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The Alarming Decline of Mediterranean Fish Stocks

July 28, 2014

In recent years, fisheries management has succeeded in stabilizing and even improving the state of many global fisheries resources [1, 2, 3, 4 and 5]. This is particularly evident in areas where stocks are exploited in compliance with scientific advice and strong institutional structures are in place [1 and 5]. In Europe, the well-managed northeast (NE) Atlantic fish stocks have been recovering in response to decreasing fishing pressure over the past decade [3, 4, 5 and 6], albeit with a long way to go for a universal stock rebuild [3 and 7]. Meanwhile, little is known about the temporal development of the European Mediterranean stocks, whose management relies on input controls that are often poorly enforced. Here, we perform a meta-analysis of 42 European Mediterranean stocks of nine species in 1990–2010, showing that exploitation rate has been steadily increasing, selectivity (proportional exploitation of juveniles) has been deteriorating, and stocks have been shrinking. We implement species-specific simulation models to quantify changes in exploitation rate and selectivity that would maximize long-term yields and halt stock depletion. We show that stocks would be more resilient to fishing and produce higher long-term yields if harvested a few years after maturation because current selectivity is far from optimal, especially for demersal stocks. The European Common Fisheries Policy that has assisted in improving the state of NE Atlantic fish stocks in the past 10 years has failed to deliver similar results for Mediterranean stocks managed under the same policy. Limiting juvenile exploitation, advancing management plans, and strengthening compliance, control, and enforcement could promote fisheries sustainability in the Mediterranean.

Vasilakopoulos P, Maravelias CD, Tserpes G, 2014: The Alarming Decline of Mediterranean Fish Stocks, Current Biology, 24(14), 1643-1648, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.070. Article (subscription required).

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