Oceana calls upon Mediterranean countries to protect areas crucial for fish survival to address overfishing crisis

Little progress made since signing of ‘Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration’ in 2017

Press Release Date: June 10, 2019

Location: Marrakesh


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

On eve of political summit, Oceana releases online viewer displaying information on crucial lifecycle areas for fish populations, and current sites closed to fishing

Ahead of a political meeting to address the overfishing crisis in the Mediterranean, Oceana is calling upon the region’s countries to protect essential fish habitats (EFHs) as an urgent measure to ensure a future for fisheries in the world’s most overfished sea[1]. Members of the UN’s General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) will meet tomorrow in Morocco to review the progress made to end overfishing since the signing of the Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration two years ago.

All 23 countries under the GFCM – plus the European Union – are set to gather in Marrakesh on Tuesday for a two-day high-level conference to renew efforts to tackle the overfishing crisis in the region, where 80% of fish populations are now overexploited. Popular and commercial fish – such as hake or mullet – are fished up to 12 and 6 times more than what is considered sustainable.

The Marrakesh meeting is a follow-up to the signing of the 2017 ‘Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration’, a regional political pact with commitments to overcome the overfishing crisis and pave the way towards sustainable fisheries for the next ten years. However, just two years later, many measures have still not been implemented including an agreement to protect nursery and spawning areas – or essential fish habitats –  by 2018.

“States gathering this week in Marrakesh have the immediate future of the Mediterranean Sea in their hands. We call on them to honour and strengthen the commitments made under MedFish4Ever back in 2017, as the only way to bring this sea back to life,” said María José Cornax, Policy and Advocacy Director for Oceana in Europe.

Regarding areas closed to fishing to allow stocks to recover, only one new fisheries closure has been created by the GFCM since 2017 – the “Jabuka Pomo-Pit” – in the Adriatic Sea. More closures, also known as fisheries restricted areas (FRAs), will be needed to reduce fishing pressure in the region.

Online viewer tool to identify essential fish habitats

To coincide with the opening of meeting in Morocco, Oceana is launching an online viewer, which includes examples of existing regional and national areas closed to fishing, including temporary and permanent bottom trawling restrictions, that help protect nursery and spawning grounds. Oceana stresses the need for members to regularly report such measures to the GFCM in order to develop a strong and science-based network of essential fish habitats in the Mediterranean Sea.

So far, Mediterranean countries are failing to protect essential fish habitats as they committed to do so in 2017 – this is their best chance to protect young fish, rebuild ocean productivity, and resilience against climate change. Protecting areas crucial for the survival of fish is sound fisheries management that must become a top priority for the Mediterranean,” added Nicolas Fournier, Policy Manager at Oceana in Europe.

Oceana online viewer

#MedFish4Ever #MediterraneanFuture

Notes to the editor:

  • The viewer displays information related to the most overexploited species – such as hake, mullet or shrimp – in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Examples of existing national measures that guarantee the protection of EFHs include:
  • Permanent closures to bottom trawling in the Gulf of Lion (France) to protect hake spawners;
  • Local “fisheries reserves” established in coastal waters in France to support artisanal fisheries;
  • Temporal bans for towed gears in waters of several regions in Spain, such as Catalonia and Andalucía;
  • Summer recovery periods in the Gulf of Gabès (Tunisia), during which trawlers are not allowed;
  • A 4-months biological recovery period in coastal waters of Algeria, during which all trawling is not allowed;
  • Spatial restrictions in certain areas of the Moroccan coast, where the use of trawl nets within a certain distance from the coast is prohibited for hake, squid, octopus, and shrimp fisheries.