The Balearic Islands must change their fishing management to make it profitable

Despite the increase in the extractive capacity of the Balearic fleet, fish landings have been stagnant for seventy years due to overexploitation of the stocks.

Press Release Date: October 31, 2011

Location: Madrid


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Oceana has worked out an integral project of responsible fishing for the Balearic Islands with proposals to improve the marine ecosystem and fishing.

The fishing activity could be more profitable and guarantee the survival of the sector in the Balearic Islands by changing the current fishing management model, in accordance with a responsible fishing project elaborated by Oceana. The international organization of marine conservation points out that the Balearic Islands are at a crucial stage and the decisions that are made in the following years will mark the difference between continuing to reduce the size of the stocks and harming the environment or, on the contrary, to make marine conservation and employment compatible.

Oceana points out that if the stocks are allowed to recover and destructive practices are eliminated, in some years fishermen will obtain more catches employing sustainable practices. This is the conclusion that is drawn after analyzing historical data on landed catches, the composition of the current fleet and the scientific evaluations of the stocks.

It is surprising that since the 1940s fishing catches have remained stable in the Balearic Islands, despite the fact that today a very superior technology exists and fishing takes place in locations that before were unimaginable. At that time, vessels had an average power of 3 CV (approx. HP), while now vessels declare an average of 77 CV and their real power tends to be higher 80% of the time. In fact, many trawlers illegally exceed the limit of 500 CV established by the regulations, sometimes reaching 1,000 CV.

Nevertheless, this increase in power has not been translated into more catches, having remained between 3,000 and 4,000 tonnes a year for more than half a century. The reason is that the fishing stocks are now lower than then.

In the case of bottom trawling, the General Fishing Commission of the Mediterranean, under The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has pointed out that all species objective of trawler fishing analyzed in the Balearic Sea were overexploited in 2010, which means that their populations decrease year after year because their rhythm of reproduction cannot compensate the fishing pressure. This situation affects hake, red mullet, striped mullet, crayfish, red shrimp and white shrimp.

“Fishing catches in the Balearic Islands will start to decline in the mid-term if the current rhythm of exploitation does not decrease to allow the stocks to recover”, warns Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “The sea is not inexhaustible. Fishing is already in crisis and it will be an activity becoming less and less profitable if there is not a firm commitment from the Administration and the fishermen to act now and reduce pressure on the resources. At the current rhythm, a long-established cultural and social tradition in the Balearic Islands is being put at risk and is harming the environment which could be irreversible”.

A reduction in fishing pressure would allow the stocks to recover and reach an optimum size, something which should be achieved in 2015 in accordance with the agreements adopted in 2002 in the Summit of Johannesburg. Once this Maximum Sustainable Yield is reached, the next step is to establish sustainable management measures to guarantee the long term maintenance of the associated resources and fisheries.

The complete proposal of Oceana, which will be released in the following weeks, includes aspects such as the reduction in trawler fishing discards and its restriction to habitats which are not sensitive, the recovery of selective fishing arts used in artisanal fishing, the creation of an area to protect the northern bluefin tuna, the adequacy of the number of recreational fishing licenses for the existing resources and the creation of a representative network of marine protected areas which covers 30% of the Balearic promontory.

“There is still time to stop this tendency which leads to the exhaustion of fisheries in the Balearic Sea”, concludes Pastor. “Oceana proposes the substitution of a management model focused on obtaining maximum gains in the short term for one focused on the future, where the habitats and fishermen jobs are respected, and the species are given the opportunity to reproduce. Fishing less today will lead to more catches tomorrow”.

More information in: Is there a future for Balearic fishing? Sustainable management, a long term guarantee of feasibility