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September 16, 2023

Saving the Mediterranean from overfishing

BY: Javier Lopez


© OCEANA Enrique Talledo


After an uncomfortable night of sailing, battling strong winds and waves, the morning sun brought calmer weather to the Alboran Sea. Mother Nature seemed to be in a good mood, granting us the opportunity to spot several pods of common and striped dolphins, as well as various seabirds such as shearwaters, gulls and storm-petrels, which crossed our course. It was a poignant reminder of the beauty and vitality of the marine life in these waters and the delicate balance that exists in this marine ecosystem.

However, there was one conspicuous absence today: the fishing boats that often dot the horizon in this region. Perhaps because it was the weekend, a time when many fishing boats lay up in harbours, or perhaps in response to the grim reality that casts a shadow over the Mediterranean: overfishing. The Mediterranean is the second most overfished region in the world, and the Alboran Sea, located in its western waters, is no stranger to this crisis.

Thus, most of the assessed stocks of commercial species in these waters around us, such as hake, red mullet, sardines, deep-sea white shrimp and red shrimp, bear the heavy burden of severe overfishing. This worrying situation is unlikely to change until fishing effort is brought into line with scientific advice, essential fish habitats are protected by banning destructive fishing practices and effective catch documentation systems are put in place.

As the day comes to an end, we recognise the importance of this expedition and its findings. Our expedition is not one of mere exploration; rather it represents an impassioned appeal to safeguard the richness of these waters, protect marine ecosystems, restore fish stocks and strengthen the resilience of coastal communities whose fates are intertwined with that of the sea. The expedition is a reminder of the urgent need to take action in the Alboran Sea and the wider Mediterranean, a commitment to protect these waters for generations to come.

© OCEANA / Enrique Talledo. Social Media specialist Lucinda Birk filming a video with Javier López, Fisheries Campaign Director. Alboran Sea, Andalucia, Spain.