Fisheries | WWF

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FISHERIES

© Claudia Amico / WWF Mediterranean

We want to see sustainable fishing across the Mediterranean, so that future generations can continue to catch and eat seafood without harming the marine environment.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Fishing is woven into the soul of the Mediterranean, its culture and traditions. Over generations, it’s how people have come to know the sea and the extraordinary world below the surface. Around 80,000 fishing boats ply the waters of the Mediterranean, providing a livelihood for 180,000 people and supporting an industry worth €4.6 billion.

But Mediterranean fish populations are in deep crisis. More than 80% of fish stocks have been overfished, rising to 93% within EU waters, and total fish populations have fallen by more than a third over the past half-century. The cause of this ecological crisis: increased fleet capacity, illegal fishing, and catches of unwanted species. If fishing practices don’t improve, stocks could collapse – and that will have disastrous consequences for ecosystems,
for communities and for the economy.

Fixing fishing in the Mediterranean is a complex issue. It requires cooperation between all the European, North African and Middle Eastern countries that share the sea. And it needs the support of the tens of thousands of small-scale fishers whose livelihoods
depend on what they catch.

Did you know?

1.5 million tonnes of fish are caught annually in the Mediterranean – but catches have fallen over the last 20 years because of overfishing.

© WWF - MINOUW / Nuno Alves

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Across the Mediterranean, we’re demonstrating the benefits of fishing sustainably, but to achieve transformation, we must build political will and public support, empower communities, and redirect finance and market forces toward sustainable fishing.

We want all fish stocks to have effective long-term management plans that set them on the road to recovery, and reduce impacts on other species and ecosystems. We also want stronger regional and national action to prevent illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

But this isn’t just about changing fishing practices. We’re working with companies to show the risks and impacts of unsustainable seafood, and the opportunities and business benefits of sourcing sustainably.

We’re also engaging policy-makers to strengthen and implement regulations on transparency and traceability to ensure that seafood sold in the Mediterranean comes from legal, responsible sources. 

Bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna are one of the most important fish in the Mediterranean – both for their commercial value, and for the role they play as top predators in marine ecosystems. But overfishing pushed them to the brink of extinction
just a few years ago.

In response, WWF and others launched a successful campaign to cut catches to safe levels – and as a result, bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean have made a remarkable recovery. We’re determined to fight illegal fishing to ensure these amazing fish are managed sustainably and thrive again in our sea.

READ MORE

Thriving fishing activity depends upon a healthy Mediterranean Sea.

© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF