The Ocean is the heart of our Planet. Water covers more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface. Ocean sustains us and we cannot survive without it. The Covid-19 pandemic has awakened us to how much our livelihoods and well-being depend on a healthy planet, and how much we need thriving and diverse ecosystems to sustain our lives.
The oceans are all at risk, but it is the Mediterranean Sea that suffers from the highest overfishing rate globally. Fish stocks have been heavily exploited, and human impact has deteriorated its diverse and rich marine ecosystems for decades, if not centuries.
An emblematic case of the Mediterranean crisis is the Gulf of Lion, where overfishing has been increasing decade after decade, with 94% of assessed demersal stocks now overfished. The main victim is the European hake, which suffers from the highest overfishing rate in the European Union and Mediterranean waters. It holds the unenviable record of being fished 15 times over sustainable levels.
Protecting hake spawners and sensitive habitats was the main objective in creating a Fish Recovery Area (FRA) in 2009 in the Gulf of Lion, the first of its kind in the Western Mediterranean Sea. But a recent study[i]shows that the FRA’s management measure—allowing overfishing to continue at its 2008 level—has clearly not reached its objective. It has even worsened the state of biomass of European hake and other commercial species in the area.
The study analyses four possible management scenarios for the FRA, through 2025 and through 2040, incorporating mild and more severe climate change trends. It concludes that, to secure the full recovery of European hake and the ecosystem in general, the FRA should be fully protected by closing it to demersal fisheries.
Despite being heavily overfished, the Mediterranean maintains a high recovery potential, as clearly proven by the Fish Recovery Area in Adriatic Jabuka/Pomo Pit, where a closure for demersal fisheries was introduced in 2017. Less than 2 years after its creation, the Jabuka/Pomo Pit FRA saw a dramatic increase in the biomass of hake and Norway lobster, and is now known as one of the best practices across the Mediterranean.
“In the light of these findings, we urge the French Government to close permanently the Gulf of Lion FRA to demersal fisheries.This is the only option that can fully recover the depleted hake and protect sensitive habitats in the area. The French government must go beyond its general international engagement on the protection of oceans and show concrete commitment by closing the Gulf of Lion FRA to bottom fishing” said Stéphan Beaucher, from MedReAct.