Oceana denounces potential cases of illegal, unreported and poorly regulated fishing across the Mediterranean Sea

Analysis of satellite signals in the world’s most overfished sea reveals over 28 thousand hours of apparent fishing inside protected areas throughout 2018

Press Release Date: July 15, 2019

Location: Tirana


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Oceana has unveiled potential cases of illegal, unreported and poorly regulated fishing in the waters of the Mediterranean –  the world’s most overfished sea (80% of fish stocks). The findings from this analysis will be submitted to the meeting of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) this week in Tirana, Albania.  The analysis is based on the Global Fishing Watch fishing detection algorithm and examined data from throughout 2018. In total, Oceana identified more than 28 thousand hours of apparent fishing inside protected areas of the Mediterranean Sea.

The most concerning case relates to more than 14,000 hours of apparent fishing by 56 bottom trawling vessels in three Fisheries Restricted Areas (FRAs) in the Strait of Sicily. Since 2017, trawling has been prohibited in these areas which serve as nursery grounds for young hake—the most overfished species in the Mediterranean—and deep-water rose shrimp.    

Less than 1% of the Mediterranean Sea is protected by Fisheries Restricted Areas, roughly the size of Sicily—yet vessels from some Mediterranean states are apparently involved in illegal fishing in these areas. Data shows that with better enforcement in place, for example in the Adriatic Sea Fisheries Restricted Area, the protection of these ecological zones helps to rebuild overexploited fish populations” said Nicolas Fournier, Policy Manager at Oceana in Europe.  

Map of cumulative fishing effort (number of fishing hours per square kilometre) for fishing vessels operating in two of the Strait of Sicily FRAs (East of Adventure Bank FRA and West of Gela Basin FRA) from January 2018 – December 2018. 


Oceana’s study is a follow-up to an investigation submitted to the GFCM last year. 

Possible unauthorised fishing operations were also observed in the waters of several Mediterranean countries, including Libya (4,400 hours), Tunisia (1,900 hours), Syria (80 hours), Albania (780 hours), Montenegro (1,800 hours), and Egypt (390 hours). Oceana was unable to verify whether these activities were legal or not, due to the lack of transparency on access agreements between countries, which would otherwise provide information on who is permitted to be fishing and where.  

Transparency, accountability and an effective monitoring and sanctioning system are the best tools for tackling IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing. Oceana calls on GFCM members to improve transparency, including of fishing access agreements, to strengthen requirements to make information on vessel registries public, as well as to enhance monitoring and sanctioning systems, particularly in Fisheries Restricted Areas. 

Read more: Oceana’s policy recommendations for GFCM 2019