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Action not words for future of Mediterranean swordfish

Press Release Date

Monday, July 18, 2016
Location: Madrid
Contact: Marta Madina: mmadina@oceana.org 0034 911 440 884

Mediterranean swordfish plummet to 30% after three decades of overfishing.

Oceana urges EU Member States sharing Mediterranean waters to take the reins and set out a robust action plan.

On the occasion of the Mediterranean Swordfish Stock Assessment Session Meeting, scientists from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) met in Casablanca, Morocco, to assess stock levels of swordfish in the Mediterranean Sea. Oceana echoes an overwhelming call by the scientists for tougher action to reduce swordfish overfishing.

The meeting confirmed that the current measures to scale down overfishing are weak, inadequate and short-sighted. Swordfish is still one of the most heavily-fished species in the Mediterranean and, due to the lack of proper stock management, there is still no sign whatsoever of a possible recovery in the short-term. Swordfish stock levels in the Mediterranean are now in their worst shape yet –only 30% left compared to 30 years ago-, according to ICCAT, an international organization charged with the conservation of tuna and tuna-like species.

“It is time to stop overfishing and replenish swordfish stocks. Three decades of overfishing is enough!”, said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “We want to see a recovery plan put in place now, a plan that sets total allowable catches on swordfish. We know that this kind of robust recovery plan has worked for other stocks like swordfish in the Atlantic. Postponing a recovery plan any longer would be short-sighted and undermine the future for the fishermen and communities who depend on a healthy swordfish fishery for their livelihood”, added Gustavsson.

The number of Mediterranean swordfish has declined by a staggering 70% between the 1980s and 2015. Sadly, over 70% of swordfish unloaded in the Mediterranean are so young that are they unable to reproduce, making a biological recovery for this highly-commercialised fish, impossible. Therefore, Oceana calls on the EC and, in particular, EU Member States sharing Mediterranean waters, to push for a robust, sustainable and transparent swordfish recovery plan to be adopted at the ICCAT Commission in November.

Oceana recommends a recovery plan that includes:

  • setting a catch limit and regulating the fishery through total allowable catches;
  • putting in place monitoring, control and surveillance measures to combat overfishing.
  • protecting juvenile swordfish by increasing minimum catch size and adopting seasonal fishing closures
  • protecting vulnerable species caught in Mediterranean swordfish fishing.

Learn more about swordfish here

Link to Oceana’s Position Paper on Swordfish Recovery Plan