Today is World Oceans Day. Recently, there’s been much to celebrate throughout our oceans – such as the creation of massive marine protected areas. But some of our oceans, and some of our seas have little to be happy about: the Mediterranean, for instance, is estimated to be 96% overfished.
Why is this? Well, for a start, the Mediterranean has suffered due to the failure of its EU member states to effectively implement the pillars of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and act to end overfishing.
But Mediterranean fisheries still have a chance. They may be 96% overfished, but if urgent action is taken to halt their overexploitation, Mediterranean fish stocks have a good chance of rebounding to more sustainable levels by 2020. What’s needed is political will from Mediterranean’s EU nations to take real action, and to take it now, before, it’s too late.
Some denial of what happens below the shimmery surface of the Mediterranean can perhaps be understood – apart from divers and fishers, for many people, their relationship with the Mediterranean extends no further than the dinner plate or their beach towel. So long as the fish keep appearing in our markets and restaurants, we don’t ask questions. So long as expert scientific advice continues to be swept under the carpet, by the industry and politicians, the public is kept happy.
But neither political leaders nor the fishing industry can hide behind such excuses: they know the truth, and are failing to act.
Mediterranean leaders recently signed the Medfish4ever Declaration in Malta. This is commendable. However, the declaration seems to be a plan about a plan, rather than real, urgent, concrete measures to conserve, protect and manage Mediterranean fisheries now.
The focus will again be on Malta this October, when EU Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella will host the annual Our Ocean conference. By inviting high profile guests from around the world to his home country, Commissioner Vella aims to attract international praise for European nations by focusing the conference on ocean governance and plastic pollution. Delegates must be told the truth: the Mediterranean is in a dire state, and needs all the help it can get.
Rebecca Hubbard is Campaign Manager for Our Fish, which works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.