishermen whose activity follows sustainability criteria, such as is the case of artisanal fishermen who comply with all the regulations in force.
[i] United Nations (2002). Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August- 4 September 2002.
[ii] Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). Assessment of Mediterranean Stocks Part I. 31 May - 4 June 2010, Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Edited by Massimiliano Cardinale, Anna Cheilari & Hans-Joachim Rätz.