OCEANA alerts that EU is turning blind eye to swordfish overfishing

Mediterranean stock is 70% below sustainable levels, considered overfished since 2003

Press Release Date: October 15, 2014

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

EU maintains inaction despite accounting for 90% of the fleet responsible.

Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, has sounded the alarm today on the European Union’s reluctance to take measures for the recovery of Mediterranean swordfish. According to an assessment carried out by scientists earlier this year, the stock is overfished; it has declined steeply since the 1980s, falling to levels that are currently 70% lower than what is considered sustainable.

Maria Jose Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager for Oceana Europe: The European Union is blatantly ignoring its obligation to manage stocks at sustainable levels by 2015, or by 2020 at the very latest. By not adopting measures now, the EU would be duplicating the same costly mistake that brought bluefin tuna to the verge of collapse in the past.” 

Currently, the EU is negotiating its position for the upcoming meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), where the future of highly migratory species like bluefin tuna, swordfish and sharks will be decided. While the EU has been an advocate for precaution when negotiating bluefin tuna quotas in recent years, it has failed to take a step forward on even the most elementary management measures for Mediterranean swordfish. The species is currently overfished by an overinflated fleet of more than 12,000 vessels, of which 90% are EU-flagged and 60% are Italian. The few management measures put in place to date are inadequate to allow the stock to recover, particularly given that 75% of catches are composed of juvenile swordfish that will never have the chance to reproduce.

Dr. Ilaria Vielmini, Marine Scientist with Oceana in Europe: “The stock remains mismanaged despite a decade of overfishing. Italy, as the nation that both dominates the fishery and holds the Presidency of the EU, has a particular obligation to lead the recovery of such an important species.” 

Oceana is calling for the adoption of a Mediterranean swordfish management plan that will restore the stock to sustainable levels including the setting of a catch limit. This year is a critical window of opportunity for action on Mediterranean swordfish, because ICCAT typically introduces new management measures based on the results of its stock assessments, and will not review Mediterranean swordfish again until 2017.

The upcoming ICCAT meeting will take place on 10-17 November in Genoa, Italy. Oceana will be attending the meeting as an observer, and calling for precautionary management of Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna, Mediterranean swordfish, and sharks. 

Learn more: Swordfish

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