Report | February 9, 2016

Mediterranean Sea. A key EU fishing region in a bleak state of overfishing

Overfishing in the Mediterranean Sea began around the ‘70s, when fishing effort increased considerably thanks to technological developments that allowed fleets to fish farther, deeper and find catches more easily. Latest assessments of the situation in the Mediterranean, revealed that 96% of stocks fished exclusively by EU countries are overexploited above what is considered sustainable (i.e Maximum Sustainable Yield, MSY). Moreover, a scientific study estimates that 98% of the unassessed demersal fishes could be overfished.

Today in the Mediterranean Sea, the main fishing stocks’ biomass is below sustainable levels (i.e. under MSY). In addition, fishing catches have remained extremely high for years. As a result, the main commercial demersal fish stocks are overfished.

Overall, only two crustaceans stocks, in the Ligurian and North Tyrrhenian Sea area, and one small pelagic stock in the Northern Alboran Sea, are fished at sustainable levels. European hake, an important commercial species, is fished up to 14 times higher than sustainable levels in some EU Mediterranean areas; while blue whiting, black-bellied angler and red mullet are all fished at levels around 10 times higher than what is considered to be sustainable.