Small-scale fishermen are the watchmen of the sea, the first to perceive any changes and the first to be affected by these changes.
This is what the new Oceana video “Feluche: artisanal fishermen as watchmen for the Mediterranean swordfish” shows.
In the video, the international marine conservation organization gathers witnesses from among traditional harpoon fishermen, to share their perception of the status of the Mediterranean swordfish.
This week, scientists of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have convened in Madrid (Spain) to recommend measures for this overfished species.
Dr Ilaria Vielmini, Marine Scientist with Oceana in Europe: “Harpoon fishermen in the Strait of Messina are the sentinels of the status of this species. As swordfish becomes scarcer and smaller, fishermen fear that their livelihood is slipping away, destined to become only a memory”.
Nowadays an oversized fleet of more than 12,000 vessels capture this species without any limit and little control. According to catch reports; each vessel is catching only a few dozens fishes per year, a figure which is difficult to believe it would hardly cover their operating costs. More than half of these vessels are European Union-flagged. Mediterranean countries have historically failed to manage this species or to recover it to sustainable levels. Their short-sightedness is impacting coastal small-scale fisheries which have traditionally depended on this resource.
Maria Jose Cornax, Fisheries Campaign Manager for Oceana in Europe has called for action for this species: ”Historically, ICCAT Contracting Parties, including the European Union, have refused to look at the real situation of this important stock, which stands in stark contrast to swordfish in the Atlantic Ocean where a recovery plan was put in place. A species doesn’t need to reach the brink of collapse for management to begin”.
In November, ICCAT Contracting Parties will be meeting in Genoa (Italy) to decide upon the management of highly migratory species, including Atlantic Bluefin tuna, swordfish and sharks. Oceana will be attending the meeting as an observer, to promote the sustainable fisheries management of these species.