Tag Archives: Mediterranean

The nine priority areas to restock the Mediterranean

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Urgent call for action on the eve of the Ministerial Conference on Mediterranean Fisheries

Malta, 28 March 2017. “There are at least nine areas in the Mediterranean that need protection as a matter of priority in order to safeguard marine ecosystems and contribute to the recovery of fish stocks, starting with the central Adriatic where Italy and Croazia must soon state their positions regarding the protection of the Jakuba/Pomo Pit.” This is the call of MedReAct on the eve of the Ministerial Conference on Mediterranean Fisheries organised by the European Commission, taking place in Malta 29 and 30 March 2017. This area, which lies between Italy and Croatia, reaches a maximum depth of 200-260 metres, and has unique geomorphological and oceanographic features. It suffers severe impacts from bottom trawling which over the years has greatly reduced Adriatic fish stocks. This fishing method represents a serious threat to one of the most important nursery and spawning zones for European hake and Norway lobster (for more details see the attached briefing document). A proposal for its protection is currently being examined by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean which will express its position in the coming months.

The Malta conference, in which sixteen ministers from Mediterranean countries will participate, will conclude with the signing of the Malta MedFish4Ever declaration, committing Mediterranean countries to protect vulnerable species and sensitive habitats and to establish fisheries restricted zones and marine protected areas. By 2020 the coastal states must achieve protection of 10% of the Mediterranean Sea, in line with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations and the Convention on Biological Diversity. “Protection of the Jakuba Pomo Pit represents an important testing ground on which to verify the level of political will to restore vulnerable marine areas and fish stocks and to save the future of Adriatic fisheries,” declared MedReAct spokesperson Domitilla Senni. “We call on Italy and Croatia to make a public commitment at the Malta Ministerial Conference to protect this area from bottom trawling.”

In addition to the Pomo Pit, MedReAct draws attention to eight other priority areas requiring protection measures:

  1. Northern Sicilian Seamounts
  2. Gulf of Lion Slope
  3. Alicante Canyon
  4. Balearic Seamounts
  5. Alboran Sea Seamounts
  6. Western Sardinia Canyons
  7. Southern Ligurian Seamounts
  8. Aegean Sea – the Thracian Sea

Each of these areas is described below.

PRIORITY AREAS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA

  1. Northern Sicilian Seamounts. Located off the northwest coast of Sicily, the area includes two seamounts each of about 1000 meters, called Aceste and Drepano, as well as the Ustica ridge and escarpment. Aceste, characterized by the presence of black corals (Antipatharia) and scleractinians (Dendrophyllia cornigera), is an area of high importance for elasmobranchs, especially sharks, and in particular the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) which is relatively numerous in this area, and longnose spurdog (Squalus blainvillei) which is abundant. The southernmost area is located at the entrance to the Strait of Sicily, an essential migratory zone in the Mediterranean, considered a vulnerable area for small pelagic species.
  1. Adriatic Sea Jabuka/Pomo Pit. The area, situated in the central Adriatic at a maximum depth of 200-260m, presents unique geomorphological and oceanographic features. In addition to playing an important role in the overall oceanographic dynamics of the entire Adriatic Sea, it is considered an Essential Fish Habitat, the only one in the central Adriatic, mostly for the reproduction and growth of important Adriatic demersal species, especially European hake (Merluccius merluccius). This area hosts the largest population of Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) and is important especially for juveniles at depths below 200m. It is also a nursery zone for black-bellied angler (Lophius budegassa) and horned octopus (Eledone cirrhosa). Based on an available scientific data it is a high density area for giant devil ray (Mobula mobular) which is an endemic species. The Pit could function as a favorable environment for some key life history stages of the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus), which is critically endangered. Regarding benthic species, several types of corals can be found (Scleractinia, Actiniaria). Although it covers less than 10 percent of the total surface of the Adriatic Sea, this area is one of the most important fishing grounds in the Adriatic for bottom trawling, which puts the fish resources of the entire Adriatic under pressure. Fish populations are threatened by overfishing and high fishing pressure on juveniles. Currently, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean is considering a proposal to close the Jakuba/Pomo Pit to bottom trawling.
  1. Alicante Canyon. This is one of the largest submarine canyons in Spain’s eastern waters. Located in one of the areas with the widest continental shelf, it is part of one of the main rose shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris) fishing areas, and thus is strongly impacted by shrimp bottom trawling. This area is an essential habitat and nursery area for the hake (Merluccius merluccius), together with the presence of other associated species (assemblages) in the canyon. Several cetacean species and the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) are also present in the zone. The deepest part of the canyon, located on the eastern side, is a spawning ground for bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). It is considered a sensitive habitat for several elasmobranches species (Etmopterus spinax, Galeus melastomus and Scyliorhinus canicula).
  1. Balearic Seamounts. The area includes four different seamounts: Emile Baudot, Ses Olives, Ausías March and Bell Guyot. Essential habitats (bluefin tuna spawning ground) and sensitive habitats (bamboo coral gardens – Isidella elongata), maërl beds, coralligenous, gorgonian gardens (Muriceides lepida, Swiftia palida, Eunicella verrucosa, Villogorgia brevicoides, Viminella flagelum, Callogorgia verticilata) and black corals (Leiopathes glaberrima, Antipathes dichotoma) have been found. These organisms are particularly threatened by bottom trawling and long-line fishing. The presence of these species is often associated with the presence of commercial species (monkfish, hake, Norway lobster, lobster, octopus, red shrimp) which call for an adequate management. The area is also visited by pelagic species such as swordfish (Xiphias gladius), different dolphin species (Tursiops truncatus, Delphinus delphis), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems can also be found in the area.
  1. The Alboran Sea Seamounts. These seamounts, located between the European and African continents in the Alboran Sea, are scattered throughout the area along with the remains of an old volcano rising 15m above sea level, making part of a mountain ridge (Alboran Island). Along the canyons of the Alboran Sea are deep water corals. Hake is one of the most important target species for the trawl fisheries in this area; it is fished at excessively high levels in all trawling areas from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Cape of Gata, including the deep bottom fishing grounds surrounding Alboran Island. Juvenile hakes are caught in more shallow waters of about 50-300m depth, whereas adults are fished at depths of around 800 m, together with the Nephrops norvegicus fishery.
  1. Western Sardinia Canyons. The Catalano and Oristano submarine canyons are located off the east coast of Sardinia and together constitute the most important part of the canyon system surrounding the island. Submarine canyons usually are areas of interest for fisheries, in that they are highly productive zones due to their special hydrodynamics. In this case, fisheries for large pelagic species are present. In these zones one finds various cetacean species, such as Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), and striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), as well as large filter feeders such as basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and giant devil ray (Mobula mobular), which is relatively abundant in these areas. Moreover, at the edge of the slope there are lobster (Palinurus elephas) nurseries.
  1. Southern Ligurian Seamounts. This area includes a series of seamounts (Cialdi, Giglio and Jadul) north of the Tyrrhenian Sea and on the edge of the Pelagos Sanctuary. It is a high primary production area which supports many different shark and ray species (Cetorhinus maximus, Carcharhinus brachyurus, Scyliorhinus canicula, Galeus melastomus, Etmopterus spinax, Raja clavata, Raja asterias). For most of these species, this area serves as a nursery. The six-gilled shark (Hexanchus griseus) and thresher shark (Alopias spp) are also found in this area. In the Cialdi seamount the first submerged micritic limestones were discovered with Acesta excavata associated with corals and polychaetes, including Vermiliopsis monodiscus and Protula sp.
  1. Aegean Sea – The Thracian Sea. This is a disjunct area which covers two areas known as the Strymonian Gulf and the Samotraki Plateau. The Samotraki Plateau and the Strymonian Gulf are two demersal areas located in the north of the Aegean Sea, at a depth of around 180m, and are considered to be spawning grounds for hake. The area is an important fishing ground for bottom trawlers. These activities increase the mortality rates of juveniles of all species in the 180m isobath area of the Thracian Sea. As far as hake is concerned, the nursery and breeding grounds lie mainly in international waters in the Aegean and Thracian Seas.

Sources:

  • Scientific Information to Describe Areas Meeting Scientific Criteria for Mediterranean EBSAs, Oceana (2014). Link
  • Fisheries conservation and vulnerable ecosystems in the Mediterranean open seas, including the deep seas, de Juan, S. and Lleonart, J. eds. UNEP-MAP-RAC/SPA (2010). Link

Download the Press releases in Spanish, Italian and French.

Is Mediterranean hake on the verge of collapse?

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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.

Area                             

Hake overfishing rate (2013-2015)

Central-Northern Adriatic, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia

1-4

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

4-8

Northern Spain, Eastern and Northern Corsica, Sardinia

8-12

Gulf of Lion

16

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

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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.

Notes:

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.