Oceana calls for swordfish management before it is too late

The swordfish fishery in the Mediterranean is not subject to quotas or any single minimum size rule. Between 50 and 70% of the catch is comprised of juveniles

Press Release Date: May 11, 2010

Location: Madrid


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

Swordfish in the Mediterranean is overexploited. The marine conservation organisation, Oceana, highlighted this during a presentation in Rome on European Maritime day. Oceana calls for the implementation of management measures for the stock before it reaches dangerously low levels, like bluefin tuna, which is on the verge of collapse.


Currently, thousands of vessels catch swordfish without any control measures or harmonized minimum size rules to prevent the catching of juveniles. Furthermore, these vessels issue catch declarations and sometimes do not declare their catch at all. Between 50 and 70% of the catch is comprised of juveniles that have not yet reproduced.  ICCAT scientists have declared that this situation may drastically reduce the population in the short term.


Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana Europe, said: “This type of uncontrolled fishing is not consistent with current EU policies. It is also against ICCAT objectives, which is regionally responsible for this species, especially since the stock is overexploited, even before the illegal and undeclared catches are taken into account”.


The marine conservation organisation has also stressed that at least 20% of the total catch in the Mediterranean is caught by driftnets, a gear that has been banned by the UN and ICCAT. The EU prohibited the use of driftnets in 2002, although they are still being used in Europe by the Italian fleet and other countries including Morocco, Algeria and Turkey. In Italy, the country with the largest swordfish catch in the Mediterranean, Oceana identified in 2008 92 vessels continuing to use driftnets to catch swordfish. In 2007, this country declared 1,948 tonnes caught with this gear, but in reality, the figure is far higher. In the majority of the cases, vessels engaged in these illegal fishing activities do not declare their catches.


Xavier Pastor concluded: “Illegal fishing, overexploitation and the lack of management measures is turning the Mediterranean into a desert.  It is unbelievable that highly valuable commercial species are not subject to minimum management measures. In the case of swordfish, measures should be urgently implemented to guarantee sustainable exploitation of this species and also to eliminate the use of driftnets in Europe and by the fleets of other Mediterranean countries.”


Oceana has video and photographs of driftnets operating in the Mediterranean

Report: Italian driftnets. Illegal fishing continues

Oceana TV: Driftnets. Curtains of death