Mediterranean swordfish on the verge of collapse: WWF raises the alarm
Countries which are part of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), including the United States and Japan, plus the European Union (EU), will decide from 14 to 21 November on management schemes for key species such as Mediterranean swordfish, bluefin tuna, and sharks. WWF is seriously concerned about the current rate of depletion of swordfish and calls for actions  to prevent the stock collapse witnessed for the Mediterranean bluefin tuna in the recent past.
“The future of the Mediterranean swordfish is seriously at risk" says Giuseppe Di Carlo, Director of WWF's Mediterranean Marine Initiative. "Catches have decreased by almost 50 percent in the last twenty years and too many juveniles are caught before they can reproduce and secure the survival of the species. We cannot afford to delay actions and repeat the same mistake that brought Bluefin tuna to the verge of collapse in the past.”
According to ICCAT's scientific committee, swordfish stock spawning biomass (SSB) – the combined weight of all individuals in the stock that are capable of reproducing – is 88% lower than the levels considered safe to maintain the stock, fish catches are twice as high as they should be and 70% of the fish caught is juvenile (0-3 years).
“There is the need for urgent action to reverse the decline of the stock,” adds Di Carlo. “It is critical for ICCAT to implement an ambitious recovery plan for the Mediterranean swordfish to bring the stock back to a sustainable level. This will ensure the survival of large Mediterranean fisheries communities whose livelihood and prosperity depend on it.”
Mediterranean swordfish is a highly valuable species for many countries in the Mediterranean and the EU fleet accounts for 75% of the total catches, with Italy, Spain and Greece reporting the largest catches. WWF calls on the European Commission and key EU fishing nations to significantly reduce the amount of swordfish caught to allow the stock to recover.
Regarding Bluefin tuna , WWF acknowledges that the situation of the stock is improving and recommends a precautionary approach and maintenance of the current recovery plan in 2017 (23,155 tonnes).
WWF is also concerned about the fate of sharks , especially the blue and shortfin mako that are vulnerable to overfishing. WWF urges ICCAT governments to establish long-term management plans including setting precautionary catch limits to ensure these iconic species stay in our seas. ICCAT should also agree on a no-shark-finning policy as well as improving compliance to existing bans that oblige fishermen to land sharks with their fin attached.
Chantal Menard: +34 646 75 10 38
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Summary of WWF requests at ICCAT 2016
 On swordfish
- Adopt a recovery plan for Mediterranean swordfish
- Ban the use of all drifting longlines from 1 October to the end of February
- Establish a Total Allowable Catch (TAC ) limit
- Fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU ) fishing
- Review the Minimum Conservation Reference Size
- Explore the use of circle hooks for drifting longlines to reduce unwanted catches
- Maintain the TAC at the level set by Rec. 14-04 (23,155t) for 2017
- Ensure full traceability and eradication of IUU fishing
- Support ICCAT SCRS (scientific committee) in its endeavour to develop a new methodology and gather new data leading to a much more reliable and robust stock assessment in 2017
- Allocate quotas for traditional and small scale fisheries
- Setting catch limits for blue and shortfin mako sharks
- Agree on a road map to design multi-annual plans
- Improve scientific research
- Agree on the ban on discarding sharks after finning
- Increase and fully implement obervers’ coverage of longliners