EU To Ban Fishing For Mediterranean Swordfish Unless Plan Is Implemented

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Unless an immediate recovery plan is implemented on the fishing of Mediterranean swordfish, fishing must stop to safeguard its mere existence, Oceana warns.

Mediterranean swordfish drops by 70% in 30 years from overfishing.

Oceana is fully behind a call for an urgent and immediate action plan to rebuild rock-bottom numbers of swordfish in the Mediterranean Sea and to safeguard its future in the region. The only other alternative to this is to completely close down swordfish fishing in the region, if the EU is to have any chance of meeting its targets of sustainably recovering fish stocks by 2020. The stock has been reduced to just one third of its size since the 1980’s due to rampant overfishing and political dithering.

The call for action comes from an international fisheries meeting in Madrid this week, where fisheries scientists pressed the emergency button on the critical situation facing one of the Mediterranean’s key iconic and commercial fish. Mediterranean swordfish is now so severely overfished that a plan to recover swordfish stocks to sustainable levels and repair the long-term damage to the fishery, must be put in place this year by all countries fishing in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Mediterranean swordfish need a recovery plan now. The EU is fishing over 75% of this stock and has the responsibility to ensure its full recovery. Further complacency or political trade offs is not an option”, said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe.

Out of 30 fish stocks managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) – the body responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea – swordfish from this region has suffered the most. Three decades of constant, overfishing, ignoring scientific advice and a complete lack of a political backbone for proper oversight in the fishery management has led to 70% less Mediterranean swordfish.

For Atlantic swordfish and bluefin tuna, which have both suffered similar fates in the past, recovery plans were drawn up and put in place when early warning signs started to show. If the European Union (EU) is to achieve its Common Fisheries Policy legal target for Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) fishing by 2020 it must stop all swordfish fishing in the Mediterranean or call on ICCAT countries to activate an immediate recovery plan.

As momentum gathers on the global overfishing crisis, the international community will be looking to the EU to take the reigns and act responsibly. The EU is a key actor in the Mediterranean swordfish fishery, accounting for 75% of all swordfish catches and failing to meet its legal obligation to recover this stock to sustainable levels will also deeply undermine its ability, commitment and willingness to fulfil the UN’s international Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.