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A recent assessment by the EU on its Mediterranean fish stocks has revealed alarming data: 96% of stocks managed exclusively by EU countries are fished over the limits of what is considered by science as sustainable. Some non-migratory species, for example Mediterranean hake, have been overfished up to 14 times more than scientific advice recommends.

A similar affliction affects highly migratory species. It is not too long ago that Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries cited the “worrying example” of the heavily overfished and commercially overexploited Mediterranean swordfish that to this day remains completely unmanaged. The result? Swordfish biomass in the Mediterranean has shrunk by two thirds and catches have decreased by 48% since the late eighties.

Is there any hope left for Mediterranean fish stocks?

The Italian city of Catania is hosting a high-level seminar on fish stocks in the Mediterranean co-organized by the European Commission (EC) and the Mediterranean Advisory Council (MEDAC) on February 9th and 10th. Oceana representatives will attend the conference advocating for urgent concrete measures, such as emergency closures of areas for all of the stocks where mortality levels will not allow its species to recover and reproduce in the short term. Such measures are imperative to save fish stocks in the Mediterranean Basin and to ensure the future of coastal communities and industries that live and operate in the region.

Scientific advice and catch limits work. An example of a success story is Atlantic stocks which have showed that it is possible to reverse the trend. Within the last 10 years, the number of overfished stocks by the EU in the Atlantic has significantly reduced and the overall level of overfishing in the Atlantic has decreased from 63 percent to 48 percent.

However, if the EU continues to ignore the worsening situation of the fish stocks in the Mediterranean, we will soon face only two possible scenarios: either closing all fishing activity for critical stocks in the region, or losing the fisheries altogether.

The EU must act now. Let’s start today to prevent a greater damage tomorrow!

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