Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Is the Mediterranean becoming a second ‘Dead Sea’?

  • Written by  Sophie Donovan
  • Published in Oceans
Is the Mediterranean becoming a second ‘Dead Sea’?
25 Jul
2018
Officially declared the world’s ‘most overfished sea’, the Mediterranean is having a crisis beneath the surface

Whether it’s the marine advocates of Oceana, who want biodiversity to become a priority, or the fisherman returning to shore with empty nets and emptier pockets: overfishing is a problem hitting all areas of the planet. Now, a new report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared that the Mediterranean Sea, once described as the ‘global icon of coastal paradise’ and an ‘international biodiversity hotspot’, has become the world’s ‘most overfished sea’.

It states that among the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions showed the highest percentage (62.2 per cent) of unsustainable stocks, closely followed by the Southeast Pacific at 61.5 per cent and the Southwest Atlantic at 58.8 per cent. According to a report from the WWF, in 2017 Mediterranean countries consume some 7.5m tonnes of fish each year, with only 2.75m tonnes of that coming from domestic sources.

fish stats2

Various EU studies have found that 90 per cent of fish stocks assessed are overexploited in the Mediterranean. Our Fish, an ocean advocacy organisation whose focus is on ending overfishing and preventing wasteful discarding, has suggested that the overfished species could join the list of localised extinctions, alongside sharks and rays, while the number of predators has also declined by over 40 per cent from previous records.

A spokesperson for Oceana, an ocean advocacy organisation formed of various foundations including the Pew Charitable Trusts, has stressed that ‘urgent and bold action such as curbing bottom-trawling fishing, safeguarding areas where fish grow, and setting annual fish catch limits in line with scientific action’ are vital steps to prevent the area from degrading any further.

shutterstock 1078325765

One of the big concerns flowing from this is food security. At a global scale, the WWF notes that ‘more than 30 per cent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits’, placing more pressure on nurseries to replace that which has been lost. Populations of tuna and mackerel have already experienced a 74 per cent drop worldwide during the 40-year period from 1970 to 2010, and sea bream has been predicted to follow suit.

Meanwhile, with a fast-growing population, food demand is only going to swell. According to Jon Fisher, senior conservation scientist for The Nature Conservancy: ‘70 per cent more food will be needed by 2050’ to sustain the global population.

shutterstock 276508823

Action is being taken to try to reverse the situation in the Mediterranean at least. 2017 saw the signing of the MEDFISH4EVER Malta Declaration, its goal being to coordinate action between agreeing parties to provide full protection of fish stocks in the region. As of October 2017, the declaration had 13 signatories, including countries from the European Union, Turkey, Tunisia, Montenegro, Albania and Morocco.

Coordinated by the General Fisheries Commission of the Mediterranean, the ten-year pledge has already seen progress, including directions to create ‘allocated zones for aquaculture’. It is hoped that delegation and zoning will allow fish stocks and the environment to recover.

shutterstock 365048966

However, there are concerns that any tangible action being taken is slow-moving. ‘Talk is cheap,’ commented a spokesman for Our Fish. The advocacy group wants immediate action to ‘rectify fisheries management’, something it feels can’t be achieved simply through debate. Moreover, while it may not be asking the public to actively prevent nets being dropped into the water, it is pushing for the EU to do more to intercept current illegal fishing practises.

There is evidence of successful ocean protection and management programmes being employed across the Atlantic, leading Our Fish, among others, to question why similar methods are not being employed in the Mediterranean. For example, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) has successfully set global total allowable tuna catch limits for 2015 to 2017 and 2018 to 2020. The aim: a ‘rebuilding target of 20 per cent of the original spawning stock biomass’. These limits apply to all cooperating partners, ranging from the South Korea to South Africa to the EU. Our Fish reports this scheme to be working, noting a 35 per cent increase in such fish stocks when compared with previous annual figures. The hope is that similar results can flow from the Mediterranean.

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Related items

Subscribe to Geographical!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Climate

Marco Magrini looks at the financial pressures spilling out into the…

Geophoto

Few sights are more dramatic than a star-filled sky at…

Polar

A region of Antarctica previously known for relative stability is…

Tectonics

Everything we thought we knew about eruptions could be wrong

Oceans

Sea levels are rising across the globe, but along the…

Polar

Seismometers buried in the Ross Ice Shelf have revealed that…

Wildlife

A tightening of restrictions on the insecticides known as neonicotinoids…

Wildlife

Bonnethead sharks, the second smallest member of the hammerhead family,…

Nature

There’s more than enough plastic in the world. That’s why,…

Wildlife

The recent discovery of more than 200 million termite mounds…

Geophoto

The new year still remains a popular time to set…

Wildlife

After decades battling environmental crises that threaten to rob the…

Climate

As another new year beckons and the fight to protect…

Geophoto

A half century has passed since the ‘Earthrise’ photograph – widely believed to have…

Wildlife

Are howler monkeys being adversely affected by ingestion of pesticides containing…

Tectonics

Why unprepared tourists are putting themselves at risk in order…

Geophoto

The majestic and mighty polar bear is in danger of…

Wildlife

Exciting news for wildlife and photography enthusiasts alike – the…

Wildlife

A new system of robotic aerial vehicles is revolutionising the…

Wildlife

Technology used in creating safe urban environments is now being…