The Decline of the Mediterranean Swordfish

The Decline of the Mediterranean Swordfish

Sadly in our consumer focussed world, the effects of over-fishing, poaching and other harmful activities that affect the planet’s delicate ecosystem often go unnoticed until it is too late. In recent years there have been a number of high-profile campaigns to save some of Earth’s most endangered species including elephants, rhinos, giraffes and pandas, but it isn’t just on land where species are at risk. Over-fishing is becoming a serious issue for a number of marine species, particularly in markets where the once plentiful fish hold such a high value.

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One of the recent species to hit the headlines is the Mediterranean Swordfish, which over the past few decades, has been zealously fished to meet consumer demands. Naturally this extensive fishing is yet another instance where species are becoming at risk of extinction, as wildlife conservationists have observed a dramatic decline in swordfish stock levels in the last twenty years.

Now is the time to act

To help counteract this dire situation that could see the Mediterranean Swordfish, along with Bluefin Tuna and some species of sharks completely wiped out, the WWF are calling on 48 fishing nation to act. A committee being held in Portugal from the 14th – 21st November 2016, brings together members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which includes Japan, the United States and the EU. This meeting is designed to raise the issue and awareness of Swordfish depletion and to implement a management strategy to assist with preserving and replenishing stocks.

According to reports from Giuseppe Di Carlo, the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative Director, there has been a 50% decrease in catches over the past two decades, with many catches consisting of high numbers of juvenile swordfish who are caught before reproducing. As a result, the number of Mediterranean Swordfish is dramatically in decline and could potentially face the same situation as the Bluefin Tuna that was incredibly close to extinction at one time.

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The plea for survival

The scientific data shows that levels of adults capable of reproduction are down by 88%, while fishing levels are double what they should be, with over 70% of their catches being made up of juvenile fish.

If this level of fishing continues, the number of Mediterranean Swordfish will inevitably continue to deplete until the entire species collapses. For this very reason, the WWF have called on the main EU fishing nations and the European Commission to put measures in place to reduce swordfish fishing levels. This will allow breeding to take place and replenish the stock levels to secure the future of the Mediterranean Swordfish.

Similar calls are also being put forward to continue to protect the Bluefun Tuna, as well as the Blue and Shortfin Mako sharks that are currently at risk of over-fishing in the Mediterranean Sea.

As a wildlife photographer and conservation advocate, I think it’s crucial to raise awareness of the fragile existence that so many species on our planet face. In the modern world, the methods in fishing have dramatically increased the volume of catches to meet the market demands, but there has been little consideration for protecting and maintaining the stock levels of species. Finding a balance that ultimately helps keep these species alive, is going to be vital to keeping our wildlife thriving for many years to come.

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