Scenarios to recover biodiversity and rebuild fish stocks in the Mediterranean Sea

Posted on 25 February 2021

Protecting key areas of the Mediterranean can help biodiversity and fisheries thrive across the entire sea
A new study reveals that protecting 30% of the Mediterranean Sea could give a massive boost to declining fish species and marine biodiversity. The research was conducted by WWF in collaboration with scientists from the French CNRS-CRIOBE, the Ecopath International Initiative, and the Spanish ICM–CSIC. 

Today, only 9.68% of the Mediterranean Sea has been designated for protection, with only 1.27% effectively protected. Last year, the EU pledged to protect 30% of land and sea areas by 2030.  

The analysis show that fish stocks will continue to decline if unsustainable fishing and other industrial activities continue. However, effective protection covering 30% of the Mediterranean Sea in specific areas and sustainably managed activities in the rest of the basin would see these same commercial fish stocks increase, while supporting the recovery of the wider marine ecosystem.

In the Western Mediterranean, for example, the analysis shows the biomass of predator species like sharks could increase by up to 45%, that of commercial species like groupers by 50% and that of European hake could double. Even the bluefin tuna, the most iconic and commercially valuable population of the Mediterranean, would potentially recover its biomass to a record-high increase of up to 140%. 

In 2020, the EU launched a Biodiversity Strategy. The Strategy states that at least 30% of EU seas must be legally protected and properly managed and monitored by 2030. For WWF, this commitment is laudable. However, it must be matched with concrete actions to reverse negative trends in the Meditteranean such as declining fish stocks due to unsustainable fishing. It is also crucial to tackle the impacts of climate change, which put the livelihoods of millions who depend on the sea basin’s health at risk.
Cover photograph © Damsea / Shutterstock / WWF
© WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative