Paris (AFP) – A world body of fishing and shipping nations approved a catch quota Monday to protect the overharvested Mediterranean swordfish, the EU and conservation group Oceana said.
The limit was set at 10,500 tonnes for 2017 at a meeting of the 51-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in Vilamoura, Portugal.
It will be reduced by three percent per year between 2018 and 2022.
“It’s done. Finally, ICCAT on its 50th anniversary moved a step forward on this too long-neglected stock,” Oceana’s Ilaria Vielmini told AFP in the coastal town where the commission held its annual meeting.
According to Oceana, stocks of the fish are “practically exhausted” after 30 years of overfishing.
The European Union, which takes about 80 percent of Mediterranean swordfish catches and which proposed the quota, said this was a decisive step towards the conservation of the stock.
“The European Union holds a special responsibility to saving swordfish. We owe it to our fishermen, especially the small-scale ones,” it said in a statement.
“Thousands of jobs would be on the line had we not agreed this important step today.”
While the swordfish species as a whole is not threatened, its Mediterranean sub-group is “overfished”, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which keeps a “Red List” of species that are endangered or at risk of becoming so.
The Mediterranean stock has fallen an estimated two-thirds from 1985, and 70 percent of total catches were of immature fish that had not yet had a chance to reproduce.
Italy is the main taker of Mediterranean swordfish — a gourmet favourite — followed by Morocco, Spain and Greece.