Tag Archives: Mediterranean

Is Mediterranean hake on the verge of collapse?


The Mediterranean is probably one of the most overfished sea of the Planet, well beyond EU overfishing rates in the Atlantic or in the Baltic Sea. Between 1994 and 2014, Mediterranean catches declined from 1.020.000 to 800.000 tons, an impressive 20% reduction in only 20 years.

All over the Mediterranean, the status of fish stocks is alarming:

  • On average, 85% of assessed stocks are overexploited [1] (96% of EU stocks and 91% for stocks shared with non EU countries [2]).
  • The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and the EU Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) regularly assess the status of fish stocks in the Med. Out of 440 assessments published between 2007 and 2015, as much as 400 revealed fishing exploitation rates well beyond sustainable levels, 128 of which with rates five times higher than biologically sustainable limits.

Overfishing is certainly not the only crisis facing the Mediterranean area, however what is at stake should not be overlooked: Mediterranean fisheries represent 250.000 direct jobs and 500.000 indirect jobs and they constitute an essential income for a region striving through devastating economic and political crisis.

Hake: on the verge of collapse after decades of rampant overfishing

Hake is a key commercial species in Mediterranean fisheries and as such it attracts scientists attention, resulting in 74 stock assessments between 2007 and 2015. All these assessments converge on the same result: with the exception of Morocco, hake is overfished all around the Med in proportions that often goes beyond imagination.


Hake overfishing rate (2013-2015)

Central-Northern Adriatic, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia


Balearic Islands, South-East of Italy, Southern Adriatic, South of Italy


Northern Spain, Eastern and Northern Corsica, Sardinia


Gulf of Lion


Hake economic value represents 8% of the total Mediterranean landings. Its average first sale price (what is paid to the fisherman) is about 7 €/kg [3]. This accounts for the systematic overfishing which, year after year and for decades, is leading the stocks on the verge of collapse.

Its spatial distribution covers semi coastal areas of the Northern Mediterranean basin, from Gibraltar to the Adriatic and Turkey. It is therefore mostly targeted by EU trawlers from Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Croatia. These countries should be held responsible for the poor state of hake and made accountable for its recovery. For decades, EU fishing power increased, creating rampant overcapacity fuelled by massive amounts of EU and national subsidies.

The short and long term challenges facing Mediterranean hake stocks

Very recently, the European Commission turned its attention to the dramatic state of Mediterranean fish stocks and initiated action for the adoption of several multiannual management plans (MAPs). However, a MAP takes about two years to negotiate by the EU and the process –for stocks targeted by the EU fleets in the region– could last until 2023-2025. Considering the poor state of hake it may be too late to prevent its collapse.

A dire example is hake fisheries in the Gulf of Lion by French and Spanish fleets, whose exploitation rate increased by 400% between 2007 and 2012 and it has not improved since. In 2016 the Commission urged France and Spain to propose immediate measures to cut fishing effort, but negotiations between these two countries failed. Now the burden rest with the European Commission which could implement emergency measures provided for by Article 12 of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, which enables to close a fishery for two consecutive periods of six months each, to prevent a stock from collapsing (a concrete possibility in the Gulf of Lion) [4]. Even though a one-year closure alone will not enable the stock to recover, it would give hake a break and send a strong political signal to Member states that it’s time to act.

In the Mediterranean, overfishing is compounded by the absence of political will to implement effective management measures. While decision-makers rely on short-term laisser-faire attitudes, year after year, the social, economic and environmental impacts of the fisheries crisis becomes heavier and heavier.

In March 2017, the European Commission will convene a Ministerial Conference in Malta to discuss and agree an action plan for Mediterranean fish stocks. However, if the Commission is serious about addressing this crisis, it needs to show leadership by confronting – as a matter of priority – the dire situation of European hake in the Gulf of Lion through the introduction of immediate emergency measures.

[1] FAO/GFCM. The state of Mediterranean and Black sea Fisheries (SoMFi 2016)

[2] Communication of the European Commission on fishing opportunities for 2016.

[3] 2016 Annual Economic Report on the EU fishing fleet (STECF 16/11).

[4] Emergency measures were applied in the past for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay and more recently, in 2014, for sea bass in the Channel.

Did you observe Jellyfish Blooms in the Mediterranean? Report it!

MedReAct’s member Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is a partner of CIESM – The Mediterranean Science Commission JELLYWATCH program, which for the first time gathers baseline data on the frequency and extent of jellyfish outbreaks across the Mediterranean Sea.

The participation in this program enables an unbiased assessment of geographic and temporal scale of mass jellyfish events, allowing time trend analysis and short term forecasting of jellyfish bloom occurrence. The active contribution of the local communities across the Mediterranean, which provide us with information on jellyfish blooms, is an invaluable asset for the success of this monitoring effort.

If you did observed Jellyfish Blooms in the Mediterranean? Report it at medousa@archipelago.gr


How do Jellyfish Blooms affect us?

In simple terms, jellyfish blooms are growing – and stresses caused by human activity such as overfishing are considered to be the most likely cause. Fisheries-based ecosystems are frequently overfished, and taking too many fish out of ecosystems creates ecological space for jellyfish to thrive, influencing both fisheries productivity but also tourism.

Joint NGO Statement

Joint NGO Statement to the “High Level Seminar on the state of stocks in the Mediterranean and on the CFP approach”

Catania, 9-10 February 2016

Sin títuloMediterranean Sea fish stocks are in a dramatic situation with 96% of European assessed stocks in the region reported as overexploited [1]. The reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) requires the EU to end overfishing by 2015 or at the latest by 2020 in order to ensure the recovery of fish stocks. To achieve this objective EU Mediterranean member states must address and reverse the political inaction that has characterized their fisheries management.

Considering that EU multiannual plans for the Mediterranean will only be adopted and implemented in the medium-term, immediate emergency and recovery measures are required.

On the occasion of the “High Level Seminar on the Status of the Stocks in the Mediterranean and on the CFP Approach”, Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, Fundació ENT, Greenpeace, Legambiente, Marevivo, MedReAct and Oceana call on the European Commission and Mediterranean EU member states to immediately adopt emergency measures to halt overfishing and recover stocks in the Mediterranean Sea, in order to prepare and introduce the following priority longer term actions:

  • Establish emergency measures and recovery plans for those EU stocks for which fishing mortality has reached unsustainable levels, such as for hake and small pelagic stocks;
  • Promote in the context of ICCAT a recovery plan for Mediterranean swordfish;
  • Set catch and effort limits based on the available scientific advice and ensure that exploitation rates are commensurate with recovering fish stock populations above MSY biomass levels;
  • Take appropriate measures to balance fishing capacity with the real fishing opportunities in order to stop overfishing by 2020 at the very latest;
  • Protect sensitive areas such as nurseries, spawning grounds and vulnerable marine ecosystems through spatial measures (no-take areas and marine reserves);
  • Strengthen control activities at sea and on land and implement dissuasive sanctions;
  • Establish or update the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) for all EU commercial stocks, in line with the scientific advice and consistent with biological targets; and
  • Fully enforce the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) conditionality clause, according to which operators engaged in illegal activities would not have access to fisheries subsidies.

[1] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council Concerning a consultation on Fishing Opportunities for 2015 under the Common Fisheries Policy.

To download the pdf: Joint NGO Statement

Sardine Fisheries: Resource Assessment and Social and Economic Situation

This study describes fisheries, stock status, ICES advice and management measures for the Northern and Southern sardine stocks in EU Atlantic waters. Information on sardine biology and ecology is provided for a better understanding of stock development. Social and economic dimensions are addressed for sardine fisheries in France, Spain and Portugal. The study provides recommendations to improve knowledge on the species and indicates management measures which might be considered for the sustainability of the fisheries.

Link: Sardine Fisheries: Resource Assessment and Social and Economic Situation

External author: Alexandra Silva and Ana Moreno (Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera – IPMA, I.P.)

Documentary about co-management fisheries in Catalonia

Lydia Chaparro, from our partner organization Fundació ENT, has taken part in a TV documentary (Latituds program) on overfishing and co-management plans in the Mediterranean.

In the Catalonia region, all major stakeholders: fishermen, scientists, local government and NGOs, have been working together to establish the process and rules for the sustainable management of three species in a given area (Mediterranean sandeel in Maresme, shrimp in Palamós and hake in Roses) with the aim to ensure environmental, social, and economic benefits in the long term.

MedReAct urges the European Union to take bold measures against illegal fishing of bluefin tuna

2015 Bluefin Tuna Seizures in Italy

With only few weeks left to the annual conference of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT, 10-17 November 2015, Malta), MedReAct highlights the persistence and extent of illegal catches of bluefin tuna (BFT) in the Mediterranean.

A recent media investigation by the Italian national broadcasting company, RAI, revealed the absence of catch certificates for fresh BFT on sale in some of the most popular Sicilian fish markets. According to one fisherman, interviewed by RAI, the majority  of BFT sold on the Italian market could originate from illegal catches. Evidence collected by MedReAct, indicates that this may well be the case.

Since the beginning of 2015, the Italian control authorities seized over 70 tons of illegal BFT, many of which juvenile fish caught before reaching the reproductive age.

In one case, an Italian fishing vessel without a catch quota, was found with 1.000 BFT on board. Such large seizures are not uncommon in Italy and indicate the presence of a large black market in the country. For example in May 2011, the Italian control authorities seized  30 tons of illegal BFT which were being shipped from Sicily to Northen Italy. In June 2013, 15 tons of BFT without catch certificate, were found on a lorry in Sicily. One month later, in the same area,  42 tons of BFT with no documentation, were discovered on three trucks.

According to MedReAct, combating illegal fishing cannot rely only on the repression activities  by fisheries inspectors. Other dissuassive measures must be applied by the EU, such as   preventing illegal fishing operators to have access to public subsidies, as provided by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, or by identify illegal fishers as EU nationals engaged in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU) and therefore subjected to the European Union sanction regime on IUU fishing.


RAI investigative story on fisheries, “Pesca Selvaggia”, broadcasted on October 4th, 2015.

View the list of 2015 BFT Seizures Italy.XLS or 2015 BFT Seizures Italy.PDF.

New scientific study on Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean

A new scientific study on Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean has been published in Plos One.

In the article “Large-Scale Assessment of Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas Effects on Fish Assemblages” the researchers found that the level of protection greatly affected the fish communities. No-take MPAs showed the greatest recovery of fish communities, with recovery in intermediate-protection MPAs closer to that of unprotected areas. Furthermore, the numbers and total mass of apex predators, carnivores and detritivores were greater in no-take MPAs, compared with the other areas.

The estimated total weight of the fish per square metre of seabed and the numbers of different species were also significantly greater in the no-take MPAs compared with the other areas. In no-take zones, the average weight was approximately 84 g/m2 , compared with around 30 g/m2 in areas with intermediate protection and 10 g/m2 in non-enforced MPAs and unprotected areas.

Importantly, highly protected MPAs contained much greater densities of commercially valuable fish.The results showed that the numbers of invasive species or southern Mediterranean fish that thrive in warmer waters were similar in both MPAs and unprotected areas. Although this means that it is likely that MPAs do not protect against these threats, it also shows that the extra biodiversity found in MPAs was not driven by invasive or warm-water fish.

These results reinforce other studies of single MPAs, which have shown that highly protected areas offer the best chance for fish stocks and entire ecosystems to recover in the Mediterranean Sea.