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November 18, 2011

It’s time to protect Mediterranean swordfish

BY: Angela Pauly




It seems like common sense that one of the basic tricks to avoid overfishing a species would be to avoid catching them before they have had time to reproduce. That makes sense right?

Well unfortunately, in the case of swordfish an estimated 70% of the catch is made up of juveniles – a major problem for this at-risk species.

Nearly 13,000 vessels belonging to 13 countries are reported to fish for Mediterranean swordfish, although it is suspected that several additional countries have fisheries but do not report their catches. Illegal fishing for swordfish with driftnets also continues to occur in the Mediterranean, eight years after ICCAT prohibited this type of fishing gear. In fact, over the past five years, Oceana has documented illegal driftnet fishing by several countries, including Italy, Morocco and Turkey.

Mismanagement is unfortunately a common occurrence in Mediterranean fisheries, but the situation with swordfish is just ridiculous.

Oceana expert Maria Jose Cornax puts it this way: “Mediterranean swordfish cannot wait another ten years for proper management. If we have learned anything from the situation of bluefin tuna, it is that if we do not manage the fishery today we may lose it tomorrow.”

We’re at ICCAT working to make sure these incredible fish get the protection they are desperately in need of.