According to a study funded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global conservation network and leading authority on the environment and sustainable development, more than 40 species of marine fish currently found in the Mediterranean could disappear in the next few years.
Nearly half of the species of sharks and rays and at least 12 species of bony fish are threatened with extinction due to overfishing, marine habitat degradation and pollution. Commercial species like Bluefin Tuna, Dusky Grouper, and Sea Bass are considered threatened or with extinction at the regional level.
“The Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic population of the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is of particular concern. There has been an estimated 50% decline in this species’ reproduction potential over the past 40 years due to intensive overfishing,” says Kent Carpenter, IUCN Global Marine Species Assessment Coordinator.
“The lack of compliance with current quotas combined with widespread underreporting of the catch may have undermined conservation efforts for this species in the Mediterranean.”
Because of the illegal use of driftnets and use of trawling nets, hundreds of marine animals with no commercial value are captured — sharks, rays, whales, turtles and birds — imperiling their population numbers.
“The use of trawling nets is one of the main problems for conservation and sustainability of many marine species,” says Maria del Mar Otero, IUCN-Med Marine Program Officer.
“Because it is not a selective technique, it captures not only the target fish but also a high number of other species while also destroying the sea bottom, where many fish live, reproduce and feed.”
The report also highlights the lack of information on the conservation status of nearly one third of these Mediterranean marine fish, a significant proportion of which are considered endemic to the region. Researchers speculate that the “Data Deficient” group could in fact include a large proportion of threatened fish.
In the past 40 years, Bluefin tuna populations everywhere have declined by 80 percent due to industrialized overfishing. And the threat to bluefin survival extends beyond even the Gulf oil spill.
According to author Paul Greenberg (Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food), “Catches from the high seas have risen by 700 percent in the last half-century, and much of that increase is tuna. Moreover, because tuna cross so many boundaries, even when tuna do leave the high seas and tarry in any one nation’s territorial waters (as Atlantic bluefin usually do), they remain under the foggy international jurisdiction of poorly enforced tuna treaties.”