List of vessels authorized to catch swordfish riddled with inconsistencies and unrealistic numbers; hinders enforceable managementmeasured

Mediterranean States’ race to declare vessels undermines future management negotiations.

Press Release Date: May 19, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: | tel.: Marta Madina

89% of the entire Mediterranean Swordfish fleet belongs to EU member states – 71% belong to Italy – highlighting their clear responsibility to protect this already overfished species.

Mediterranean swordfish are overexploited and yet are fished without any management measures, and as has recently been shown, without any clear information behind the reality of the fleet size and catch amounts. An analysis of the list of vessels authorised to catch swordfish by Oceana revealed not only unrealistic numbers of vessels for certain States, but also vessels that are not adapted to and thus would never be fishing this species, such as vessels of only 3 metres in length, as well as trawlers and bluefin tuna purse seiners.

89% of the currently 10,656 vessels on the list are flagged in the EU, leaving much of the responsibility for the proper management Mediterranean swordfish in the hands of the EU and its Mediterranean member states. In 2010, following an ICCAT recommendation established the creation of this list, Mediterranean member states seemingly entered into a full-fledged race to add as many vessels as possible to the list, likely in order to gain an advantage when the time comes to negotiate management measures for this overfished species.

“A close look into the authorized vessel list showed the disturbing truth of the state of Mediterranean swordfish fisheries – that we have no clear idea who is actively fishing this overexploited species, nor how much is being taken out of the sea,”  said Maria Jose Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager for Oceana in Europe. “The lack of clear information and the demonstrated and disappointing lack of will on the part of Mediterranean states have rendered it impossible to address the issue of proper management measures for this species.”

Recently, in an answer to a Parliamentary question on the inconsistencies in Mediterranean swordfish lists, the EU Commission stated that in 2011 they will take a deep look into the implementation of the swordfish list system and if necessary, will propose new measures at the next ICCAT meeting. Given the percentage of swordfish vessels belonging to Mediterranean EU member state fleets is so high, Oceana firmly believes that Mediterranean member states and the EU must assume their responsibility and take action before the next ICCAT meeting, and must immediately cease undermining future management measure negotiations.

“Swordfish management has been systematically ignored at ICCAT. The unfortunate outcome is that swordfish are well underway to being the next bluefin tuna,” stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. Mediterranean countries should be coherent and adapt the fleet to reasonable and realistic levels before any action is taken in the next ICCAT meeting. Given the current state of the vessels list, a discussion about management measures would not only lack credibility, but it would also be useless to address the status of the stock. ”

About swordfish

Swordfish are captured in the Mediterranean Sea without any management and face high percentages of illegal fishing through the use of driftnets, and the misreporting of catches. According to ICCAT scientist the stock is overexploited and 70% of catches are made up of juveniles.

The Mediterranean stock is comparable in size that of the North Atlantic waters, but is yet to have a management plan. The leading countries that fish Mediterranean swordfish are Italy, Spain and Morocco.

Oceana´s recommendations on a sustainable management framework for Mediterranean swordfish

Parliamentary Question on Mediterranean Swordfish