FAO: More support for Mediterranean and Black Sea small-scale fishers
Although the main commercial fish species in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are still over-fished, pressure has reduced over the past years, raising hopes - for the first time - for the recovery of fish stocks, according to new FAO-GFCM report launched today.
The percentage of overexploited fish stocks decreased by 10% - from 88% in 2014 to 78% in 2016. More efforts are needed, however, to ensure long-term fish stock sustainability, warns the report.
This means more support for the small-scale fishing sector, which employs most fishers and causes least environmental damage; reducing bycatch and discards, and introducing more drastic measures such as significantly reducing fishing or establishing fisheries restricted areas (areas where fishing activities are regulated).
The latter is particularly needed to safeguard the most heavily fished species, such as European hake, which is fished nearly six times beyond its sustainable level.
"Fisheries provide the region with an important socio-economic balance and are essential to ending hunger and poverty," said Abdellah Srour, GFCM Executive Secretary.
"Sustainability may be expensive in the short term, but there is nothing more expensive than running out of fish," said Miguel Bernal, FAO Fishery Officer and one of the report's coordinators.
Mediterranean and Black Sea fisheries are under threat in the long run because of the effects of increased pollution from human activities, habitat degradation, the introduction of non-indigenous species, overfishing and the impacts of climate-driven changes.
The European hake remains the species subject to the highest fishing pressure in the whole Mediterranean, followed by turbot in the Black Sea and horse mackerel in the Mediterranean.
Stocks fished within biologically sustainable limits mostly include small pelagic species (sardine or anchovy), and some stocks of red mullet and deep-water rose shrimp.
Overall, fish catch levels have been stable for the last few years, but are significantly down from the record years of the 1980s - 1.2 million tonnes in 2016 versus 2 million tonnes in 1982.
The 1.2 million tonnes comprise of 830 000 tonnes of fish caught in the Mediterranean and 390 000 tonnes of fish from the Black Sea. The bulk of catches consists of small pelagics (sardines, anchovies accounting for a third of all catches) although the catch is composed of a high number of species compared to other areas of the world.
Across, the region, the ranking of capture fisheries production in 2014-2016 continues to be dominated by Turkey (321 800 tonnes and 26% of total landings compared to 31% in 2013), followed by Italy (185 300 tonnes and 16%, similar to the 2013 percentage). Algeria (96 300 tonnes and 8%) and Greece (65 700 tonnes and 5%) also maintain the same (2013) percentages in landing contribution. Both Tunisia (185 300 tonnes) and Croatia (74 400 tonnes) show an increase compared to 2013 (from 7 to 9% for Tunisia and from 3 to 6% for Croatia). Total landings for Spain (78 200 tonnes) decreased from 8.5% to 7% of the total).
Among subregions, the Black Sea continues to provide the largest contribution to capture fisheries production, with a 32% of the total, followed by the western Mediterranean (22% of total), the Adriatic Sea (16%), and the central and eastern Mediterranean (15% each).
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